When Confederate soldiers bore down on Gettysburg, Pa., in 1863, a quiet seminary building atop a ridge was transformed—first into a Union lookout, then a field hospital for 600 wounded soldiers.
Now the structure that stood at the center of the Civil War's bloodiest and most pivotal battle is being transformed once again.
Today, the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Schmucker Hall, located on the campus of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, reopens as a museum reflecting on the epic battle, the costly war and the complex role of faith.
Seminary Ridge Museum will take visitors into the minds of those who fought and explore their conflicting ideas of freedom.
Some 750,000 soldiers died during the Civil War and many of them carried and quoted from the Bible. But they read it in divergent ways that still reverberate in a polarized America.
"People have found it comfortable to find a way to think about the Civil War in terms of valor and heroism," said Barbara Franco, executive director of the museum. "We want to really look at these other parts of it—causes, consequences—and leave people thinking there's more to this than just the simple answers."
Visitors begin with a big view of the battlefields. They gaze out from the cupola where Union General John Buford viewed advancing Confederate brigades. They walk the creaking floors where wounded soldiers built back strength over a course of months. They ponder how soldiers suffered and how they made sense of it.
"Here were these young men, caught up in these events, and trying to be as faithful as they could be as good Christians," said Maria Erling, professor of church history at the seminary. ...1