Like many immigrants during the mid-nineteenth century, Irishman Richard D. Dunphy served his new country in the Civil War, albeit not entirely willingly. The wounds he sustained during the war were grave, including the loss of both arms. He received some reward for his sacrifice from his country: a monthly pension, a Medal of Honor, and a notability lacked by other faceless coal heavers. As with other great conflicts, the war played a pivotal role in the lives of its participants, especially in the case of Richard Dunphy.
When I first received the bundle of Richard Dunphy’s pension documents, I was prepared to begin research on an obscure figure lost to time. To my great surprise, the very first search I performed resulted in a handful of genealogy websites, several citations of his merit, and even a Wikipedia page. As I began research, it became clear that this coal heaver was not one of the faceless many who fought in the American Civil War, but rather a man of the age whose life told a timeless story of hardship and resolve.
Born in Ireland in 1841, Dunphy came to the United States before the start of the Civil War. He served as a coal heaver aboard five ships in the US Navy, most notably the USS Hartford, flagship of Admiral David Farragut. His “skill and courage” under shellfire during the Battle of Mobile Bay resulted in a Medal of Honor, as well as the amputation of both of his arms. Returning home, he married a young woman he had known before the war and they moved to Vallejo, California to start a family. Continue reading “Richard D. Dunphy: A Veteran’s Struggle Echoing into the Present”