Jennie Wade: A Tragic Civil War Love Story

Romeo and Juliet may be the most notable star-crossed lovers, but Pennsylvania’s Jack Skelly and Jennie Wade have a love story that may be just as tragic.

Jennie Wade was the only civilian casualty during the Battle of Gettysburg. She died on July 3, 1863, during the Battle of Gettysburg, with a picture of her love, Corporal Johnston “Jack” Hastings Skelly, nestled in her pocket.

He would never learn of her death, as he died of wounds sustained at the Second Battle of Winchester in Virginia on July 12, 1863. Read further to learn more about this tragic Civil War love story.

The Wade Family in Gettysburg

The Wade family lived on Breckenridge Street, Gettysburg. Jennie’s father, James Wade, owned a tailor shop in town but had a sordid past and several run-ins with the law. In November 1850, he was sentenced to prison for theft. In 1852, Captain James Wade Sr. is declared insane, institutionalized, and their family is left to run the business on their own.

Jennie was one of six children who helped her mother, Mary Ann Filby Wade, earn money as a seamstress to support the family.

Soldiers Arrive in Town

Jennie’s sister, Georgia McClellan gave birth several days before the battle started in Gettysburg.  Jennie’s mother was at Georgia’s house helping her tend to the baby.  Jennie, Jennie’s brother, and another little boy fled to the house when the battle was getting closer.  Jennie felt they would be safer there.

No one could foretell the tragedy that would soon occur. This 2-story home will eventually become known as the Jennie Wade House, forever tied to the ill-fate Civil War love story. History Tours will be open on Presidents Day Weekend at the Jennie Wade House (Saturday/Sunday). Learn of other Jennie Wade Hours tours here.

Tragic Valentines: Jennie Wade and Jack Skelly

Civil War civilian casualty With Confederate troops occupying the north side of Gettysburg and Union troops set up in the south side of town, Georgeanna’s home sat in between. On July 3, 1963, with both sides firing at each other, multiple bullets entered the home. Jennie, inside baking bread for the Union soldiers, was struck. It’s believed that she died instantly.

There would be no Wade-Skelly marriage as both lay victims of the Civil War.

Spend Valentine’s Day in Gettysburg

There remains a bullet hole in the parlor door of the home. Legend has it that when a woman places a ring finger in the hole, she will soon be engaged.

Want to learn more about Jennie Wade and her final days when she and her family came under the attack of Confederate soldiers? Take advantage of our Winter Combo Tour, weekends only through this off-season. This tour takes you inside the Jennie Wade House and the Haunted Orphanage providing 90 minutes of intrigue that’s perfect for adventurous couples seeking a unique Valentine’s Day activity or anyone interested in Gettysburg history.

Our Facebook page will provide updates when inclement weather is expected and may require us to reschedule. Tickets are limited, so don’t wait!

Also, you can purchase “Jennie Wade of Gettysburg” by Cindy L. Small, a complete story about this Civil War heroine and her untimely death, from our online gift shop.