Midpoint of the War: May to July 1863

Gettysburg: The First Day

What was the rest of Burns’ life like?

On the morning of July 2, 1863, Burns crawled to the home of a neighbor, which was being used by the Confederates as a temporary hospital. His neighbor helped him get some medical attention but then brought him to his own home, which was also being used to treat the wounded. There John Burns lay, on his own bed, wounded in four places, but determined to get well. And so he did.

Disbelieving the story, a Harper’s Weekly columnist went to Gettysburg a few months later and wound up being given a tour of the battlefield by none other than John Burns. He was, quite possibly, the only person to have served in both the War of 1812 and the Civil War; beyond that, his actions on the first of July 1863 seem almost superhuman. Many photographs were taken of the “old hero” in the months and years that followed; most of them showed him holding out his wounded leg, with his crutches by his side.


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