Though never carved in stone, there are many people, History Channel included, who are of the opinion that the bullet that killed Jennie Wade (the only civilian to suffer such a fate during the three-day battle of Gettysburg) was fired from the attic window of the Farnsworth House, now operating as a small hotel and restaurant. While the house was indeed a hotbed of sharpshooter activity during the fighting that dragged in through the town, a little observation along with some common sense pretty much eliminates any possibility of this assertion being true. Though I have been to Gettysburg about ten times, I never actually bothered to follow the path between the two houses. While driving it by car today, I am of the very strong opinion that it would have been physically impossible for the bullet to have traveled such a route, this taking into account the modern structures that are scattered along the way, and what would have been there at the time of the battle. I am beginning to think that Earl Warren started this rumor, because the journey rivals that of the Magic Bullet Theory that his commission purported killed JFK. I have reached this conclusion even after considering that the shot was “spent”, meaning unintentional or possibly a ricochet.
After speaking to a worker in a nearby business, one who did not want to be named, I was informed that the origin of this story could have sprung up because of something that is no longer there. South of the Farmsworth House would have been a hotel (I believe the man said it burned down or was knocked down years after the battle). This building would have had a more direct line to the house where Jennie was staying. According to the history, the stray bullet went through two doors before hitting her in the back (causing an exit wound out the front of her corset) killing her instantly while she was baking bread in the kitchen. While I do have a small problem with this (I’m not so sure a bullet could have gone through two thick wooden doors and her body; perhaps the bullet hole in the door was “added” later on?), she was indeed killed, and that is what really matters. So back to the rumor, the Farnsworth House became the “go-to” spot over the years for where the shot was fired, simply because of its notoriety, both as a historic site, and one that is haunted, not because it even had a chance of happening. We also have to take into account its draw as a major tourist spot. Don’t believe me? Just walk the path yourself.
Side note: I visited the location of Jennie’s birth today. I hope she will be pleased to know that it is now a wine store (Reid’s)…selling bottles with Robert E. Lee’s picture on them!