Summer’s Heat

On the morning of July 3, 1863, the young woman who became known as Jennie Wade (a newspaper mis-reported her name, friends called her Gin or Ginnie) was kneading dough in her sister’s kitchen in Gettysburg.

It wasn’t an ordinary morning. The battle at Gettysburg had raged for two days already. The night before, July 2, a 10 pound shell had crashed into the upstairs and lodged in a wall.

It was tense that summer morning in the small brick home where Georgia McClellan, Jennie’s sister, was recovering from childbirth. Jennie’s mother, and a 6 year old boy they cared for—Isaac- were also staying at the McClellan home.

Bullets flew, shells exploded and– it was hot.

The family had been in the house since July 1 when fighting first erupted.

Jennie spent that first day, July 1, giving out food and bread to Union soldiers, in warm weather and under cloudy skies.

According to Rev. Dr. Michael Jacobs, who recorded temperatures and sky conditions during the Battle of Gettysburg, on July 1 it was cloudy with temperatures in the mid-seventies.

In the evening Jennie crawled out of her house on her hands and knees to bring more water to the soldiers. She knew of the danger of being shot- but she couldn’t ignore the cries of thirsty and wounded soldiers.

On July 2, Jennie and her mother returned to the troops, again supplying them with bread and water for their canteens. Jennie fainted at one point that day with temperatures in the low-80s at 2 PM, and still it was cloudy and humid.

Worse still, the supply of bread was running out.

So, Jennie and her mother went home and started the yeast to make more bread.

Jacobs reported temperatures in the mid-to-upper 80s at 2 p.m. on July 3. It was the hottest day of the battle, but Jennie would not be with the soldiers that day.

Early in the morning of July 3, when it must have still been reasonably cool in the house, Jennie was in the kitchen, kneading biscuit dough.

By 7 a.m. Confederate sharp shooters were firing at the house. Union soldiers had rallied early, and were attempting to take back a position nearby Culp’s Hill.

Around 8:30 a.m. a bullet, probably Confederate, struck two wooden doors and struck Jennie in the back, killing her instantly.

That morning the heat of the intense fight in Gettysburg entered a home, killing a woman who had worked for days to bring water, food and relief to the brave soldiers engulfed in the heat of battle.

 

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