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.
Only nineteen at the time of his enlistment, Thomas Seymour seemed ill-prepared for military life. He was used to hard labor and factory discipline, but no prior experiences would have adequately prepared him for his military service. Hailing from a family with both Northern and Southern roots and originally residing in Philadelphia and Baltimore, for whatever reason, he cast his lot with the state of Delaware when he enlisted in the army. At the age of twenty, Thomas received his “baptism of fire” at Antietam as a private. By the time the 1st Delaware fought in the Battle of Gettysburg two years later, Thomas and his fellow soldiers were veterans of combat. Thomas proudly carried the regimental flag into Gettysburg as a color sergeant; a role which marked him as a prime target on the battlefield. He gallantly upheld this duty until he met a brutal end during the Pickett-Pettigrew Assault, when a cannonball hit him directly in the chest as he guarded the 1st Delaware regimental flag.