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Gettysburg teen finds history in his own backyard

Andrew Dalton, 14, studies the history of the area around his home outside Gettysburg. (Photo courtesy The Hanover, Pa. Evening Sun)

GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Andrew Dalton loves studying the Civil War. More specifically, he’s interested in the Battle of Gettysburg.

You can actually narrow that down even further to the events of the battle that happened around his house.

The 14-year-old’s family moved to Cumberland Township, just outside Gettysburg, when he was 3, and they would ride bikes around the battlefield. Andrew was instantly fascinated, and as he got older and read about the battle, he found he knew many of the locations the historians spoke of.

“What I read, I could see,” Andrew said.

It’s not a hobby. It’s a passion. A passion that fills what was once his parents’ dining room.

A map of the battlefield is spread across a table. Old photos of soldiers, history books and binders bursting with information gathered from the nooks and crannies of history lie about on the map.

But it’s not clutter. Everything has its place as Andrew uses a memoir here and photographic evidence there to connect the dots to complete a picture of a piece of history.

The Gettysburg Area High School freshman volunteers as a researcher and historian with the National Park Service. He has held lectures with several local organizations, and gives his own guided walking tour.

Andrew loves all things Gettysburg, but his specialty has been researching the farms around his home on Park Avenue, and digging up the stories of the people who lived there.

“Not too many people can say history happened in their backyard,” Andrew said.

He first looked into the neighboring Harmon Farm, which is yards away from his parents’ house. Through his research, Andrew found an account of the events at the farm written by Amelia Harmon, who was 17 years old when soldiers marched into town.

The farm was used to house Union sharpshooters at one point, and was later burned down by the Confederates, he said.

He is working on a display for the visitors center to show his findings.

But that’s not where it ends. There are plenty of old farms, and houses, all with civilians who witnessed the battle, and Andrew is working hard, and digging deep, to tell their stories, too.

When he grows up, it’s no surprise that Andrew wants to be an historian, specifically working with the Park Service in Gettysburg. He even hopes to go to Gettysburg College so he doesn’t have to leave his battlefield and his research.

Andrew is getting ready to host another walking tour that’s free to the public through Historic Gettysburg-Adams County. When his tour is available, details will be at the organization’s website, www.hgaconline.org.


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