Thursday, January 1, 2015

Jennie Wade


Jennie Wade holds the unfortunate distinction of being the only civilian killed during the Battle at Gettysburg. Known as Ginnie or Gin to friends, her name was reported incorrectly in the newspapers following her death and she would thereafter be known as Jennie. She is sometimes thought to be named Jenny Wade, but that spelling of her name is incorrect.

Wade was born May 21, 1843 and shared a home with her family in the town of Gettysburg PA. She worked as a seamstress with her mother to make enough money to live after her father was committed to a mental asylum.

On the morning of July 1, 1863, the first day of battle, she fled her central Gettysburg home with her mother and two younger brothers to the home of her sister. Georgia McClellan and her newborn son resided at 528 Baltimore Street and over the course of the battle, the house was struck by many bullets.

Jennie helped the Union soldiers by baking bread and refilling their canteens. The situation became particularly dangerous after the Union troops retreated through town amidst the onrush of the pursuing Confederates.

On the second day of battle Jennie and her mother were running low on bread to distribute. They retired that evening allowing the yeast to rise for the next day. In the early morning hours of July 3, 1863 as Jennie labored alone in the kitchen making biscuits for the soldiers, a bullet passed through the kitchen door, struck her in the left shoulder blade and ended up in her chest.

She was killed instantly and was later discovered by Union soldiers who notified her family. It is not clear which side killed Jennie Wade but many say it was by the bullet of an unidentified Confederate sharpshooter.

Ironically, Wade was engaged to Gettysburg Pennsylvania native Johnston Hastings "Jack" Skelly, a Union corporal in the 87th Pennsylvania. He had been seriously wounded weeks earlier in the Battle of Winchester and died from his wounds on July 12. Jennie had not been aware he was wounded, and he unaware that she died before him.

Confederate private Wesley Culp, also a Gettysburg native and friends with Wade and Skelly, had run across him in a field hospital and held a note he addressed to Jennie. Tragically, Culp was killed the same day as Jennie on his family farm on Culp's Hill, and she never received the note. Jennie and Jack are buried near each other in Gettysburg's Evergreen Cemetery.

In 1900, The Jennie Wade Monument was erected and today, it is one of the most visited sites in Gettysburg. An executive order was issued to fly the American Flag at the site 24 hours a day. The only other American woman to be bestowed this honor is Betsy Ross at the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, PA.

Today, the Jennie Wade house is a Gettysburg bed and breakfast and some believe the house is visited by spirits. It is a common stop for those on a tour of haunted Gettysburg.


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