Located at the intersection of US Route 301 and Knoxlyn Road outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is a five-foot high limestone pillar with a square cross-section and an inscription which tells where the first shot of the Battle of Gettysburg was allegedly fired.
The American Civil War's Battle of Gettysburg is the northern-most point that the main body of the Confederate forces reached and is widely held to be the war's turning point. Like all battles, this three-day conflict in Adams County in south-central Pennsylvania began with a single shot.
In this case it was on the morning of 1 July, 1863 at about 7:30am. Northern soldiers of Company E, 8th Illinois Cavalry were stationed in the west of Gettysburg and saw Confederate troops crossing Marsh Creek to their front. Union Lieutenant Marcellus E Jones took a carbine from one of his men and fired several shots at the advancing enemy. The Confederates fired back and the Battle of Gettysburg was underway.
The Union troops were advance pickets of General John Buford's First Cavalry Division. The Confederate troops were the vanguard of General Henry Heth's Division.
The marker actually sits on private property far from the Gettysburg National Military Park which millions visit each year.
It was bought and paid for by Jones, Levi Shafer (the man whose weapon Jones fired) and a third soldier Alexander Riddler. Made of limestone quarried in Naperville, Illinois, the trio returned to Gettysburg with it in 1886 to place it on the site of their historic volley.
Viewing this marker is difficult because of its location on private property along a busy highway.
Some people joke that the best way to see it is to head west on Route 30, turn left onto Knoxlyn Road and look behind you. In reality, if you take a more roundabout route you'll stand a good chance of seeing it from your car:
- Travel west on Route 30 and turn left onto Herr Ridge Road.
- From Herr Ridge Road turn right onto Old Mill Road.
- From Old Mill Road turn right onto Knoxlyn Road.
- From Knoxlyn Road, proceed straight to Route 30 and the marker will be straight across the highway.
Related h2g2 entries
Check out some of the other h2g2 entries relating to the American Civil War Battle of Gettysburg:
- Confederate Occupation of Carlisle, Pennsylvania - American Civil War
- The Burning of the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge - American Civil War
- Colonel Fremantle - An Englishman at Gettysburg
- Pennsylvania's Bucktail Regiment