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Ginnie Wade

Mary Virginia "Ginnie"[1] (or "Jennie") Wade (May 21, 1843 – July 3, 1863), a seamstress, was the only Gettysburg civilian killed directly during the Battle of Gettysburg.[2]

The house where she was killed became a popular tourist attraction and museum called the "Jennie Wade House".

Contents

Early life

Ginnie was born in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. She worked as a seamstress with her mother in their house on Breckenridge Street while her father was in a mental asylum. She may have been engaged to Johnston Hastings "Jack" Skelly, a corporal in the 87th Pennsylvania, who had been wounded two weeks earlier in the Battle of Winchester. He died from his injuries on July 12, 1863, unaware that Ginnie had died before he did.[3]

Casualty of war

Ginnie, her mother, and two younger brothers left their home in central Gettysburg[4] and traveled to the house of her sister Georgia Anna Wade McClellan at 528 Baltimore Street to assist her and her newborn child. It was July 1, 1863, during the first day's fighting of the Battle of Gettysburg. More than 150 bullets hit the McClellan house during the fighting.

Early 1900s photograph of Jennie Wade's House

About 8:30 a.m. on July 3, Ginnie was kneading dough for bread when a Minié ball traveled through the kitchen door of her house and hit her. It pierced her left shoulder blade, went through her heart, and ended up in her corset. She was killed instantly. While it is uncertain which side fired the fatal shot, some authors have attributed it to an unknown Confederate sharpshooter.[5]

Shortly afterward, three Union soldiers discovered the body and told the rest of the family. They temporarily buried Ginnie's body in the back yard of the McClellan house, in a coffin originally intended for a Confederate officer. In January 1864, her body was relocated to the cemetery of the German Reformed Church on Stratton Street.[6] On July 4, her mother baked 15 loaves of bread with the dough Ginnie had kneaded.

Monument

In November 1865, Ginnie Wade's remains were reburied in the Evergreen Cemetery near Jack Skelly. A monument to her, designed by Gettysburg resident Anna M. Miller, was erected in 1900 that includes an American flag that flies around the clock. (The Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia is the only other site devoted to a woman to share this distinction of the perpetual flag. The Evergreen Cemetery grave of John L. Burns also flies the perpetual flag.)[6]

Notes

  1. ^ Frassanito, p. 121: The only surviving autographs of her name that contain her nickname spell it "Ginnie", likely a diminutive of Virginia. Her name is more commonly known to history as "Jennie".
  2. ^ There were other civilians who died as an indirect result of the battle, including aged Ephraim Whistler, who succumbed to a heart attack suffered when a Confederate shell burst directly above his Chambersburg Pike home, as well as various civilians who died from handling shells that exploded and loaded weapons that discharged.
  3. ^ Petruzzi, pp. 220-21, 223. Kelly and Wade were childhood friends and some historians have speculated that they were engaged to be married. Only one letter between the two survived the war, and it had no romantic content.
  4. ^ Tanaka, p. 28.
  5. ^ See, for instance, Halbur, p. 110, Trudeau, p. 451, and Wert, p. 158. Petruzzi, p. 221, attributes the death to a "stray bullet" that penetrated two doors in the home.
  6. ^ a b Petruzzi, p. 221.

References

  • Frassanito, William A., Early Photography at Gettysburg, Thomas Publications, 1995, ISBN 1-57747-032-X.
  • Halbur, Patsy, "Jennie Wade and Gettysburg: It Was Not Supposed to Happen", Gettysburg Magazine, Issue 25, ISBN 0-89029-593-X.
  • Petruzzi, J. David, and Steven Stanley, The Complete Gettysburg Guide, Savas Beatie, 2009, ISBN 978-1-932714-63-0.
  • Tanaka, Shelley, Gettysburg: A Day that Changed America, Hyperion, 2003, ISBN 978-0786819225.
  • Trudeau, Noah Andre, Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage, HarperCollins, 2002, ISBN 0-06-019363-8.
  • Wert, Jeffry D., Gettysburg: Day Three, Simon & Schuster, 2001, ISBN 0-684-85914-9.

External links

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