Our previous post ended with a brief segment from Gettysburg, 1913: A Novel of the Great Reunion in which one of our characters muses that “…somewhere on those grounds there’s gonna be one of us or one of them who lost a leg or an arm, and he’s gonna be talking with someone from the other side and by golly, they’re going to figure out that it was that other feller who done that.”
According to an article on Page 1 of the July 2, 1913 edition of the Gettysburg Times, that’s exactly what happened in real life.
The headline: TOOK OFF HIS ARM, with the sub-header of Met Man who deprived him of an Arm.
“Augustus J. Washburne of Philadelphia had the unusual experience of meeting the ‘Reb’ who cut his arm off at Gettysburg 50 years ago. Washburne remembered the face of the man with whom he had the hand-to-hand struggle at the High Watermark. He went to the scene and looked all around for the spot. There stood the very man who had slashed him with the bayonet. Marching over to him, Washburne asked if he remembered the incident, and the man looked at him a long time and then said, ‘By gosh, you are the follow!’ The ‘reb’ was James Burnett, of Indianapolis, who was in one of the Indiana Confederate regiments. He and Washburne immediately became friends, and before a half-hour had elapsed they were calling one another Jim and Gus.”
True story? Well, hard to say. The primary source for the story was a newspaper printed during the Great Reunion, so at the very least there is a high likelihood of the story’s truthfulness. But just as with the tale of James Schoonmaker and the man who took a shot at him (see our previous post), one does have to wonder about recognizing another man’s face fifty years later after first seeing that other man’s face during the heat of the most vicious battle one can imagine. So as with the Schoonmaker-Douglass tale, and as with the story of the 112-year old Macagan Ware (see that post), a century later we do have to take the story with a grain of salt. But in the spirit of the Great Reunion – then and now – why not accept it as an accurate one?