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.
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.