The Jennie Wade House
The Jennie Wade House — a tragic tale
A sad story, Jennie’s is. She was the only direct civilian casualty during the Battle of Gettysburg, and her death reminded everyone just how fortunate they were to survive the war. Jennie Wade was just twenty years old when she lost her life after being hit by a stray bullet during battle. The Jennie Wade House is reportedly haunted and still stands today, a testament to the horrors of war. Much of the original structure is still intact, and it’s a popular museum that draws tourists from all over — offering tours that provide them with accounts and explanations of the activity that occurs within its walls. If you’d like to learn about the history of Gettysburg and the ghosts that remain there, join us for a Gettysburg ghost tour.
The Wade’s Less-Than-Easy Life
Jennie Wade was born in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and lived with her mother, Mary, three brothers, and two sisters. Jennie’s father, James, wasn’t around much as his trade as a tailor kept him from home. James frequently had issues with the law to the point where he was even admitted into a mental institution over his erratic and troubling behavior.
With James away, the Wades had to find another way to make ends meet. Jennie and her mother took over the responsibility of the finances and worked out of their home as seamstresses, tailoring clothes for their surrounding community. The Wades also brought in a bit of extra cash by caring for a local family’s disabled son, Isaac.
When the Battle of Gettysburg started raging on July 1st of 1863, Mary Wade felt unsafe with the war waging just outside the doorstep. So, Mary packed up her family and Isaac and took them to the home of the oldest Wade sister, Georgia Anna. Mary thought it would be safer there, and Jennie helped look after Georgia and her 5-day-old newborn son while they hunkered down there.
Later that afternoon, the Wades found themselves in a truly unfortunate situation — the gunfire was right outside the door. The battle had followed them. Jennie brought food and water to Union soldiers as she cared for her nephew and sister throughout the evening. It was later learned that over 150 bullets hit the Wade home.
Artillery continued to hit the home the next day. That morning, during a break in the crossfire, Jennie and her brother ventured outside to collect more firewood for the home.
They made it back inside, and Jennie soon began reading scripture for a bit to calm her nerves. After, she went to the kitchen to start kneading dough to provide the troops in their yard with some fresh bread. Just then, a bullet came through a bedroom window and lodged itself in a bedpost less than a couple of inches away from Georgia and her baby.
Death On the Doorstep
Without warning, as Jennie was finishing up the dough, another bullet entered the home, went through two doors, and hit Jennie in the back and through her heart, killing her instantly.
Upon seeing what had happened, Georgia let out a scream so loud that Union soldiers heard it outside and rushed in. They escorted the rest of the family out, safe from Confederate gunfire.
After the Confederacy had retreated on July 4th, it was reported that Mary Wade finished making Jennie’s bread — fifteen loaves for the Union army. Soldiers temporarily buried Jennie in the backyard using a coffin intended for Confederate General William Barksdale.
A monument was built over her grave in 1900, along with an American flag that flies day and night. The only other woman with that honor is the late Betsy Ross.
Nearly twenty years after her daughter’s death, the United States Senate awarded Mary Wade with a pension. This was because it had been determined that Jennie had been killed while serving the Union — baking bread for their soldiers. It was a bittersweet victory for the Wade family but a late gesture from the Senate.
A Man Named Jack — Be Still My Beating Heart
When the American Civil War began in 1861, Jennie was engaged to a Union corporal named Johnston’ Jack’ Hastings Skelly, Jr. Without Jennie’s knowledge; Jack had been seriously injured just two weeks prior to her untimely death.
With new traveling much slower those days, Jennie had never even known of her fiance’s injury. A few days after her death, Jack died from his injuries.
There are rumors that if you place a finger on the hold of one of the doors that was shot through when Jennie died, you will become engaged not long after. The door still exists in the home today, hole and all!
Hauntings at the Wade House
The Jennie Wade House today is called the Jennie Wade Museum. Inside, a very detailed and graphic tour is available to the public who wishes to take a peek into 19th-century life.
Visitors will find the same floors that Jennie and her family walk across every day, and some are still covered in blood from when Jennie fell to the floor after being shot. Also on display are photographs that were taken from inside the home. Some of them feature objects that will make you question reality, seemingly capturing the spirit of Jennie Wade.
Many witnesses have reported strange happenings in the home over the years. They have claimed to see a young woman moving about the home, a typical sight you may think, but they always say she’s partially see-through. Others have spotted her wandering around the countryside of the home.
Some museum-goers will feel a cold chill pass them by in the home, and others report the smell of fresh-baked bread in a kitchen that’s no longer in use.
In Conclusion — Jennie Wade House’s ghost
The Battle of Gettysburg was a horrific part of the American Civil War that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans. Astonishingly, Jennie Wade remains the only civilian to die during the fighting.
With so much bloodshed throughout Pennsylvania during that era, many buildings and locations are believed to be haunted. You needn’t travel very far to find any such place, as they are littered all over the area.
The Jennie Wade House will forever hold the memory of the tragedy that took place there on that fateful July morning in 1863. As long as it is still standing, future generations can come to learn of the bravery that Jennie Wade so selflessly displayed that day.
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