Sunday, May 3, 2009


HERO OF GETTYSBURG (Gettysburg, Adams County) This is a bit of lore and spook story rolled into one. John Burns, 69 years old, Gettysburg's former constable and a vet of the War of 1812, watched the Union troops marching past his house on July 1, 1863. He grabbed his trusty musket and ran outside to see if anyone could use an extra gun. The 7 Wisconsin, part of the famed Iron Brigade, was going by, and they signed him up (although they made him take the musket back home and issued him a rifle.) Marching in a high hat and a swallow tailed coat, Burns got into combat that day. The Iron Brigade clashed with the rebels at McPherson's Ridge, and the old-timer ended up shot three times. He was left wounded on the field. His civilian outfit saved him. He convinced the rebs that he was an innocent bystander caught up in the battle (even though he claimed to have killed three Confederates after his escape), and they let him be. A neighbor carried him home the next day, where his wife (probably after a good tongue lashing) nursed him back to health. When Abe Lincoln visited Gettysburg to deliver his address, he made a point to meet the patriotic Burns, who he called "The Hero of Gettysburg." The ghost tale? When he was 75, Burns went back to McPherson's Ridge. While walking in the woods, the spook of a rebel soldier jumped out at him and threatened him with his rifle. Maybe it was one of the soldiers he claimed to have shot or maybe one of the group that let him go. Either way, he never went back to McPherson's farm again.



Blogger Leslie Shelor said...

Great story! Didn't know about this fellow at all.

May 3, 2009 at 3:45 PM  

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