The Ambulance – Part Two

by Phil Spaugy

The ambulance at it’s new home. The Seminary Ridge Museum.

Those who follow this blog might remember that earlier this year my wife, Amy, and I purchased a reproduction Civil War Ambulance from Marvin and Liz Knasel of Eaton, Ohio. Our intent was to donate this unique Civil War item to the new Seminary Ridge Museum in Gettysburg, and after a brief flurry of emails and phone calls with Denise Doyle, the Administrative and Development Officer of the museum, our offer was graciously accepted.

Now we needed to figure out some way to get the ambulance from Vandalia, Ohio to the museum in time for the 151st anniversary of the battle. This problem was soon solved by my friend and fellow North-South Skirmish Association member, Jerry Smith, who offered the use of his truck and car hauler to transport the ambulance east. So on Tuesday, June 10th we loaded the ambulance into Jerry’s’ trailer and headed east to Gettysburg. Arriving in the late afternoon, we were meet by Denise and soon had the ambulance unloaded. After an all-too-brief visit and a quick night’s sleep we headed back to Ohio the next day.

Denise Doyle and I with "her" new ambulance.

Denise Doyle and I with “her” new ambulance.

Amy and I made this donation, not only because Gettysburg is a very special place for us, but as Founding Members of the Seminary Ridge Museum we are strong supporters of its message of courage and sacrifice. The story told within the walls is not only of those who fought here, but also of those who ministered to the wounded and dying in the Seminary building. Additionally, I have a special very personal connection in that the Ziegler family, who figure so prominently in the story of the Seminary building during and after the battle, are distant ancestors of mine. Another ancestor, William Spaugy of Company F, 142nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, fought with his regiment in the fields west of and surrounding the Seminary building. Given all those factors Amy and I agreed that there was no better home for this ambulance than in Gettysburg and at this museum.

The ambulance in place on the grounds of the Seminary Ridge Museum.

The ambulance in place on the grounds of the Seminary Ridge Museum.

One finishing touch remained, however. Given my lifelong passion for the Iron Brigade of the West, along with the study of the actions of the First Corps of the Army of the Potomac on that fateful day of July 1st,1863, it was my desire to have the ambulance correctly marked as belonging to the First Division of the Army of the Potomac. Thanks to research done by my friend Lance Herdegen (and Iron Brigade historian extraordinaire), we were able to find out how the ambulance would be marked as to unit. Now we needed to find someone who had the talent to paint this on the canvas sides of the ambulance. Denise quickly called on her friend, renowned sculptor Gary Casteel, to perform this work. He graciously agreed, and it looks like this finishing touch will be by the July 1st dedication of the ambulance. (Click on program of 151st events at the museum.)

Since the age of seven, I, like many others, have been enthralled with the story of the American Civil War. To say that the pursuit of the history and understanding of this conflict has defined my life would not be an understatement. Like others who have this sort of passion, or even obsession, there usually is someone like a parent, relative, teacher, or coach who piques your interest and sends you on your way. For me, it was my grandmother, Helen Taylor Ehemann, who, among other things, taught in a one room school house in Shelby County, Ohio. She was quite a free thinker for her time, loved to garden, but most of all was a lover of books, reading, and of history. I had some challenges to overcome in my early years, and my grandparents’ farm was a great refuge for a young boy, especially during the summer months. So, it is only proper and fitting that the ambulance dedication plaque will honor the memory of not only the men who gave so much on July 1st, 1863, but also a grandmother who started her grandson on a wonderful lifetime journey in pursuit of the history of our great Civil War.

civil war ambulance plaque