Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
He Watched The Battle Of Gettysburg From His House, Then Joined In
You may be a badass, but you’ll never be “joining the battle of Gettysburg at the age of 69” badass. Those bragging rights belong to John L. Burns, who earned the title “the old hero of Gettysburg” after he saw the crucial battle from his house, grabbed an old musket and joined the Union line.
He’s pretty much Clint Eastwood’s character from “Gran Torino,” but real and not a drunk.
A veteran of the War of 1812, Burns seemed to have an unquenchable thirst for military service, and not just that, he was constantly searching for a chance to fight.
Years past his prime, Burns even tried to volunteer for service in the Mexican-American War, but was rejected for combat duty because he was too old. By that time, he was in his 50s, notes Civil War historian Samuel Penniman Bates in “The Battle of Gettysburg.” When the Civil War began, Burns tried his hand at military service again, this time volunteering to serve as a supply driver for the Union, but was again denied.
A diehard patriot, the aging Burns was undeterred.
When Confederate Gen. Jubal Early captured the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in June 1863, Burns, the town constable, was jailed for interfering in the Confederate forces’ military operations, writes Bates. Then, as the Union Army approached and the Confederates withdrew, Burns was released and proceeded to arrest several rebel soldiers who fell behind.
Then on July 1, 1863, Burns watched from his house as the Battle of Gettysburg began to unfold nearby. He knew exactly what he had to do. Grabbing his old flintlock musket, Burns made his way to the Union lines.
John Burns' house shortly after the battle. John Burns is seated at top of stairs.Photo via Wikimedia Commons
As he drew near, Burns met two wounded Union soldiers and pretty much proceeded to give them shit for being out of the fight, saying “your guns are needed over yonder, but you are bleeding and too weak to carry them; give one to me.”
When asked what he’d do with the rifle, his reply was:
Photo of John Burns.Photo via Wikimedia Commons
“Shoot the damned rebels,” Burns said, according to Bates’ account.
He was immediately given the newer rifle and pocketfuls of ammunition. As Burns arrived at the Union position, he was met by Maj. Thomas Chamberlin of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry, who was understandably confused when an old man wearing dark trousers, a waistcoat, an overcoat with burnished brass buttons, a top hat, and carrying a rifle suddenly appeared looking to join the battle.
Burns proclaimed that he was there to fight, and after a little confusion on the part of the Union commanders, the aging would-be warrior was sent to the woods where the trees and brush might give him some cover and keep the old man from getting killed.
For the next several hours, Burns picked off enemy soldiers during the battle, typically aiming at those on horseback, because who doesn’t like a challenge?
As the Confederate forces moved on their position, Burns was hit multiple times, once in his arm, once in his leg, and sustained minor wounds to the rest of his body. As the enemy neared, the Union soldiers fell back, leaving Burns behind.
A photo of John L. Burns, a veteran of the War of 1812, sitting in the rocking chair outside of his cottage, with gun and crutches nearby.Photo via the Library of Congress.
Knowing he’d be executed if he was captured — the penalty for being a bushwacker, aka a non-uniformed combatant, was severe — Burns ditched his borrowed rifle and quickly buried the last of his ammunition.
When the Confederate troops moved in and came upon Burns, he proceeded to explain that he had not in fact spent most of the day shooting at them, but was just an old man who got lost and caught in a crossfire while out looking for a doctor to tend to his ailing wife.
Not only did the ruse work, the Confederate forces took him to their surgeons who tended his wounds.
After the battle, news of Burns’ actions spread, and he was hailed as a hero. When President Abraham Lincoln arrived to deliver the Gettysburg address, he even met with the aging veteran. And at the Gettysburg National Military Park is a statue to Burns, an old stubborn warrior, who saw a fight unfold from his porch and leapt into the fray.
Monument to John L. Burns at the Gettysburg National Military Park.Photo via Wikimedia Commons
A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.
At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.
The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.
Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."
Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.
The Navy could deploy a second carrier to the Middle East if Trump orders an Iran surge, top admiral says
The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.
Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.
I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.
Somehow 1917 did, and that's probably the highest praise I can give Sam Mendes' newest war drama: It took a century-old conflict and made it relatable.
An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps
"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."
Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.
At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.
Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.
"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."
She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."
It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.
The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.
But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.
The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.