There are many, many Culps in Pennsylvania. When Christophel Kolb, one of the original ancestors, came from Germany to Philadelphia with his family, he was just seventeen years old. Already family members had settled in Penn’s colony as early as 1707, and urged Christophel’s father, Mathias, to follow. The family, which consisted of five brothers and their parents, lived for a time in Berks County. 1
By the time of the American Revolution, Christophel was married and living in Lancaster County. He left home to serve his new nation, fighting with the 7th Battalion of the Pennsylvania Militia, led by Colonel John Boyd.
At war’s end, Christophel and his wife Maria Catharina came to Gettysburg in 1787, where Christophel purchased 239 acres from John Scott – the landowner who bought the tract from the heirs of William Penn when it was part of the Manor of Maske. The property that would become the Culp Farm is one of the oldest in Adams County.
Christophel and his wife had nine children: Anna Elizabeth, Christophel Jr., Peter, Christian, Mathias, Catherine, Mary, Barbara, and Susanna. To house his large family, Christophel built a large log cabin to set up housekeeping and a barn for livestock.
Christophel’s first-born son, his namesake, preceded him in death. In 1798, when the aged veteran grew too old for farming, his second son, Peter purchased the farm. He raised his family on the extensive land, filled with meadows and plentiful timber. He built the house that stands today – the Federal style brick estate, in 1834, with the help of his son, Henry; who had been born in Gettysburg in 1808. Peter built upon his industrious father’s property even more, building a large bank barn, a spring house, several sheds, a corn crib, and two orchards. When Peter died in September 1842, the farm belonged to Henry, his second, but eldest surviving, son. 2
Henry married Anna Raffensperger, a young woman ten years his junior on November 21, 1839. Nine children were born to the couple: Anna Elizabeth, Rufus, Lovina, Calvin, Mary, Sarah, Fannie, and Edward. Except for Fannie who died in infancy, the rest of the family lived to adulthood, and Henry, like his grandfather, needed the sizable Culp farm to raise his children. For a short time after his father’s death, Henry leased the farm, but eventually moved back to it – and stayed there for the duration of his long life. 3
Anna, Henry’s wife, was known for her kindness and hospitality, and “ spent her long and useful life on the farm at the eastern edge of Gettysburg.” 4
Henry and Anna Culp and most of their family still lived at the farm when Robert E. Lee’s army invaded Pennsylvania in the summer of 1863. Elizabeth, the eldest, had married; making Rufus the eldest of the youth at the Culp home. When he learned that the Confederates had invaded, he enlisted in the 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Regiment, and served in the signal corps. He remained in Gettysburg, using his skills on Power’s Hill, located near his father’s property, throughout the battle. Luckily, he survived the fight. 5
Henry, Anna, and the rest of the children were among the Gettysburg civilians who remained in their home during the horrific fight, remaining in the cellar of their brick home. Men from General Early’s Division used the Culp house during their time at the battle.
In addition to his house being confiscated by Confederates, Henry Culp’s ample acres included Culp’s Hill; which had the misfortune of being the right flank of the Union defensive line during the battle.
A sad chapter in the Culp family history occurred on Henry’s property during the battle. John Wesley Culp, the son of Esaias Jesse Culp and grandson of Christian Culp, a younger son of Christophel; had moved to Shepherdstown, Virginia as a youth to ply his trade and follow his employer, a carriage maker, in 1856. Wesley joined the local militia in Shepherdstown, and when war erupted, that same militia joined the Confederacy and became part of the 2nd Virginia Regiment, part of the famous Stonewall Brigade. Other Culp relatives, in addition to Henry’s son, Rufus, donned the blue uniform; including Wesley’s brother, William, and his cousin, David. Both served with other Gettysburg men in the 87th Pennsylvania Regiment, which was part of a different army and did not engage at Gettysburg. 6
On the morning of July 3, 1863, General Lee ordered a final flanking attempt on the Union line, and his men – who had begun a battle on Culp’s Hill the night before – renewed the fight. The 2nd Virginia, with Wesley Culp in the ranks, fought there. Deployed as a skirmisher, Wes trudged toward the Union heights on his cousin’s property. He knew it well, he had played there as a boy. A Union bullet found its target in the young Gettysburg man, and he fell dead on the slopes of the hill that bore his name.
Wesley’s remains were never found. Myriad Confederate dead, however, littered Henry Culp’s property after the storm of death at Gettysburg had finally abated. His meadow between Cemetery and Culp’s Hills was especially covered with bodies. Henry told a visitor that he “ could have walked across it without putting a foot upon the ground.” 7
From the sheer volume of detritus left from the battle, the Culp property was undeniably ground where heroes trod.
Henry Culp’s home, barn, and outbuildings were used as hospitals for the innumerable wounded after the battle. Henry filed a claim to the Federal government for $1000 in damages, a significant sum for 1863. 8
Although Culp’s Hill’s role in the Battle of Gettysburg was minimized even then (General Meade did not even mention it in his official report), the Federal government was interested in preserving the property. Henry died in 1886, at the age of 83. He willed the farm to his wife, Anna, who by this time had moved into a house on York Street that was still on part of the farm property. After her death in 1896, four Culp children still survived: Elizabeth, Rufus, Charles and Edward. In 1904, Edward sold the Culp Farm to William Ziegler. A few years later, Mr. Ziegler sold the farm to the federal government. By this time, the land owned by the Culps had diminished to just over 143 acres – but today it is part of Gettysburg National Military Park. 9
The Culp house and barn remain much the same as they appeared to the thousands of soldiers, many of them wounded and dying, during the summer of 1863. Withstanding well the test of time, the house is much like the family who lived there – clean, hospitable, enduring a long and useful life. It still stands seemingly untouched, an amazing fact, after the whirlwind of battle that tested the family and their expansive property in a way the rest of us hope never to fully understand.
Sources: Culp, David Albert. “The Culp Genealogy.” Copy, Gettysburg National Military Park. The Culp Family File, Adams County Historical Society. The Henry Culp Farm File, Gettysburg National Military Park. The Gettysburg Compiler, 11 Oct. 1842. The Republican Sentinel, Nov. 26, 1839. Anna Culp Obituary, The Gettysburg Compiler, 20 Oct. 1896. Henry Culp Obituary, The Gettysburg Compiler, January 15, 1886. Peter Culp Obituary, The Gettysburg Sentinel, 11 Oct. 1842. Smith, Timothy H. Farms of Gettysburg: The Fields of Battle. Gettysburg: Thomas Publications, 2007.
1. Culp, David Albert, p. 2.
2. Gettysburg Sentinel, 11 Oct. 1842. Other sources place Peter’s death year as 1841.
3. Republican Sentinel, 26 Nov. 1839.
4. Gettysburg Compiler, 20 Oct. 1896.
5. Smith, p. 47.
6. Culp Family File, ACHS.
7. Smith, p. 47. A similar description was given for the Wheatfield and the field of Pickett’s Charge. The slain, especially Confederate numbers, for Culp’s Hill have never been correctly established.
8. Henry Culp Farm File, GNMP.
9. Gettysburg Compiler, 15 Jan 1886. Gettysburg Compiler, 20 Oct. 1896. Henry Culp Farm File, GNMP.