Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

An Old Man Yearns to Fight at Gettysburg

A Wisconsin Civil War Story

An Old Man Yearns to Fight at Gettysburg | Wisconsin Historical Society

At the start of the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, an elderly Pennsylvania man approaches General John B. Callis to ask if he can fight with the 7th Wisconsin Infantry in an upcoming battle.

EnlargeJohn B. Callis, WHI 3904.

John B. Callis

View the original source document: WHI 3904

From Original Text: "Old John Burns came to the Seventh Wisconsin Volunteers of the Old Iron Brigade at Willoughby's Run, west of Gettysburg, on the 1st of July, 1863, after we, the Iron Brigade, had captured Gen. Archer's brigade in the first charge in the morning about ten o'clock.

The old man came up and asked me if that was my regiment.

I answered, yes.

He had an old flint lock gun in his hands and came to a present arms and said, "Can I fight in your regiment?"

I replied, "Old man, you had better go to the rear, you may get hurt."

He replied, "Hurt, tut, tut, I've heard the whistle of bullets before."

I insisted on his going to the rear. He insisted on fighting.

I then said, "Where's your cartridge box?"

He patted his pants pocket and said, "There's my bullets, and here's my powder horn," pulling an old-fashioned powder horn from his blue swallow-tail coat pocket, "and I know how to use them."

"Well, old man, if you will fight, take this gun," and handing him a nice silver-mounted rifle we had captured with some of Archer's men, I gave him the cartridge belt.

He declined to wear the belt, but filled his pockets with ammunition."

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How to Cite

For the purposes of a bibliography entry or footnote, follow this model:

Aubery, Cullen B. "Echoes from the marches of the famous Iron Brigade : unwritten stories of that famous organization," page 58.