Friday, July 12, 2013

Dr. Edgar Parker, Asst. Surgeon, 13th Mass

     Here is a story untold in the regimental histories. Dr. Edgar Parker of the 13th Mass was wounded on the steps of Christ Lutheran Church in Gettysburg.  The church was used as 1st Corps Hospital during the battle.

     In front of the church is a monument dedicated to Reverend Horatio S. Howell of the 90th PA, who was also shot down on the steps of the church.


   "On the evening of July 1, 1863, Mary McAllister, living across the street from Christ Church, saw the  following:

     "six or seven rebels came riding up the street firing and yelling.  Well, we did not know what we were doing.  They halted at the church to say something to the wounded men on the high church steps who had gathered themselves out of range of the firing, and in a few minutes a pistol went off and we saw they had shot a man.  He was down then and when we looked, he was lying with his head toward us on the pavement.  And those men on the steps said,  'Shame! Shame!  That was a Chaplain!'  Those on horseback said, 'He was going to shoot.'  But the wounded men said,  'He was not armed.'  They had a good many words and then they rode off again, shooting as they had come."1

See a great collection of videos about the church by Pastor Stephen Herr, Dr. Conrad Richter, and others at Gettysburg Daily. CLICK HERE

      I don't know if it happened earlier or later but 13th Mass Assistant Surgeon was also wounded on the steps of the church.  Town resident Jennie McCreary lived in a home just east of the church and recorded in a letter to her sister Julia,

     "When I went home I found two wounded men at our house.  Col. Leonard shot in the arm and Dr Parker slightly in the head.  They are both from Massachusetts.  Dr Parker was wounded whilst coming down the college church steps.  One of the rebel sharpshooters fired on him from Boyer's corner..." 2

     This information comes from a contemporary article written by Pastor Stephen Herr in a small published booklet by the church; "A Sanctuary For The Wounded; The Civil War Hospital At Christ Lutheran Church, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania."

     Pastor Herr writes:

     Edgar Parker, son of Charles and Mary Parker, was born in Framingham MA on June 7, 1840.  He entered Norwich University in Vermont and graduated from there in 1859.  Later that year he took a position as an instructor at the Military Academy in Sing Sing, New York.  In 1860 Parker began studies at Harvard Medical School and graduated in 1863.  A week following graduation on March 13 he was commissioned as a first assistant surgeon with the 13th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, Field and Staff Company."

     "In the spring of 1863 Parker participated in the Second Battle of Fredericksburg and in the Battle of Chancellorsville.  Following these engagements, he and the 13th Massachusetts arrived at Gettysburg on July 1st and took up a position on Oak Ridge just north of the town.  In an 1892 pension application to the United States government, Parker testifies to having his horse shot from under him and being thrown violently on the ground. While this fall did not initially disable him, thirty years later he would claim that this injury left him unable to use his legs, leaving him in need of constant attention and care."

     Pastor Herr's article states Parker was discharged September 18, 1863 on account of his wounds. It continues:

     "Dr. Parker returned to Massachusetts where he practiced his medical profession in Saxonville and Weston.  When his health began to fail he began painting and became a well-known portrait painter in Boston, widley known for his recreations of portraits especially those of Gilbert Stuart.

     During the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881), the President and his wife, Lucy, decided to complete the White House's set of presidential and First Lady portraits.  After attempts to secure original portrait paintings of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson failed because their families would not part with the artwork, President and Mrs. Hayes commissioned Dr. Parker to complete portraits of Adams, Jefferson and James Madison."3

     Pastor Herr's article lists a few more important commissions with a brief genealogy.  Dr. Parker died on April 9, 1892 at the age of 51.

     1.  Horatio S. Howell; authored by Karen Christian;  "A Sanctuary For the Wounded," published by Christ Lutheran Church, 2009.  (page 39)

     2.  Edgar Parker, Physician and Painter; authored by Pastor Stephen Herr;  "A Sanctuary For The Wounded",  (with end notes);  (page 65).

     3.  Same as note 2; (pages 64-66).


  1. Great information regarding Dr. Parker. I just came into possession of Dr. Parker's application for assistant surgeon in the US Navy dated September 18, 1862. Has very interesting biographical information. He was a topographical drawer; interesting to see he was a painter as well.

  2. Anyone know of others who were shot on the steps of the church July 1? thanks

    1. Thank you for commenting. I don't know of any primary sources that suggest there were others, as far as that goes.

      In addition to Jennie McCreary's account of Chaplain Howell's death, I have two other accounts. All the accounts differ. One of them states Dr. Parker was wounded by the same bullet that killed Chaplain Howell, and that seems likely to me. I'll make a new post with these accounts.