Too Much for Human Endurance: The George Spangler Farm Hospitals and the Battle of Gettysburg

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Ronald D. Kirkwood
Pub Date:
June 2019
Hardcover, 6 x 9
75 images, 8 maps, 384 pp.
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1 mint copy found! Signed by publisher and author signed bookplate.


READ CHAPTER 10: Flood Tide: Day Two at the XI Corps Hospital

PHOTO: Author in the Spangler Barn at Gettysburg

WATCH AND LISTEN: Twilight at Spangler: The Aftermath of Battle w/author Kirkwood onsite in the Spangler Barn at Gettysburg


About the Book

The bloodstains are gone, but the worn floorboards remain. The doctors, nurses, and patients who toiled and suffered and ached for home at the Army of the Potomac’s XI Corps hospital at the George Spangler Farm in Gettysburg have long since departed. Happily, though, their stories remain, and noted journalist and George Spangler Farm expert Ronald D. Kirkwood brings these people and their experiences to life in “Too Much for Human Endurance”: The George Spangler Farm Hospitals and the Battle of Gettysburg.

Using a massive array of firsthand accounts, Kirkwood re-creates the sprawling XI Corps hospital complex and the people who labored and suffered there—especially George and Elizabeth Spangler and their four children, who built a thriving 166-acre farm only to witness it nearly destroyed when war paid them a bloody visit that summer of 1863. Stories rarely if ever told of nurses, surgeons, ambulance workers, musicians, teenage fighters, and others are weaved seamlessly through gripping, smooth-flowing prose.

A host of notables spent time at the Spangler farm, including Union officers George G. Meade, Henry J. Hunt, Edward E. Cross, Francis Barlow, Francis Mahler, Freeman McGilvery, and Samuel K. Zook. Pvt. George Nixon III, great-grandfather of President Richard M. Nixon, would die there, as would Confederate Gen. Lewis A. Armistead, who fell mortally wounded at the height of Pickett’s Charge. In addition to including the most complete lists ever published of the dead, wounded, and surgeons at the Spanglers’ XI Corps hospital, this study breaks new ground with stories of the First Division, II Corps hospital at the Spanglers’ Granite Schoolhouse.

Kirkwood also establishes the often-overlooked strategic importance of the property and its key role in the Union victory. Army of the Potomac generals took advantage of the farm’s size, access to roads, and central location to use it as a staging area to get artillery and infantry to the embattled front line from Little Round Top north to Cemetery Hill just in time to prevent its collapse and a Confederate breakthrough.

“Too Much for Human Endurance”: The George Spangler Farm Hospitals and the Battle of Gettysburg introduces readers to heretofore untold stories of the Spanglers, their farm, those who labored to save lives and those who suffered and died there. They have finally received the recognition their place in history deserves.

Learn more about the Spangler Farm at:



“An original and unique work of meticulous and exhaustive research, "Too Much for Human Endurance": The George Spangler Farm Hospitals and the Battle of Gettysburg is further enhanced for academia with the inclusion of six appendices, a ten page bibliography, and a nine page index. A truly extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library American Civil War history collections.” – Midwest Book Review


Ron Kirkwood has spent the last eight years researching the George Spangler farm in Gettysburg and has written two books on it: “Too Much for Human Endurance”: The George Spangler Farm Hospitals and the Battle of Gettysburg, which was published in 2019, and the sequel “Tell Mother Not to Worry” in 2024. He is retired after a 40-year career in newspapers and magazines including USA TODAY, Baltimore Sun, Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News, York (PA) Daily Record and Midland (MI) Daily News. Ron edited national magazines for USA TODAY Sports, was NFL editor for USA TODAY Sports Weekly and managed the Harrisburg copy desk when the newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012. He is a native of Dowagiac/Sister Lakes, MI, and a graduate of Central Michigan University, where he has returned as guest speaker to journalism classes as part of the school’s Hearst Visiting Professionals series. Ron and his wife of almost 50 years, Barbara, live in the deer-filled countryside outside of Pittsburgh.