An important memento of one of Gettysburg’s greatest icons of the Battle fought here nearly 145 years ago has returned – the bullet that killed Jennie Wade.
The bullet, kept by a Union soldier who fought at Gettysburg and passed down through his family, could challenge the most popular versions of the legend. The fatal bullet, along with documentation, was recently obtained by Gettysburg resident Kenneth J. Rohrbaugh. Rohrbaugh wears a number of managerial and executive hats in conjunction with Heritage Inns Inc., the Gettysburg Tour Center, and a multi-business holding company.
The bullet that created a heroine was quietly brought home about three weeks ago, Rohrbaugh said. It was delivered in person by a descendent of the soldier, William J. Fleming, who had kept it. Fleming was a member of Company E, 6th Regiment, Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery by war’s end. Efforts are being made to determine what unit he may have been with during the Gettysburg Campaign.
For decades, the bullet laid among the belongings and photographs of Fleming, kept in a drawer in the home of descendent Ted Simon and his wife, Mary Lou, in West Newton, Pa. “My great-grandfather brought it home in 1865,” Simon said. “It was told to me 55 years ago that he had either dug it out of the wall, or that it had been found lodged between her body and her clothing.”
The soldier could only tell his family that this was the bullet who killed a lady in Gettysburg baking bread in the kitchen. “That’s all we ever knew,” Simon stated, adding that no one (in the family, including the soldier) had a clue as to who the lady was that had been the victim of the shooting.
“Back in the 60s, when visiting Gettysburg, I went to the Jennie Wade museum and realized this must be the lady (his great-grandfather had mentioned),” Simon said. He then contacted Gettysburg historian and actor Cliff Arquette (aka Charlie Weaver), who owned the Soldiers Museum (now called the Soldiers National Museum), 777 Baltimore St., who “was really enthused” about seeing the bullet.
Simon then “took the bullet home and put it in the drawer and forgot about it.” “This summer we were going to go out in that (Gettysburg) area for a vacation, and a few months ago, talked to Ken (Rohrbaugh) who said he would like to have it.”
The bullet’s owner decided to donate it to the museum operation Rohrbaugh is involved with. “Who knows what it is worth. It is better there (in Rohrbaugh’s care) than in my hands sitting in the drawer,” he said. Additionally, Simon gave Rohrbaugh Fleming’s discharge papers, a York (Pa.) reunion medal, and photographs. “I thought it was great to bring it back,” Simon said.
Rohrbaugh plans on displaying the bullet (or a replica of it) along with Fleming’s papers and photographs in the Jennie Wade Museum and House when appropriate security measures can be implemented.