The bloodstains are gone, but the worn floorboards remain. The doctors, nurses, and patients who toiled and suffered and ached for home at the Army of the Potomac’s XI Corps hospital at the George Spangler Farm in Gettysburg have long since departed. Happily, though, their stories remain, and noted journalist and George Spangler Farm expert Ronald D. Kirkwood brings these people and their experiences to life in “Too Much for Human Endurance”: The George Spangler Farm Hospitals and the Battle of Gettysburg. Using a massive array of firsthand accounts, Kirkwood re-creates the sprawling XI Corps hospital complex and the people who labored and suffered there—especially George and Elizabeth Spangler and their four children, who built a thriving 166-acre farm only to witness it nearly destroyed when war paid them a bloody visit that summer of 1863. Stories rarely if ever told of nurses, surgeons, ambulance workers, musicians, teenage fighters, and others. Kirkwood also establishes the often-overlooked strategic importance of the property and its key role in the Union victory. Army of the Potomac generals took advantage of the farm’s size, access to roads, and central location to use it as a staging area to get artillery and infantry to the embattled front line from Little Round Top north to Cemetery Hill just in time to prevent its collapse and a Confederate breakthrough.
Ronald Kirkwood is retired after a 40-year career as an editor and writer in newspapers and magazines including USA TODAY, the Baltimore Sun, the Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News, and the York (PA) Daily Record. Kirkwood has been a Gettysburg Foundation docent at The George Spangler Farm Field Hospital Site since it opened in 2013, and he explores the Gettysburg battlefield dozens of times a year. Ronald and his wife, Barbara, live in York. They have two daughters, two sons-in-law, and three grandchildren.
Description courtesy of Savas Beatie.