GETTYSBURG, PA – A new gravel parking area and driveway at the Wisler House, also known as “The First Shot House,” at Gettysburg National Military Park is now available for visitor use. The completion of this phase of site rehabilitation will allow visitors an unprecedented opportunity to safely park and visit this significant location associated with the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg.
On the morning of July 1, 1863, Union soldiers with the 8th Illinois Cavalry established a sentry post three miles west of Gettysburg at the home and blacksmith shop of Ephraim Wisler. From its position on Knoxlyn Ridge, the Wisler House was an ideal location from which to spy any Confederate advance toward Gettysburg along the Chambersburg Pike. At 7:30 am, Union cavalrymen detected the advance of Henry Heth’s Confederate division, which had departed their Cashtown bivouac to conduct a reconnaissance in force toward Gettysburg. Lt. Marcellus E. Jones, who commanded the picket line of the 8th Illinois, borrowed the carbine of Sgt. Levi Shafer rested the weapon on one of Wisler’s fence posts and, from the western yard of the home, fired the first shot of the Battle of Gettysburg. The Ephraim Wisler home would become enshrined in Gettysburg lore as “The First Shot House”…the location from which the great Battle of Gettysburg was inaugurated.
“We are pleased to provide the opportunity for our visitors to drive, and now safely park, at this crucial battlefield location,” says park superintendent Steven D. Sims. “With the nearly completed rehabilitation of the Wisler House, it was critically important to provide access for visitors. The newly constructed parking lot provides five spaces and a wide access drive for both arriving and departing vehicles. These improvements provide safe access to our visitors and the opportunity to further enhance and enrich their understanding of this complex three-day battle.”
The announcement of the parking area and drive opening now allows public access to the Wisler House grounds, but site rehabilitation is not yet fully complete. A new interpretive sign is expected to be installed in the coming months, and the house will receive a painting treatment called penciling later in the year. Per historic specifications, the brick Wisler House has already been painted red, and the penciling will add a thin line of white paint to accentuate the areas where mortar would be visible. This painting technique is the same as what already appears on the David Wills House in the center of Gettysburg. Currently, there are no plans to open the house to the public.
For a full recap of the rehabilitation project, including videos and photo albums, visit our website at https://go.nps.gov/WislerHouse.