A Biography of Jennie Wade
This article is a biography about the only civilian killed during the American Civil War Battle of Gettysburg.
Mary Virginia “Ginnie” Wade, also known as Jennie Wade was born on May 21, 1843 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Up until July 1, 1863 she worked as a seamstress with her mother in their home on Breckenridge Street. Her father was in a mental asylum. It is believed that she was engaged to her childhood sweetheart Johnson Hasting “Jack” Skelly, a corporal in the 87th Pennsylvania, who was wounded two weeks prior to the death of Ginnie, at the Battle of Winchester. He died from his injuries on July 12, 1863 never knowing that Ginnie had died before he did.
On July 1, 1863 Ginnie, her mother, and two younger brothers traveled to the home of her sister Georgia Anna Wade McClellan at 528 Baltimore Street to help her with her newborn child. It was the first day’s fighting of the Battle of Gettysburg. The McClellan home was hit with more than 150 bullets during the fighting. On July 3, 1863 at about 8:30 a.m. Ginnie was kneading dough for bread for the Union soldiers when a Minie ball entered the kitchen door of her house and pierced her left shoulder blade, going through her heart and killing her instantly. It is uncertain which side fired the fatal shot, but it is believed to have been a Confederate sharpshooter. She was the only civilian killed directly during the Battle of Gettysburg.
Shortly afterward her body was discovered by three Union soldiers and the rest of her family were told of her death. Ginnie’s body was buried in the back yard of her sister’s home for about 6 months in a coffin intended for a Confederate officer until in January, 1864 her body was relocated to the cemetery adjoining the German Reformed Church on Stratton Street. On July 4, her mother baked 15 loaves of bread from the dough Ginnie had kneaded.
In November, 1865 Ginnie’s remains were relocated to her third and final resting place. She was reburied in Evergreen Cemetery near Jack Skelly. In 1900 a monument designed by Anna M. Miller was erected in her memory. The monument includes an American flag that flies around the clock. Jennie Wade may not be known to most people but, that does not make her any less an important part of the history of the American Civil War Battle of Gettysburg.