One Million Civil War Artifacts Preserved at Gettysburg

Jul 5, 2013

Thousands of people have been flocking to the visitor center at Gettysburg National Military Park for the 150th anniversary of the three day battle.

The facility displays about 1,300 historical items at any given time. But it barely scratches the surface of the entire collection.

Through the years, the park has acquired about one million artifacts, mostly by donation.

The National Park Service's Greg Goodell says each one helps to tell the comprehensive story of the Battle of Gettysburg.

"What you're looking at here, actually, is a Whitworth, breech-loading cannon," he said.

At Gettysburg, there was a battery of four of them with the Army of Northern Virginia. Goodell said they were effective weapons because of their range and accuracy.

"If you can imagine, on July 1, a battery of these guns bombarding the very tail end of the federal line, almost a mile away, with stunning accuracy," he said. "You can see why these guns were so feared by those who were suffering their wrath."

Like all artifacts that aren’t on display, the cannon is meticulously cataloged and preserved in a basement storage space, where it’s exactly 70 degrees with 50 percent humidity all year long.