What it did have was a location on the road to Harrisburg, the state Capitol, along with three newspapers, two telegraph units, two brickyards and a rail spur that connected the town to Hanover Junction, 15 miles east, and strong trading ties with Baltimore, 60 miles southeast.
Alcorn shows visitors the third-floor rooftop where Union Gen. O.O. Howard monitored the fight, a corner where a townswoman used a mirror to help signal soldiers to safety and a building where some legal maneuvering by noted abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens helped an academy's founders get their hands on a tax-sale property.
A block from the square, a tiny graveyard holds the remains of Edward McPherson Woods, a 3-year-old boy who died July 6, 1863, after being shot by his toddler brother with a military musket. Edward was among several local children killed by abandoned weapons and ordnance after the armies had moved on.
Another battle relic is the row of war-era houses on High Street where Gettysburg residents trapped between the lines took in severely wounded soldiers from a church that had been converted into a hospital. These days, most of the Civil War hospitals in Gettysburg — and there are many — are marked with simple red flags.
Richard Waybright, 83, whose family owns Mason Dixon Farms Inc., an enormous dairy operation outside town, is old enough to remember the battle's 75th anniversary in 1938. He heard his grandfather recall how the invading army cleaned out the smokehouse, paying for the hams with Confederate dollars.
At the time of the war, Gettysburg was home to Pennsylvania College, and a small number of its 116 students had stayed behind for summer classes despite the arrival of the rival armies. When the real shooting began, the students were quickly dismissed, and the main building — which today houses the Gettysburg College administration — also became a field hospital.