My Trip to the Evergreen Cemetery!

Jennie Wade’s memorial at the Evergreen Cemetery.

So I’ve been doing some research on the Civil War lately; one person’s account of the Civil War in particular has interested me.  Jennie Wade, the only civilian killed during the Battle of Gettysburg, is a pretty well known figure here in Gettysburg, if you ask anyone else outside of town who she is, they may not know, but if you’re a local, you can mostly recite her story.

Jennie Wade was a Gettysburg native.  She was born right here in town, in a house on the corner of Baltimore Street and Breckinridge Street.  She lived there and grew up with her parents, Mary and James Wade, and her older sister, Georgia, and younger brothers, John, Samuel, and Harry.

Jennie grew up playing in the fields around Gettysburg with her childhood friends, Jack Skelly and Wesley Culp.  Friends and family believe that the once innocent friendship between Jennie Wade and Jack Skelly later developed into a romance that we will never know since tragedy swept in and took both the lovers lives at a very young age.

On that fateful morning of July 3rd, 1863, Jennie was kneading dough in her sister’s kitchen when a stray bullet, coming somewhere north near the Farnsworth House, struck the outside door leading to the kitchen, and came through the other inside ktichen door, piercing jennie Wade in her back into her left shoulder blade, hitting her heart and killing her instantly.

When Jennie hit the floor, her sister screamed.  Jennie’s mother ran into the kitchen to find her 20-year-old daughter lying dead on the wooden kitchen floor, which was stained red with Jennie’s blood.  Jennie’s sister’s cries were heard from a few soldier’s that were posted outside, who all came rushing in from all ends of the house  when they heard her screams.

What the men found would shock them.  A 20-year-old girl, a civilian, was lying dead on the floor.  A civilian being mortally wounded during battle just didn’t happen, it shouldn’t happen.  Over the next few hours, Jennie’s family, followed by the soldier’s would carry the young girl’s body up the stairs, through the hole that was blasted through the wall by a ten-pound shell the night before, and down the stairs on the other side of the house, outside the kitchen door, and down the cellar steps into the basement.  It would be all night and half of the next day that the group of sad people would hold vidual for Jennie Wade until the battle was over with and it was safe to go outside.

When the battle had finally ended, Jennie’s body was laid to rest in a wooden casket made ready for a confederate soldier, and placed in her sister’s garden behind the house.  Jennie’s body would later be moved to the cemetery near the German Reformed Church.  It wouldn’t be till about a year later, that Jennie’s body would finally be laid to rest at the Evergreen Cemetery.

The Evergreen Cemetery.

“Her grave site is the most visited in Evergreen” said Brian Kennell, Superintendent of the Evergreen Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pa.

Kennell grew up here in Gettysburg and knows a lot about the history of the Civil War.  He also informed me about where Jack Skelly’s grave could be found so that I could snap some good pictures of the two grave sights .

Kennel explained to me a little bit of history about Jennie Wade’s plaque that reads her real name, “Mary Virginia Wade.”  It was donated by the Iowa Women’s Relief Corps, where her sister became the President.  The bronze plaque was placed at the base of her monument as it stands in the Evergreen Cemetery.

Brian Kennell, Superintendent of the Evergreen Cemetery, also wrote a book titled, “Beyond the Gatehouse: Gettysburg’s Evergreen Cemetery.”  Kennel gave me a copy to take with me to help me with my research.  His book gives an account of the history of the cemetery, Kennell’s life growing up in a cemetery, what “grave-diggin” is all about.

Kennell’s book features some of the first person ever to be buried in the Evergreen Cemetery.  Many of the people who have been buried at the Evergreen Cemetery are famous/notable people.  A few of the people featured in Kennell’s book include James Getty, John Burns, Jennie Wade of course, and Jack Skelly.

Jack Skelly’s tombstone.

Jack Skelly, Jennie’s sweetheart, is also buried at the Evergreen Cemetery, just 70-yards from Jennie.  During the Battle of Carter’s Woods in Winchester, Virginia, Jack Skelly was mortally wounded in his arm, and died almost two weeks after Jennie was killed by a stray bullet.  Jack was buried at a cemetery in Winchester, but his body was later moved by his brother, Daniel, to Gettysburg at the Evergreen Cemetery.

Jack Skelly’s grave.

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