That evening Confederate troops looking for their dead came across the strange spectacle of an elderly man in civilian dress with a number of battle wounds. They revived him, and asked who he was. They left him on the field.
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A Confederate officer at some point gave Burns some water and a blanket, and the old man survived the night lying out in the open. The next day he somehow made his way to a nearby house, and a neighbor transported him in a wagon back into Gettysburg, which was held by the Confederates. He was again questioned by Confederate officers, who remained skeptical of his account of how he had gotten mixed up in the fighting.
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Burns later claimed two rebel soldiers shot at him through a window as he was lying on a cot. After the Confederates withdrew, Burns was a local hero.
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A Pennsylvania newspaper, the Germantown Telegraph, published an item about John Burns in the summer of It was reprinted widely. The following is the text as printed in the San Francisco Bulletin of August 13, , six weeks after the battle:.
They walked arm and arm down a street in the town and sat together at a church service. The poem made it sound as if everyone else in town had been a coward, and many citizens of Gettysburg were offended. In the writer J. Trowbridge visited Gettysburg, and received a tour of the battlefield from Burns. The old man also provided many of his eccentric opinions. John Burns died in He is buried, beside his wife, in the civilian cemetery at Gettysburg.
In July , as part of 40th anniversary commemorations, the statue depicted Burns with his rifle was dedicated.
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The legend of John Burns has become a treasured part of Gettysburg lore. Share Flipboard Email.
Civilian describes pillaging near Gettysburg, | Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
Robert J. McNamara is a history expert who has been writing for ThoughtCo since He previously served as Amazon.
Updated November 30, The Legend of "Brave John Burns". Burns Joined the Fighting at Gettysburg.go to site
His Role In the Battle. The following is the text as printed in the San Francisco Bulletin of August 13, , six weeks after the battle: John Burns, over seventy years of age, a resident of Gettysburg, fought throughout the battle of the first day, and was wounded no less than five times -- the last shot taking effect in his ankle, wounding him severely.
He came up to Coloner Wister in the thickest of the fight, shook hands with him, and said he came to help. He was dressed in his best, consisting of a light blue swallow-tailed coat, with brass buttons, corduroy pantaloons, and a stove pipe hat of considerable height, all of ancient pattern, and doubtless an heirloom in his house. He was armed with a regulation musket. He loaded and fired unflinchingly until the last of his five wounded brought him down. He will recover. With him out of the picture, Wade made ends meet by working as a seamstress alongside her mother.
The two also served as caregivers for a 6-year-old disabled boy named Isaac Brinkerhoff. When the Battle of Gettysburg broke out on July 1, , Wade, along with her mother, her youngest brother and Isaac, took refuge at the home of her older sister, Georgia McClellan. The family wanted to help Georgia look after her 5-day-old son and also apparently believed it was safer there.
But that afternoon, when Union troops retreated into the hills just south of town, the Wades found themselves directly in the line of fire. Remaining calm, Jennie reportedly went outside to distribute water and food to Northern soldiers. Meanwhile, an artillery shell crashed through the roof, knocked a hole in a wall and came to rest in the eaves, where it remained for the next 15 years.
Luckily for the family, it never exploded. Although Wade purportedly fainted sometime during the day, she stayed active, handing out food, starting the yeast for more bread and caring for her postpartum sister. The next morning, she went out with her brother to gather firewood. Upon returning to the house, Wade ate breakfast and apparently read from the Book of Psalms. A bullet then flew through a window and lodged in the bedpost next to where Georgia was lying with her son.
Around a. After hearing Georgia scream, Union soldiers entered the house and led the remaining family members out through the hole created by the unexploded shell and down to the cellar, where they were safe from Southern sharpshooters. Wade was wrapped in a quilt and temporarily buried in the yard. A monument was erected over her grave in Historians believe they may have been engaged.
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