Twenty-nine years had passed since the founding of Pennsylvania College by Samuel Simon Schmucker in 1832 when war broke out between the states. Due to the college’s location just north of the Mason-Dixon Line, the threat of battle near Gettysburg loomed until in July 1863 it became all too real.
Robert E. Lee’s invasion of the North was not completely unexpected, and college life would be drastically impacted by the threat of oncoming Confederate forces. The winter term of 1860-1861 was just ending when war broke out in April of 1861. Many of the townspeople were not in support of slavery at the outbreak of the war, but they also had hoped to avoid a bloody conflict. The Quakers living in central Pennsylvania, specifically in what is called the Quaker Valley today only a few miles from Gettysburg, may have contributed to this sentiment. The majority of the townspeople of Gettysburg, who numbered fewer than the size of Gettysburg College’s current student population of 2600, were carriage makers, tanners, cobblers, and the usual merchants, bankers, and tavern keepers. Gettysburg’s leading industry was that of carriage making, and most of the owners sold to markets south of Gettysburg across the Mason-Dixon Line. The coming war would mean the loss of those consumers. Parents of Pennsylvania College students were also wary of sending their sons to school in a town threatened by invasion. Continue reading ““We will close . . . you know nothing about the lesson anyhow”: Pennsylvania College during the War”