By Sue Boardman & Elle Lamboy | Photo Courtesy of Adams County Historical Society
For many brides and grooms—local and visiting—Gettysburg is a wedding destination. Couples book the uniquely historic venues, like the historic Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station, for their ceremonies and host picturesque receptions in a lush farm landscape or inside the magnificent architecture of a rustic barn or the modern Visitor Center.
Many brides or grooms seeking a fairy tale wedding in this quaint town may not realize that even during the Battle of Gettysburg love was in the air.
Salome “Sallie” Myers was born here in Gettysburg in 1842, making her just 21 years old when the battle came to town. Sallie was a local schoolteacher and enjoyed writing. She kept a detailed diary and wrote several poems for The Star and Banner, a local Gettysburg paper.
In 1861, Sallie’s life changed when several of her family members, including her beloved brother, Jefferson, and father, Peter (who was 45 years old,) joined the Union army.
When the battle came to Gettysburg two years later, Sallie also felt called to serve her country. Despite not being able to “stand the sight of blood,” she headed to St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church on West High Street, which was now a hospital, to care for the wounded soldiers.
The new vocation was not easy for Sallie at first. She wrote in her diary:
“…I knelt by the first [soldier]inside the door and said, ‘What can I do for you?’ He looked up at me with mournful, fearless, eyes, and said, ‘Nothing, I am going to die.’ To be met thus by the first one I addressed was more than my overwrought nerves could bear, and I went hastily out, sat down on the church step and cried. In a little while, by a great effort, I controlled myself, re-entered the hospital, and spoke again to the dying man. He was wounded in the lungs and spine, and there was not the slightest hope. He was Sgt. Alexander Stewart (Company D) of the 149th Pennsylvania Vols.”
Sallie’s care of Sgt. Stewart would affect the rest of her life. She became an excellent and strong nurse to several of “her boys” but took a special interest in Sgt. Stewart. She talked with him often and listened to him tell stories of his wife and family, especially his younger brother Henry. Henry enlisted with him but was now discharged and recovering from his injuries at home in New Brighton, Pa.
The Confederates retreated on July 4, 1863, and Sgt. Stewart died two days later. Sallie was with him in his final moments.
Fate took an interesting turn on July 29, 1863 when Sallie received a letter from Sgt. Stewart’s younger brother, Henry, which Sallie recalled was “a splendid letter coming from a grateful heart.” He visited Sallie on June 8, 1864, and two days later she giddily recalled, “I am loved by one whom I have learned to love within a year, [and]yet I could not acknowledge it to myself. It seems as though the happiness is almost too great.”
Throughout their visit, they did things many couples enjoy today, like walk around the college and seminary and pick strawberries.
The couple married on Oct. 17, 1867. Tragedy brought the two together and sadly also broke them apart. After about a year of marriage, Henry passed away, leaving Sallie to give birth and care for their son, Henry, alone.
Sallie returned to Gettysburg with her young son and taught at the Colored School on Franklin Street. She continued to serve in various teaching and volunteer positions until her death in 1922. She is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery and her story of courage, love, loss, and loyalty lives on.
Sue Boardman is a licensed battlefield guide, Cyclorama historian, author, and the leadership program director for Gettysburg Foundation. Elle Lamboy is the director of membership and philanthropic communications for Gettysburg Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization working with the National Park Service to enhance preservation and understanding of the heritage of Gettysburg and its national parks. Gettysburg Foundation also owns and operates Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. Visit www.gettysburgfoundation.org.