The guest room was out back in a wood shed near the hog slop barrel.
On July 1, 1863, Garlach, 41, and her children had remained at home on Baltimore Street in Gettysburg despite the first day of battle raging nearby. Garlach’s husband, a German-born cabinet maker named Henry, had earlier gone out to watch the fighting and had been cut off from home.
Late in the afternoon, Union forces west and north of town had been overwhelmed and driven through the streets in panicked retreat. Whooping, victorious Confederates were everywhere, armed and dangerous, rounding up prisoners, or in some cases shooting those who didn’t surrender.
Recalled Catharine’s daughter Anna:
“There were more people in the street than I have ever seen at any time. The street seemed blocked. In front of our house the crowd was so great that I believed I could have walked across the street on the heads of the soldiers.”
That night, Catharine went out to feed the hogs and was surprised to find Schimmelfennig, a division commander of the Union XI Corps who had ducked into the Garlach’s back yard to avoid capture.
It wasn’t the first time that Schimmelfennig had fled for his life.
A native of Prussia born in 1824, he’d been a soldier involved on the wrong side during the 1848 Revolution. He escaped to Switzerland and was tried in absentia by Prussian authorities and sentenced to death.
Eventually, he made his way to America, enlisted in the Union Army, and wound up in Catharine Garlach’s woodshed, where she hid and fed him throughout the battle.
She did this despite the hornet swarm of bullets that might be waiting, since the Garlach home was within the Confederate skirmish and sniper line.
According to the web site “Gettysburg Daily”:
“On more than one occasion, the Confederate sharpshooters/skirmishers attempted to use the Garlach home as a place from which to fire.
“At first they would ask Mrs. Garlach, and she would refuse. On one occasion a Confederate came in the front door anyway, and started up the staircase.
“(She) ran after him, and tugged on his coat saying, ‘You can’t go up there. You will draw the fire on this house full of defenseless women and children.’”
Because Henry Garlach was a cabinet maker, there was plenty of wood to be had at the home.
On the evening of July 3, while Confederates were still in possession of the town, some soldiers came to the house to build a coffin for a fallen officer.
Catharine allowed them to take wood, but not to build the coffin at the house.
The following day, the Confederate army retreated. Schimmelfennig finally came out of hiding and was greeted with joy by his comrades, who thought he had been captured or killed.
The tale is chronicled on a marker outside the still-standing Garlach home.
Catharine Garlach passed away in 1893.
Sadly Schimmelfennig died of tuberculosis before the war ended.