In 1861, Adolphus Wagner, a native of the Grand Duchy of Baden, joined the ranks of the 39th New York, aka the Garibaldi Guard. It was the most diverse regiment in the Union Army, its ranks made up of men from nearly fifty different countries. It is remembered as one of the most colorful regiments of the American Civil War, but also one of the most controversial. In the years leading up to Gettysburg, Adolphus would bear witness to mutinies, ethnic riots, high-ranking court-martials, and more. Despite their controversial beginnings, the Garibaldians ultimately proved their mettle at Gettysburg, where Adolphus was mortally wounded on July 2. He lingered on for nearly two months in a Union hospital, reflecting the experience of thousands of Civil War soldiers who did not face their fate immediately on the battlefield, but slowly met their demise with a painful whimper, far from the loving touch of friends and family. His story speaks to the myriad contours of immigrant-soldiers’ experiences in America during the Victorian era, and the important international context and geo-political framework in which the American Civil War unfolded.
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.
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.
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.
In the Fall of 1861, three brothers answered the call of duty, enlisting together in the 76th New York Volunteer Infantry. Only one would return home. After nearly two years of service, Hannibal Howell, the oldest brother, would come face to face with his destiny on July 1st, 1863.