John Burns was a 67 year old veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War when the Civil War broke out. Burns tried to volunteer as a soldier once again but was turned down due to his age. He returned to his hometown of Gettysburg and became constable. When the Civil War appeared on his doorstep, he picked up his flintlock musket and went out to join the fray. Lt. Col. Thomas Chamberlin of the 150th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, recorded in his diary being approached by Burns and asked if he could join the regiment and fight. Colonel Wister of the 150th granted his permission and sent the elderly man into the woods by McPherson Farm, where he fought next to the famous Iron Brigade. He was wounded and captured but soon released. Burns became a national hero, even meeting President Abraham Lincoln when he visited in November to dedicate the National Cemetery. He passed away in 1872. The statue to him on the battlefield was dedicated on July 1, 1903, the 40th anniversary of his deeds in the battle.
John Burns, The Battle of Gettysburg: The American Civil War.
John Burns: Citizen Soldier at the Battle of Gettysburg. Civil War Sources.
John Burns of Gettysburg – Some Rare Trivia. Civil War Talk.