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Keeping Our Heritage Alive
Lydia Leister House


The Red Mill Museum
Lydia Leister House



July 6, 1863

Click on the picture above to view floor plans and sketches of the reconstruction of the Leister House and Barn
Through the Adopt-a-Position program of the National Park Service, the Domestic Arts & Honorable Trades Society has adopted the Leister House as it's home in Gettysburg, PA. The Society plants and maintains the widow Leister's garden and maintains the grounds around the house and barn.
Just years prior to 1861, Lydia Leister would lose her husband through death, the first of two major tragedies to plague the mother of 6, the youngest being 3 years of age. However, despite her husband's early demise, the widow Leister purchased 9 acres of land outside of the town of Gettysburg on Taneytown Road just down from the Evergreen Cemetery.  A modest wooden house, single fireplace, two rooms and a stairway that lead to a small loft. The widow Leister made her living by working a small farm which included a small log barn, orchard and vegetable garden.
As word spread of the approaching Confederate Army into Pennsylvania, the Leister family vowed that they would stay and not give up their farm. However, by the time the battle began and for the safety of her children, the widow Leister and her children sought safe shelter with family on the Baltimore Pike. As the Army of the Potomac made its way in, the staff of General Meade, the commander of the Army of the Potomac, found the Leister house vacant and secured it as their headquarters.
By the night of July 2, 1863, as the final blasts from the muskets fade, Federal army officers rode to this humble home. Fences were partially taken down and the vegetable garden trampled by couriers and their horses. The Leister food stores had been raided by hungry officers, their staff and guards and furniture was removed from the home and used in the yard for writing desks.
Officer by officer stepped into the house and entered the small candlelit room. There was found the officers of the Army of the Potomac, Gen, Butterfield, Chief of Staff to Gen. Meade (he was Chief of Staff to Gen. Hooker but Meade requested that Butterfield stay on as his Chief of Staff for continuity); Gen. John Newton, the new commander of I Corps due to the death of Gen. Reynolds; Gen. Gibbon, II Corps; Gen. Birney, III Corps, due to the fall of Gen. Sickles; Gen. Sykes, V Corps; Gen. Segwick, VI Corps; Gen. Howard XI Corps; and the bold Gen. Slocum. Also among them was Gen. Warren, the hero of Little Round Top, who had fallen fast asleep as he slouched in the corner on the floor, and Gen. Meade, Commander of the Army of the Potomac.
Here, Meade held his council of war. What would be discussed on this night would set the stage for the outcome of the following day. First, should the army stay here in Gettysburg and wait for Gen. Lee to attack? Second, should it be an offensive or defensive engagement? Third, how long do they wait?
All agreed that any awkward positions in the Union line needed to be corrected immediately. Due to the heavy casualties sustained by the Union army, to fight on July 3 would need to be defensive and wait for Gen. Lee. Finally, Gen. Slocum boldly stated, "stay and fight it out!" And so it was agreed, the Army of the Potomac would stay in Gettysburg and wait for Gen. Lee to attack.
The meeting ended and the officers proceeded to leave the house to give their officers their orders. But Meade stopped Gen. Gibbon and asked him to wait. As Gibbon inquired as to why he was to remain, Meade explained to him that "if Lee attacks tomorrow, it will be on your front." Gibbon then asked Meade why and was told, "Because he has made attacks on both flanks and failed and if he concludes to try it again, it will be on our center."
On the morning of the 3rd, the four hour cannonading began and rocked the farm and house of the widow Leister. There was much devastation and the farm and house were in much disrepair. After the battle as the widow Leister and her children returned to their home, they vowed to return the farm to the way they left it.
They did so well in rebuilding the farm that they were able to purchase 7 additional acres in 1868 and in 1874, build a large two story addition to the house. In 1888, at age 79, Lydia Leister decided to sell her house and farm to the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association and move to the Town of Gettysburg. There she purchased the Dobbin House. Loving her house on Taneytwon Road so much, she purchased a lot near the Dobbin House and had the 1874 two story addition moved to that lot. Thereafter she had built another two story addition to the house (now the Dobbin House and Bed and Breakfast) and lived there until her death in 1893.