Franz Benda emigrated from Bohemia to the United States at a young age. He joined the 26th Wisconsin Infantry in his new homeland, part of the much-maligned, ethnically diverse 11th Corps. His mortal wounding and death at Gettysburg left his parents destitute and badly in need of his soldier’s pension.
Colonel Augustus van Horne Ellis held a variety of careers after growing up in New York City. He proved to be a natural-born leader, and he died at the head of his “Orange Blossoms” near Devil’s Den. The colonel remains an enduring part of the battlefield landscape, with a life-sized statue of him atop his regiment’s monument.
A private in the 7th Michigan cavalry, James Bedell enlisted on the day the Emancipation Proclamation took effect in 1863. Having been assigned to light patrol duty and seeing only small skirmishes, Gettysburg would be both Bedell’s first and final large battle. Brutally injured and left to die after being captured, he lingered on for weeks. Following his death, he was treated as a medical oddity to be studied, the human details of his life supplanted by scientific inquiry.
Oscar Allen was just 18 years old when he signed up to serve in the famed 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry. His wartime experiences chronicle the turbulent internal politics of the Civil War, as well as the diverse motivations that compelled the common Union soldier to serve. His sacrifice, made alongside so many of his peers, reveals the devastating impact of the war upon a single, small, northern community.
Rush Cady felt the call to war at the young age of nineteen and left college to fight. His expectations of army life were soon shattered, as he was in the army for nearly a year before he finally saw combat. After he was mortally wounded on July 1st, his mother made the trip to Gettysburg to comfort her dying son and eventually bring his remains home.
A deeply religious soldier who enlisted in April 1861 and wrote more than 90 letters home throughout the war describing his experiences, Philip Hamlin deeply believed in the ordained success of the Union cause. He bore witness to his comrades’ famed heroic charge on July 2nd , and was tasked with reporting their sacrifice to his command. A well respected and beloved comrade, his death during Pickett’s charge reverberated deeply within the hearts of family and friends alike.
Born into a prominent family with a long and distinguished, military history, Philip John Kearny received a captain’s commission in the 11th NJ Volunteer Infantry in early 1861. His early struggles as a junior officer were not dissimilar from those of other young officers, and the challenges the 11th faced on the battlefields of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville further tested Kearny’s martial prowess. However, on July 2, 1863, Kearny would receive a mortal wound while leading his men in some of the most vicious fighting that afternoon—fighting which would earn both the 11th and Major Kearny an enduring place of honor on the fields of Gettysburg.
Charles Phelps was just 19 years old when he enlisted in the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry. At Gettysburg, he shot down a Confederate soldier who had mortally wounded his brigade commander. He was himself mortally wounded by a shot to the back, leaving his family to grapple with the nature of his death and fight to claim a pension.
Patrick O’Rorke rose rapidly through the ranks of society, from a poor Irish immigrant in Rochester, New York to graduating first in his class at West Point. After a distinguished early war career as an engineer, he became colonel of the 140th New York Infantry. He led his regiment up Little Round Top to repulse a Confederate assault, where he died from a shot through the neck. His legacy as a hero lives on in Rochester and Gettysburg alike.
The son of Irish immigrants who moved to Boston, John Mahoney adopted the alias William Jones when he enlisted in the army in 1861. He joined Battery B of the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery and saw action at battles such as Ball’s Bluff and Fredericksburg. In the artillery barrage that preceded Pickett’s Charge, Jones was decapitated by a Confederate shell.