A Civil War Christmas: The Only Civilian Death of the Gettysburg Battle

jennie wade house mantel decorated for christmas Jennie (Mary Virginia) Wade, a seamstress living in Gettysburg during the mid-19th century, pines for the love of her life, Johnston (Jack) Skelley, an Army soldier of 87th Pennsylvania. He is in Virginia fighting for the Union.

In July of 1863, the Confederate Army, led by Gen. Robert E. Lee of Northern Virginia, launches the Gettysburg Campaign, and the rages of war envelope the town. Civilians are caught between the battlefronts and forced inside to seek shelter in their basements.

Jennie and her mother quickly move to her sister’s home, The McClellan House, for safety and to help her sister Georgia care for her newborn baby. Outside the McClellan house, Jennie and her family can hear the wounded Union soldiers crying out for food and water. Even though the Wade family is under financial duress, Jennie continues to bake and share bread and water with the soldiers.

As Yankees settle nearby at Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill, the McClennan home is in the crossfire. Nearly 150 bullets strike the house.

On July 3, 1863, as she kneads dough to make more bread, a stray bullet pierces Jennie’s heart.

Join Jennie’s mother, Mary Wade, this December as her spirit recounts Jennie’s tragic death — the only civilian death of the Civil War— during Scary Ghost Stories and Tales of the Glories  presented on Saturday nights, Dec. 5, 12, and 19 at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Follow Mary as she makes her way through the McClellan House (Jennie Wade House), just as the family did in 1863, to the cellar where Jennies’ body was placed as the battle raged on outside.

Experience the dramatic scene and see artifacts of that tragic day, including a floorboard with Jennie’s blood still on it. Hear Mary’s heart-wrenching recollection of that tragic July night and learn what became of Jennie’s beloved Union soldier during a special presentation, Scary Ghost Stories and Tales of the Glories. Tours begin at the Jennie Wade House Museum Gift Shop (to the rear of the house) at 548 Baltimore Street, Gettysburg, PA 17325 (717) 334-4100.

Advance ticket purchase is recommended online, or at Gettysburg Tours, 778 Baltimore Street, Gettysburg, PA 17325 (717) 334-6296. Any remaining tickets will be available at the Jennie Wade House Museum Gift Shop prior to the tour.

The cost is $15 (ages 8 and over) 7 and under free.