A family man at his core, Elijah Hayden deeply loved his wife and two children, but when war broke out in April 1861, he signed up for a three-month term. As soon as his term ended, he immediately re-enlisted for another three years, knowing that his country needed him just as desperately, if not more, than his family did. Despite numerous struggles with illness, homesickness, personal loss, and the stresses of combat, Elijah remained committed to the Union cause and his comrades, all the while maintaining an active correspondence with his family at home. Rising through the ranks, he earned the deep admiration of his subordinates whom he inspired through his personal demonstrations of bravery, loyalty, and persistence—qualities he exemplified through his actions during his small but valiant regiment’s stand against Pickett’s Charge, which ultimately took his life.
A young Canadian immigrant who grew up in an impoverished Vermont household surrounded by staunch republican politics, Marcell impatiently awaited his turn to perform his patriotic duty to his adopted country while supporting his widowed, invalid father through his army pay. Gettysburg would be his first and last battle. Left out of the heat of battle on July 2 as his fellow Vermonters rushed forth in defense of Cemetery Ridge, Marcell would finally receive the chance to prove his martial mettle during his regiment’s repulse of Kemper’s brigade during Pickett’s Charge on July 3. In the midst of the Vermonters’ counterattack, Marcell would fall with a bullet to the head and eventually be interred as an unknown in Soldiers’ National Cemetery . Years later, his surviving comrades, haunted by memories of their youth and drawn together by their shared experiences in battle, would return to Gettysburg and proudly record the history of their regiment in stone and with the pen, recalling the courage of the fallen and those who survived the war.
Born in Wiltshire, England, Charles Appleton emigrated to Concord, Massachusetts in 1854 where he worked as a farm laborer. In 1862, possibly motivated by the political activism of his historic hometown as well as by the steady pay afforded by military service he said goodbye to his wife and two young children and enlisted in the Union Army as a Sergeant in the 32nd Massachusetts Infantry. Appleton would receive a mortal wound in Gettysburg’s bloody Wheatfield , joining the ranks of Concord patriots who sacrificed their lives for ideals that stretched back to the Revolutionary War itself.
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.