Spangler's Spring has long been one of the landmarks of the battlefield, although it is one of several springs in the area. It is located at the south base of the lower peak of Culp's Hill, about 150 yards west of Rock Creek. It drains into a small stream that flows around the south base of the hill, the origins of which include other springs near the McKnight house west of the hill and in the saddle between the two peaks of the hill. The stream that drains these springs flows through the marshy meadow or swale between Culp's Hill and McAllister's Woods to Rock Creek.
Gettysburg lore credits a Gettysburg resident, Henry J. Stahle, with discover- ing the spring in about 1847. Stahle and others were picnicking nearby, and Stahle went to search for water. He saw some wet leaves, and when he stirred them with a stick, water bubbled forth. Stahle later secured permission from the farm's owner, Mr. Spangler, to clear out the spring and wall it up, and thereafter the spring provided water for the picnic grounds nearby. 1
When Williams's division occupied the area on the late morning of 2 July, some of its soldiers erected breastworks on the hill not far from the spring. A soldier of the 2d Massachusetts Regiment recalled being on the picnic grounds and remembered "the pellucid waters of the spring refreshingly cool." 2
The spring gained prominence in the postwar years. A story grew that both Union and Confederate soldiers drank from it during the battle on the night of 2 July, and it is sometimes implied that they did so in a fraternal way, as they are reputed to have done on occasion between campaigns in Virginia. Such a story has had great appeal for many visitors to the battlefield.
Soldiers from three brigades were in the Spangler's Spring area on the night of 2 July. They would have been from Ruger's and McDougall's brigades of the Twelfth Corps and Steuart's Confederate brigade. Any creditable accounts of the joint use of Spangler's Spring must come, then, from soldiers of these brigades. Other sources should be viewed with skepticism.
Steuart's brigade of Johnson's division occupied the lower hill on the evening of 2 July while Williams's division was on Cemetery Ridge. When Ruger's and McDougall's brigades of Williams's division returned, they discovered that Confederates had occupied a portion of their old position and took measures to learn where the Confederates were. As the Union commanders sent patrols or skirmishers forward to gain this information, there were firefights and men were shot and captured. One account of this activity tells of the capture of twenty-three Confederates by soldiers of the 2d Massachusetts Regiment near the spring. The men taken carried canteens and "appeared to be straggling about looking for water." No other members of Ruger's brigade mention the spring in this connection. I have seen no mention of the spring in Confederate accounts. 3
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Publication information: Book title: Gettysburg--Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill. Contributors: Harry W. Pfanz - Author, Gary W. Gallagher - Editor. Publisher: University of North Carolina Press. Place of publication: Chapel Hill, NC. Publication year: 1993. Page number: 377.