Stereoview of wounded Gettysburg hero John Burns sitting out front of his home, trusty rifle at hand.
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Contributed by: James Johnson, 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
The following thrilling narrative was related by B. D. Beyea, who spent several days on the battle-field in search of the body of Captain C. H. Flagg, who fell in that terrible fight:
In the town of Gettysburg live an old couple by the name of Burns. The old man was in the War of 1812, and is now nearly seventy years of age; yet the frosts of many winters have not chilled his patriotism, nor diminished his love for the old flag under which he fought in his early days. When the rebels invaded the beautiful Cumberland Valley, and were marching on Gettysburg, old Burns concluded that it was time for every loyal man, young or old, to be up and doing all in his power to beat back the rebel foe. and, if give them a quiet resting-place beneath the sod they were polluting with their unhallowed feet.
The old hero took down an old State musket he had in his house, and commenced running bullets. The old lady saw what he was about, and wanted to know what in the world he was going to do. 'Ah' said Burns, 'I thought some of the boys might want the old gun, and I am getting it ready for them.' The rebels came on. Old Burns kept his eye on the lookout until he saw the Stars and Stripes coming in, carried by our brave boys. This was more than the old fellow could stand. His patriotism got the better of his age and infirmity. Grabbing his musket, he started out. The old lady hallooed to him: 'Burns,where are you going?' '0,'says Burns, 'I am going out to see what is going on.' He immediately went to a Wisconsin regiment, and asked them if they would take him in. They told him they would, and gave him three rousing cheers.The old musket was soon thrown aside, and a first-rate rifle given him, and twenty-five rounds of cartridges.
The engagement between the two armies soon came on, and the old man fired eighteen of his twenty-five rounds, and says he killed three rebels to his certain knowledge. Our forces were compelled to fall back, and leave our dead and wounded on the field; and Burns, having received three wounds, was left also, not being able to get away. There he lay in citizen's dress and if the rebs found him in that condition, he knew death was his portion: so he concluded to try strategy as his only hope.
Soon the rebs came up, and approached him saying: 'Old man, what are you doing here?' 'I am lying here wounded, as you see,' he replied.Well, what business have you to be here? and who wounded you? wounded you our troops, or yours?' 'I don't know who wounded me; but I only know that I am wounded and in a bad fix. 'Well, what were you doing here? - what was your business?' 'If you will hear my story, I will tell you. My old woman's health is very poor, and I was over across the country to get a girl to help her; and, coming back, before I knew where I was, I had got right into this fix, and here I am.' 'Where do you live?' inquired the rebels. 'Over in town in such a small house.' They then picked him and carried him home, and left him. But they soon returned, as if suspecting he had been lying to them, and made him answer a great many questions; but be stuck to his old story, and they failed to make anything out of old Burns, and then left him for good.
He says he shall always feel indebted to some of his neighbors for the last call; for he believe someone had informed them of him. Soon after they left, a bullet came into his room, and struck in the wall about six inches above where he lay on his sofa; but he don't know who fired it. His wounds proved to be only flesh wounds, and he is getting well, feels first-rate, and says he would like one more good chance to give them a rip."