One of my favorite places in the city of Gettysburg is Eisenhower’s Farm. I wrote my masters thesis on Eisenhower and know a fair amount about the president and general. Ike’s ties to the town go all the way back to Great War, when the then junior officer trained troops at Gettysburg’s Camp Colt. Many people do not know that one of the primary purposes of the national military parks was–and is–to train American service personnel in military and leadership strategy. Eisenhower trained members of the nascent U.S. Tank Corps at Camp Colt. It was 1917, just four years after the 50th anniversary Blue-Grey reunion.
After the Second World War Ike and Mamie purchased a farm in Gettysburg, from which one gets a spectacular view of Little Round Top. The farm was a staging ground for Pickett’s Charge. Among other things Eisenhower raised prize-winning Angus cattle at his farm, and took the task pretty seriously. He entered his cattle in numerous competitions, often anonymously to avoid favoritism, and won a fair amount of the time. During his White House years Eisenhower used the Gettysburg farm to relax with his family, attend to his gentleman farming, and also–no small thing–charm foreign dignitaries. Eisenhower had formidable interpersonal skills and, for good reason, believed he could win just about anybody over if he could spend time with them in both formal and informal situations. This is where the Angus cattle came in; Ike loved taking other heads-of-state out to the barn to show them his prize-winning bulls, have a photo op, and then discuss world affairs in the tranquil setting once the press had been dispatched. A few who got the hidden hand treatment in such a manner included India’s Jawaharlal Nehru (December 1956), West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (May 1957), Nehru nemesis Winston Churchill (May 1959, after he left Downing Street), Nikita Khrushchev (September 1959), and Eisenhower nemesis Charles de Gaulle (April 1960), among others.
In a lighter news story, the farm’s heritage became a bit more complete this month when Gloria Hartley, widow of herdsman and farm manager Bob Hartley, donated the original Eisenhower Farms sign to the National Park Service. Preserving small details of our national heritage such as this is something the Park Service does well.
(images: top, NPS; bottom, Hanover, PA Evening Sun)