Mary Virginia Wade

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Mary Virginia Wade, NPS Collection
Mary Virginia Wade
Date & Place of Birth May 21, 1843, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Parents James Wade, Sr. and Mary Ann Filby Wade
Religion Unknown
Spouse none, possibly engaged to Corporal Johnston H. Skelly of the 87th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Children none
Date & Place of Death July 3, 1863, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Place of Burial Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Education Unknown

On July 3, 1863, Mary Virginia Wade was preparing to bake bread for Union soldiers when a bullet pierced two solid doors, hit her in the back, piercing her heart, and instantly killing her.

Wade holds the distinction for being the only civilian to be killed directly as a result of the fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg.


Mary Virginia "Jennie" Wade was born on May 21, 1843 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania at her home located on the corner of 105 S. Washington St. and the crest of Baltimore Street. She was the daughter of James Wade, Sr. a local tailor, and Mary Ann Filby Wade. Ginnie also had an older sister, Georgiana "Georgia" Wade born July 4, 1841, and three younger brothers, John "Jack" James born March 13, 1846, Samuel Swan born August 6, 1851, and the youngest, Henry Marion who was born February 4, 1855.

During her early childhood years, Mary worked for her father in his tailoring business. She was known by many of peers as "Gin" or "Ginnie" because of her middle name, Virginia.

A newspaper inaccurately referred to her once as "Jennie," and this is the name that stuck with her since.

Battle of Gettysburg Begins

On the fateful morning of July 1, 1863, Ginnie traveled with her mother and her two brothers from their home on Breckenridge Street to her sister, Georgia Wade McClellan's house, less than one-half mile away, to help care for both her sister and her sister's newborn child.

Unable to sit around passively while her Union brethren were giving their all on the farms and fields of Gettysburg, Ginnie decided to do what she could for the cause. Therefore, she spent a great deal of her time filling the soldiers' canteens with water and baking bread for the troops, who were more than grateful for her charity.

The morning of July 2, 1863, the skirmishing between the two sides began in earnest, and would continue throughout that day. While Confederate bullets were peppering the sides of the house, especially the west and south side, Ginnie Wade and her mother were inside the kitchen baking bread for the many hungry Union soldiers in this area.

That afternoon a Confederate artillery shell hit the southern part of the house, near the roof. It did not explode, but Ginny fainted. The artillery shell made a large hole in the wall separating the McClellan and McClain sides of the house. It alerted the McClain family on this south side of the house to their dangerous situation, and they finally went to their basement for the rest of the battle. The Wade/McClellan Family on the north side of the house, closer to the enemy, continued to stay on the main floor baking bread.

July 3rd / Ginnie is Killed

After two days of work and constant fear, Ginnie awoke on July 3rd to prepare bread for the family breakfast and hungry Union soldiers. It was not long until the McClellan house was being bombarded again by Confederate bullets.

After the family had their breakfast, Ginnie laid down on a lounge in the north parlor. She began to read her Bible out loud. She was reading from Psalms 27 and Psalms 30, especially the verses that included the words, “The Lord is my light and my slavation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” Her sister Georgia became very uncomfortable hearing these words, and asked that Ginnie stop reading the passages. Ginnie said, “If there is anyone in this house that is to be killed today, I hope it is me, as George has that little baby.”

Later that morning, at about 8:30 am, while mixing and kneading bread, Ginnie was struck in the back by an errant bullet and killed instantly, one of more than 150 bullets to strike her sister's house during the three-day Battle of Gettysburg. The bullet passed through the homes front door, as well as a second open inner door, before striking Ginnie in the back below the left shoulder blade. It pierced her heart and rested in her corset at the front of her body.

Mrs. Wade watched Ginnie fall and saw her lying in a puddle of blood. Almost calmly, she walked into the next room and announced to her remaining daughter: “Georgia, your sister is dead.” Georgia’s screams brought Union soldiers running to the house.

Ginnie’s body was wrapped in a quilt, and the soldiers had the family go upstairs. They made the hole through which the artillery shell had come through the afternoon before larger. They then took everyone, including Ginnie’s body, to the McClain side of the house, and into the McClain basement where it was kept until July 4th. That afternoon Ginnie was buried in a grave in the rear of the McClellan residence.


Poignantly, on July 4, with the guns now silent, Ginnie's mother used the very same dough Ginnie had kneaded just three days earlier to bake 15 loaves of bread for hungry soldiers...

After about six months, Ginnie was disinterred and moved to a nearby cemetery adjoining the German Reformed Church, until she was moved to her third and final resting place in November 1865, in the Evergreen Cemetery. A monument was placed here at the urging of Ginnie's sister Georgia, and with the assistance of the Women’s Relief Corps of Iowa, on August 17, 1901, at a cost of about $1,200. The flagpole was placed here in 1910. The United States flag flies over this grave day and night as a local historical custom, to this day flags are provided yearly by the Women’s Relief Corps of Iowa.

Ginnie Wade's Evergreen Cemetery Gravesite. Photo by Gettysburg Daily, January 21, 2009, used via Creative Commons License

Within Evergreen Cemetery is another tragic story which has always been intertwined with Ginnie's - the one of Corporal Johnston Hastings Skelly, Jr. He was a friend, beau and presumed fiancé of Ginnie's, and he died on July 12, 1863 of wounds received in the Second Battle of Winchester and is now buried in close proximity of Ginnie's plot. The two died without knowing the others fate.

Additional Information

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