Brev. Brig. Gen'l
- Feb 14, 2012
- Central Pennsylvania
Tipton's era ( ish ) photo of Georgeanna McClellan's half of the duplex shows the old basement doors entered from the street. Her sister's body was carried there, a battle making burial hazardous. Mary Filey Wade, Harry Wade, Ike Brinkerhof, Lewis Kenneth McClellan and mother Georgia huddled feet away in darkness. Until the shooting stopped.
From legend to myth, lost in Time, our women's war seems fossilizing into irretrievable molds poured for them, not deliberately but perhaps carelessly. Dad used to say " The Civil War was yesterday. " I never got that until fairly recently. It really was not long ago, generationally and close enough we can still reach back and listen to our women, faithfully recording their war, finally. And forever. Would like to delve into a few stories, one by one, with a good halogen flashlight.
Mary Virginia Wade, our poor " Jenny ", seems a perfect victim of historical happenstance.
We all know our setting- our Gettysburg. Did anyone know ' Evergreen ' was called ' Citizen's Town Cemetery '? Mary Virginia's Cemetery, not far to go, from her sister's house.
With Buford's Cavalry clanking and ratting through Gettysburg streets, an unsettled citizenry greeted them, front ranks among them, young girls waving handkerchiefs and singing patriotic songs. names still threaded through Time in Gettysburg crowded for a view- the Culp girls, Sophia, Mary, Florie, Dora Fleming, Anna Garlach, Sallie McClellan, Salome, Susie and Jennie Myers, the Powers sisters, Alice and Jane- it's a familiar list.
Who was not there? Mary Virginia Wade. Not yet at her married sister's home, either. Why? Little busy. Brother James, 17, had been sewn into his new uniform and hurried out of town, bugler in one of the call-ups, 21st PA Cavalry, Co. B. 6 year old Ike Brinkerhoff lived with them, his mother working ' out '. Some muscular weakness prevented the child from walking hence the Wade family as caretakers. Crowded house- brother Sam skedaddled with men safeguarding Gettysburg horses.
Legend is correct, Mary Virginia was engaged to be married, and that September. Compounding the tragedy, doomed Union soldier Jack Skelly would not come home. Compounding both tragedies, 150 years later rumors bubbled up on some infidelity, on Mary Virginia's part. Can find exactly no source or reason to believe it to be true.
Riding out the storm in sister Georgia McClellan's home, the little band consisted of six- Mary Ann Filey Wade, Mary Virginia's mother, Harry Wade, Ike Brinkerhof, Georgeanna , 5 week old Lewis Kenneth McClellan and Mary Virginia Wade. Until everyone was huddled in the basement, gruesomely confined with her body... then there were only five civilians and a dead loved one. " Wrapped in a quilt sister Georgia had pieced together at the age of 5, soldiers carried her up ". She'd been known in life, affectionately, as " Ginnie ".
Georgia ( Georgeanna ) , Mary Comfort and Mary Virginia- we've all seen this around a gazillion times, maybe without seeing them. 1861, beginning of the end.
Posthumously christened ' Jenny ' by a journalist, buried in a coffin partially constructed and hastily abandoned, intended for a Confederate officer, the shattered little remaining band was largely ignored by History. Even Mary Virginia, re-named and dubbed heroine-patriot in death, has been ignored. Why would I say that, when ' Jenny Wade ' is one of Gettysburg's most famous stories? Because it was not her name, the ' Jennie Wade ' house was her sister's half of a duplex and did anyone know she had brothers?
Terrible photo, it's Tipton and was tiny to begin with- from an Archives book on Mary Virginia's story. This is Lewis Kenneth McClellan, Wade's nephew.
Mary Virginia Wade deserves so much more than the rather ignomious fate we've granted her. Last seen dead of a bullet wound, dough clinging to her fingers, another Wade death, in another war occurred September 1tth, 1777. Colonel Chidley Wade, at The Battle of Brandywine. Colonel Chidley was her grandfather. Shouldn't we know this of our much vaunted, still mourned American patriot, ' Jenny ' Wade, as part of her narrative? James, her father, was Captain, if ' only ' the 80th PA militia
Georgeanna Wade McClellan buried her sister, handed baby Lewis to her mother, July 5th, and headed for the hospitals. To nurse wounded men. Her husband had answered Lincoln's first call. No one knew if he had heard he had a son, or had lost a sister.
Pitted brick, a single hole. And the cellar doors, lower left. Rest well, Ginnie Wade.
*edited thread title and text respelling ' Georgia ', to ' Georgeanna ' based on how her name is spelled by her family, on Find a Grave .