The story of John Burns in Gettysburg is an interesting one. Burns was a veteran of 1812 and was almost 70 years old when the Southern army was spotted.
He picked up his musket and joined the Iron Brigade in the heavy fighting west of town on July 1, 1863. Burns received wounds in the arm, the leg, and several minor ones in the breast, forcing the Union soldiers to leave him behind on the field.
Injured and exhausted, the old man was able to crawl away from his rifle and to bury his ammunition. When approached by Confederates, he convinced them he was a noncombatant seeking aid for his invalid wife. He was so convincing that Confederate surgeons dressed his wounds and let him go.
Burns crawled into the cellar of a nearby house and spent the night before making it to his own house the next day. The story of his exploits began to spread, causing photographer Mathew Brady to photograph him two weeks after the battle.
Burns posed for Brady while recuperating in a rocking chair, with a pair of crutches and a musket beside him.
There is a monument to Burns west of Gettysburg, and he is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery on Cemetery Hill.