Soldiers of Gettysburg
For three days in July 1863, two great armies clashed on the fields of southeast Pennsylvania in what would become the most pivotal battle of the American Civil War. The commanders of these forces would become household names, but the Battle of Gettysburg was not won or lost by high-ranking generals. It was decided by the more than 158,000 soldiers on the front line of the battle. These men came from different backgrounds, and all fought for different reasons. What united them, Union or Confederate, was their shared commitment and belief in their cause.
Gettysburg follows the stories of eight of these men as they put their lives on the line in a battle that would decide the ultimate fate of the United States of America.
Lieutenant Colonel Rufus Dawes
Rufus Dawes' patriotic fervor ran in his blood: His great-grandfather had ridden with Paul Revere on the famed midnight ride to warn American colonists of the approaching British army. An Ohio native, Dawes moved to Wisconsin as a teenager, and in June 1861 he organized a volunteer unit known as the Lemonweir Minute Men, which was soon mustered into the 6th Wisconsin Infantry. As part of the famed Iron Brigade-composed of regiments from the Midwest-the 6th Wisconsin saw action at Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, and Dawes himself received a series of promotions, eventually attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel. By July 1863, Rufus Dawes, battle-tested and calm under pressure, had risen to become one of the best volunteer officers in the Union Army.
Sergeant Amos Humiston
New York native Amos Humiston had lived a life few Civil War soldiers could imagine. In an era when most men rarely journeyed more than 50 miles from their homes, Humiston had traveled halfway around the world as part of a whaling voyage sponsored by a New England firm. After returning to the United States, he worked as a harness maker before enlisting in the Union Army in the summer of 1862. Humiston spent much of his first year of service in poor health and was severely wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville in the spring of 1863. His spirits were lifted by frequent letters from his family and the cherished gift of a photo of his three children, given to him by his wife-a photo that would lead this unlikely man to become one of the most famous soldiers to fight at Gettysburg.
Colonel James Wallace
James Wallace's experience reflected the conflict many Maryland residents faced at the outbreak of the Civil War. A pro-Union slave owner, Wallace was a successful politician who had served in the Maryland state senate before organizing the 1st Maryland Volunteers (Eastern Shore). One of four border states, Maryland remained loyal to the Union, but a growing sense of unease erupted into violence in 1861. Units like Wallace's were charged with preventing civil unrest and protecting Union interests in the state. Most of these Maryland soldiers were reluctant to actively take up arms against their friends, neighbors and family members, and some even went so far as threatening desertion if forced to do so. However, in the summer of 1863, a small group of them, including James Wallace, fought their first and only battle of the war at Gettysburg-against those they feared facing the most.
Brigadier General William Barksdale
William Barksdale made his antebellum name as a newspaper editor and Mississippi congressman, a position he used to promote his support of slavery and states' rights. As one of the most prominent in a group of Southern politicians known as the Fire Eaters, Barksdale strongly supported the secession of Southern states from the Union. A political rather than professional general, he earned a somewhat controversial reputation as a commander, narrowly escaping formal punishment for a drinking problem and becoming increasingly unpopular among his troops. He was successful in the field, however, and in July 1863 he led his unit, known as Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade, into combat on the fields of Pennsylvania, urging them on with the rallying cry of "Onward, brave Mississippians, for Glory!"
Brigadier General Joseph Davis
As the nephew of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Joseph Davis was a member of one of Mississippi's most distinguished families. Trained as a lawyer and politician, he spent the first two years of the war on desk duty, serving on his uncle's staff. Davis' political connections eventually secured him a field command, though charges of nepotism would follow him throughout the war. After spending nearly nine months in command of Southern troops defending the Confederate capital of Richmond, Davis finally had the chance to lead his men into battle for the first time at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Private D. Ridgeley Howard
A native of Baltimore, Ridgeley Howard was one of more than 20,000 Marylanders who slipped across the Potomac and enlisted to fight for the Confederate cause. His 1st Maryland Infantry, formed just two months after war broke out, fought at First Manassas (Bull Run), the Shenandoah Valley and the Peninsula Campaign. By the summer of 1862, the term of enlistment for these men had ended, but most, including Howard, did not return to their homes in Union-occupied Maryland. Instead, they joined newly formed Confederate units, including the 2nd Maryland Infantry, and marched northward with the Army of Northern Virginia. At the Battle of Gettysburg they would face off against a familiar foe and perform with such bravery that General Robert E. Lee would be compelled to honor their service.
Private Joseph C. Lloyd
Joseph Lloyd was like thousands of other Confederate soldiers: He was in his early 20s when he fought in the war, came from a small, rural community and did not own any slaves. As a member of Brigadier General William Barksdale's Mississipian Brigade, he saw action in some of the fiercest clashes of the war. Just 23 in the summer of 1863, Lloyd was already a battle-tested veteran, having served at First Manassas (Bull Run), the Peninsula Campaign, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.
Assistant Surgeon LeGrand Wilson
LeGrand Wilson was the rare Confederate soldier who was familiar with the North, having spent several years there before the war completing his medical education. A member of a prosperous Southern family that owned nearly 40 slaves, he considered himself a deeply religious and moral man. He was anti-gambling, pro-temperance and crusaded against the desecration of the Sabbath. After spending the early part of the war in an infantry regiment whose primary role was the defense of Richmond, Virginia, Wilson accepted a position as an assistant surgeon with the Confederate Army's 42nd Mississippi. Gettysburg was Wilson's first experience with the horrific aftermath of battle-and it would haunt him for the rest of his life.
Authoritative American history meets a fun listening experience in the series which chronicles significant moments in our nation’s heroic tragedy.
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