Category: Biography

Jennie Wade

Mary Virginia Wade

1843 – 1863

Mary Virginia Wade, known as Gin or Ginnie to her friends, is the only civilian killed at the Battle of Gettysburg and the only civilian buried in the military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Her name was incorrectly reported in a newspaper as “Jennie” and she has been referred to as Jennie Wade since.

Ginnie was a patriotic young woman whose beau, Jack Skelly, fought for the Union. Another male friend, John Wesley Culp, soldiered for the Confederacy. This type of division among friends and family was common during the American Civil War / War Between the States.

When the battle began, Ginnie and her mother were caring for Ginnie’s sister, Georgia McClellan, and her newborn child, and two young boys. The house on Baltimore Street was unfortunately at the center of a three-day shootout between forces of the Union and the Confederacy. Despite the risk to her own life, Ginnie left the house during lulls in the fighting to give bread and water to Union soldiers, comforting them with kind words and gentle smile.

On July 3, 1863, a stray bullet from a Confederate sharpshooter penetrated the outer and inner doors of the McClellan home, hitting Ginnie in the back as she stood preparing bread dough. The bullet pierced her heart and lodged in the front of her corset; she instantly fell dead. Union soldiers rushed to the house to see the young lady who had brought them help and hope lying on the floor, her hands covered with dough. Battle-hardened men, so accustomed to dead and mangled bodies, were moved at the sight of the brave girl. They carried her body, wrapped in a quilt, to the basement. A picture of Jack Skelly was found in her pocket.

That same day, Wesley Culp was killed in fighting at Culp’s Hill. He was never able to deliver a message from Jack Skelly, which he received from Jack at a hospital in Winchester. Jack Skelly died in battle nine days later.

The American flag still flies over the grave of Mary Virginia Wade, in recognition of her efforts in support of the Union forces.

Sources: The History Channel, Civil War Journal, April 30, 2002
Bea Sheftel, Jenny Wade of Gettsyburg, Women in the Civil War, http://www.aboutcivilwarwomen.com/article1006.html
Jennie Wade: a Gettysburg love story, http://arar.essortment.com/jenniewade_psx.htm
Jason Amico, Ginnie Wade: More than a Folklore Heroine, Civil War Web, http://www.civilwarweb.com/articles/08-99/ginwade.htm

© 2002-2006, originally published May 02, 2002