Monuments to Individuals at Gettysburg


The monument to John Burns is west of Gettysburg on Stone Avenue 250 yards south of Chambersburg Road. (39.83595° N, 77.25273° W; Google map; Tour map: Stone & Meredith Avenues)

The six foot high bronze statue was created by Albert George Bureau. It stands on a granite base that is just short of four feet high. It was dedicated by the State of Pennsylvania on July 1, 1903.

Monument to John Burns at Gettysburg

 

From the monument:

My thanks are specially due to a citizen of
Gettysburg named John Burns who although
over seventy years of age shouldered
his musket and offered his services
to Colonel Wister One Hundred and
Fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteers
.
Colonel Wister advised him to fight in the
woods as there was more shelter there
but he preferred to join our line of
skirmishers in the open fields when the
troops retired he fought with the Iron
Brigade
. He was wounded in three places.”
-Gettysburg report of Maj.-Gen. Doubleday.

John Burns was in his seventies when the rebels came to Gettysburg. A veteran of the War of 1812 and former Gettysburg constable, he grabbed his flintlock musket, told his wife “I am going out to see what is going on,” and offered his services to the nearest Union regiment.

A number of Union soldiers came away from the battle with accounts of meeting Burns, and although details differ they all agree on his amazing appearance: a swallowtail coat with brass buttons, yellow vest, tall hat, flintlock musket and powder horn. This caused a good deal of amused comment among the men in the ranks and polite concern among the officers he approached.

But he was persistent, and his ancient musket was replaced with a modern rifle, his powder horn with pocketfuls of cartidges – he refused a box and belt – and the jokes ceased when Confederate fire became thick and instead of running back into town as expected he cooly slipped behind a tree and began returning fire. He fought with the Iron Brigade during some of the most intense fighting of the war, suffering three wounds.

With his wounds he had to be left behind when Union forces retreated through town, and he was closely question by the Confederates as to how he came to be in civilian clothes and wounded on the battlefield. His answers apparently satisfied them and he was allowed to return home.

Burns became a celebrity after the battle, being made an honory member of the Iron Brigade, photographed by Matthew Brady and meeting President Lincoln, who sought Burns out when he came to the dedication of the National Cemetery. Burns died in 1872 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.