Brev. Brig. Gen'l
- Feb 14, 2012
- Central Pennsylvania
John Burns became so famous post-Gettysburg that by August, Harper's Weekly featured this etching of his home as part of their full-length cover story.
This photograph of the Second Corp's hospital, has been orphaned through time, frequently. " Hospital, Gettysburg ", will be a description. Those posing? All orphaned, identifiers lost. Maybe? Hang on.
Somewhere one of our famous nurses dismisses the famous John Burns of Gettysburg as a little faint hearted. Observed at her hospital, she's unimpressed, feeling his shaken withdrawal from bedsides a sign of weakness. She may be Sophronia Bucklin, rats, cannot find the passage. The point here is John Burns did visit at least one hospital and was documented doing so.
We've all seen the curmudgeonly photograph which spawned the top sketch. Harper's cover is indicative of Burn's post war fame garnered when he picked up his flintlock, went to the battlefield and began " Popping away with them black hatted fellers ". Iron Brigade. Trading the flintlock for and Enfield, he did indeed pop away.
".......consisted of dark trousers and a waistcoat, a blue 'swallow tail' coat with burnished brass buttons, such as used to be affected by well-to-do gentlemen of the old school about 40 years ago, and a high black silk hat, from which most of the original gloss had long departed, of a shape to be found only in the fashion plates of the remote past " Thomas Chamberlin, 150th PA
Both parties, nurse and Burns, involved may be forgiven their respective reactiveness. Our nurse, doubtless scooping maggots from wounds, unlikely to be excusatory towards anyone made bilious at what were to her every day sights. Burns, despite what he encountered as a citizen living inside the aftermath of a 3 day battle, unable to face the concentrated gore inside a hospital tent. Link is to Arabella Wilson's ' Disaster, Struggle, Triumph ', 1870, She includes an account of the hospital during the battle- it's extremely good.
Please know there is less than no intention here of ' Look what I have discovered! ' It's a question and maybe a theory based on what I've picked up over a few years- and this photograph. It's the 2nd Corp hospital, Gettysburg. I've picked out the nurses in it dozens of times, wondering who they might be. This hospital took hits during the battle. According to Mrs. Arabella Wilson's book, published in 1870, following the 126th NY, surgeons were killed here.
Is this John Burns, for some reason posed with his famous rifle, at the Second Corp Hospital? Why would a rifle be displayed so prominently in a photograph? Pretty sure, the reason would not be it was a ' rebel ' rifle- hundreds of them littered the battlefield, not a rarity.
And what on earth is the other subject of this photograph, the white, shapeless ' stuff ' held by 5 men, unless there are more?
Before scoffing, please look more closely?
Why display that rifle?
Burn's rifle, snipped from one of his photographs as he sat outside his home, is on the left. Close-up, rifle displayed in photo, next to it. Isn't that a flintlock, too? See arrow? No, this older man does not seem to be wearing the exact, same high-crowned hat as in his studio photo but men who wore that style may have had more than one, no?
Been sitting on my hands not to ask this for awhile. Scoffing occurs, which is fine- but it really is just a question slash theory, I am not building a Gee-Whiz case, honest! Burns did go to the hospitals, sure looks like him, that rifle seems to be a flintlock and is weirdly sitting in the middle of a photograph- why? ( This gentleman seems to be vaguely smiling- may throw an ID off, considering we just do not see the tough old guy doing that. )
You just know his wife saying " Please do not do that again, John ". Burns only survived the war by 7 years, hope he'd be pleased he is so well remembered.