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.
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.
Richard Townsend’s first military experience was provost duty in Washington City with the 10th New Jersey. He joined Company C of the 12th New Jersey just days before the Battle of Chancellorsville—his trial by fire. The regiment fought hard at the Bliss Barn in July 1863, but it was during the repulse of Pickett’s Charge that Townsend went down. In his absence, his young wife struggled to support a son who would never know his father.
At the outbreak of the war, Francis Gould left his job as a millworker for the thrill of military service. He was one of the men of the 13th Massachusetts Infantry mortally wounded during the struggle for Oak Ridge on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. His final resting place is disputed, with a gravestone in both Gettysburg National Cemetery and near his home in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts gave Corporal Prince Dunton and the state’s 13th Volunteer Infantry a patriotic send-off when they left Boston. He was wounded while fighting on the first day at the battle of Gettysburg and found trampled at the end of the day as Union forces retreated through town. He left no family of his own behind, but his parents collected his pension until they, too, passed away.
For a brief period after the Second Battle of Bull Run, Mark Beatty deserted the Army, returning after Lincoln issued a proclamation of amnesty to soldiers who returned to their units. In spite of his momentary lapse of courage, Beatty served reliably for another eleven months before being killed in the fury of the Wheatfield. His death left his family without income, driving his mother to endure the exhausting process of seeking a pension.
A young teacher who enlisted out of a sense of patriotic duty, Lieutenant Edmund Dascomb became the unofficial warrior poet of the 2nd New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry. Mortally wounded during the fight in the Wheatfield, Dascomb was found barely alive three days later, lingering until July 13. In memorial of their friend, his fellow soldiers compiled and published his poetry, including a poem called “The Dying Volunteer,” which was put to music for his funeral.
Sergeant George Buck left his family’s modest but comfortable farm to serve his country with the 20th Maine Infantry. During an illness that struck him in the wake of the Battle of Fredericksburg, Buck had a run-in with a quartermaster and was demoted to the ranks. He continued serving capably in spite of this injustice. At his death, Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain restored his rank of sergeant.