Of the 23,049 Union casualties (3,155 killed, 14,529 wounded and 5,365 missing in action) and the 28,063 Confederate casualties (3,903 killed, 18,735 wounded, and 5,425 missing in action) at the battle of Gettysburg in the early days of July 1863, there was only one civilian casualty – Mary Virginia Wade. You probably know her as “Jennie” Wade.
Jennie was born on May 21, 1843, the daughter of James Wade, Sr. and Mary Ann Filby. She had an older sister, Georgia, and three younger brothers, Jack, Samuel and Henry. The family lived in the borough of Gettysburg. As a young girl, Jennie learned to become a seamstress and aided her mother in providing those services for others in the town. When the war started, she watched her special friend, Jack Skelley, and her neighbor, William Culp, along with the other boys of Gettysburg join Company E of the Second Pennsylvania Infantry for a period of three months. She was happy that her brothers were too young to join up. She also was aware that William Culp’s brother, Wesley, had joined the Confederacy. Three months later the boys of the 2nd Pennsylvania returned home, their enlistment was up. Most re-enlisted, as the war had gone on longer than most had predicted, joining the 87th Pennsylvania Infantry.
Jennie and her family watched the war from afar until the word came to town officials that the enemy was approaching the area. Instructions went out for the citizens of Gettysburg to hide in their cellars if the war came close. And it did just that. The Confederates arrived from the west and the Union arrived from the south on July 1, 1863. The battle began, with men fighting through the streets of town. Jennie and her family moved to her sister Georgia’s home at 528 Baltimore Street to help Georgia as she had a small child.
Jennie and her family baked bread and pumped water that they provided to the soldiers. They provided pieces of spare cloth for use in churches and buildings as hospitals. They felt they were needed as support for those in the battle.
On the morning of July 3, Union and Confederate sharpshooters blasted away at each other right outside the Wade home. It is said that more than 100 bullets hit the house. A stray bullet, believed to have come from a Confederate rifleman, penetrated two doors of the house and struck Jennie Wade in the back as she was preparing more bread for the soldiers. She died from the bullet.
Jennie Wade is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery near the house where she was shot. A monument marks her grave site. The home where she was shot is open as The Jennie Wade House. Costumed guides give tours throughout each day. Ghost tours are conducted in the basement of the house after dark.
If you are interested in the Civil War, please subscribe to my posts. Or “like” my articles on your Facebook/Twitter accounts.