Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Ghost of Jennie Wade

Though there were 51,112 soldiers killed and wounded in the battle of Gettysburg, July 1st, 2nd and 3rd, 1863, ironically only one other then military personnel met death. An attractive young lady by the name of Mary Virginia Wade. The nickname of "JENNIE" was acquired through an error in recording her death, and strangely enough, has stuck ever since. Even the monument erected in her memory is engraved "Jennie" wade! Thus she is nationally known!!!

One of five children of James Wade, a tailor by trade, "Jennie" was born May 21, 1843. Through her father and necessity, she became very artful in sewing. Too, it is recorded, she was good looking, hard working and a credit to American womanhood, in maintaining a neat, clean, well managed home. She assumed many of her mother's responsibilities. Thus was she occupied at the outbreak of the great battle.

Just a few days prior to the battle, Jennie's sister gave birth to a son. Her mother had gone to her sister's home, in the southern part of the town, and was there at the outbreak of the battle. When the noise of the battle began to the north of town, and the commotion and loud concussions suggested unsafety, the householders either sought shelter in cellars or left for points south of town. Hence, Jennie hastily picked up her younger brother and dashed for the shelter of her sister's home. (Incidentally, that home stands today, and is historically known as "THE JENNIE WADE MUSEUM"). There Jennie began performing the household chore of answering the door knocks; which usually were soldiers requesting food, or water. Pail after pail of water she carried from the well, for the soldiers. That evening, the battle-lines shifted to the South. Instead of being a house of refuge, it was a house between the lines of battle. Soldiers fell around the house and in the yard. At the risk of her own life, Jennie went out to give water to the wounded and aid to the dying. This continued for two days and nights. On the morning of the 3rd of July, a soldier knocked on the door begging for some food. Jennie said they had none left, but if he would come back a little later she'd have some biscuits baked. The delighted soldier promised to return.

It was customary for Jennie to read several passages from the Bible every morning before breakfast. After a meager breakfast she began to ready the biscuit sponge. At 8 o'clock she asked her mother to fix the fire as she proceeded to make the biscuits promised to the soldier and had just started to knead the dough when a sharpshooter's bullet accidentally struck through the north door - continuing through an inner door - hitting Jennie in the back and through the heart. She fell dead without a sound.

In her pocket was found a picture of her fiancée, who was wounded about the same time, in the battle of Carter's Woods, Virginia. Her mother tenderly wrapped her body - hands still covered with biscuit dough - in a quilt, all to be later placed just that way in a coffin and buried in her sister's back yard without benefit of embalming, prayers or music. Here the body remained till after the war. Later it was removed to a grave in the Evergreen Cemetery, over which stands a monument in her memory. Today, near the grave of Jennie Wade lies the body of her fiancée, Johnston Skelly, who died just eight days after her death, unaware that the war which was to bring about his death had already brought death to his intended bride.

-Literature accompanying the "JENNIE" WADE DOLL, N.L. Redding Co.
Gettysburg, PA 1959

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