• Gettysburg National Cemetery Grave Robber Accused Of Stealing Bodies -- Violation Of Sepulcher

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    Gettysburg National Cemetery is a United States national cemetery, created for Union causalities resulting from the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1 to 3 during the Civil War. It is located just outside Gettysburg Borough to the south, in Adams County, PA. The land was part of the battlefield.  Originally called Soldiers’ National, President Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address at the cemetery’s consecration on November 18, 1863. The cemetery contains 3,512 internments from the Civil War, including the graves of 979 unknowns, both Union and Confederate.


    Offering evidence of a grave robber at Gettysburg, 1869-1870, in two legal documents, 8 1/2 x 12, being a warrant and a grand jury record. The warrant is sworn attested by John McCalister (1828-1903), the Cemetery Keeper.


    The Warrant reads:


    “Commonwealth vs George P. Harrington Dec. 29th/69 Warrant issued to George W. Weikert, C. of the county of Adams, upon the oath of John Mcallison [sic] of the Borough of Gettysburg County of Adams which sets forth that on Tuesday Dec. 28th/69, at the township of Cumberland, County aforesaid, a certain person to this depondent unknown, but calling himself by the name of George P. Harrington willfully entered the grounds of the Soldiers National Cemetery and commenced to dig open one of the graves of the soldiers interred therein with declared by him to remove the bodies therefrom. Prosecutor held in the sum of $50 to testify on the same deft arrest & held in the sum of $300 in default was commuted & C. I hereby certify the above to be a true copy of the [?] as hand in the above case. Witness my hand and seal this 7th day of Jany AD 1870. P. Myers, J.B. [seal]”


    The grand jury Record reads:


    “In the Court of Quarter Sessions of the Peace, January Sessions A.D. 1870, Adams County S.S. The Grand Inquest of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, inquiring within and for the County of Adams, upon their oaths and solemn affirmations, respectively, do present; that George P. Harrington, late of the county aforesaid, Stranger, on the 28th day of December A.D. 1869, the County aforesaid did willfully dig open the grave of a soldier in the Soldiers National Cemetery, with intent clandestinely to remove said body. Contrary to the form of the Act of Assembly in such cases made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Wm. A. Duncan Dist. Atty. Witness – John McCalister (Pros.)”


    The verso of the grand jury record carries the words “Not a True Bill, the County to Pay the costs.”  This may indicate that, even though a warrant was issued with testimony by the Cemetery Keeper, that the grand jury didn’t indict. However, that could mean that because the crime was considered a misdemeanor, the grand jury didn’t have to act.


    GEORGE W. WEIKERT was a Civil War veteran and well-known Gettysburg farmer. His farm was located on the battlefield and his house acted as a field hospital “with wounded filling the parlor and amputated arms and legs piled outside the windows.”  For several years, Weikert acted as the Gettysburg Police Chief. During the Civil War, he fought with Coles Cavalry in Company C, First Battalion. He enlisted August 27, 1861, and was discharged May 22, 1862, for disability.


    JOHN McCALISTER (1828-1903), the witness, was a “Cemetery Keeper” in Gettysburg, according to the1870 census and later worked as the first superintendent of the National Cemetery. 

    Folds, expected toning.


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