Union veterans returning home from the war in 1865 faced a myriad of experiences and reacted to the return to civilian life in a variety of ways. Richard D. Dunphy and Lewis A. Horton, both double-arm amputee veterans of the Navy, ably demonstrate the differences in experience and reaction to the war and life afterwards.
It is estimated that about 45,000 men survived amputations, causing the first widespread demand for artificial limbs in American History. The post-war period saw the first government subsidized limbs for qualifying soldiers. Experiences with these early models of artificial limb varied, however.
Kevin: Although Dunphy reported that one model of prosthetic arm allowed him to write and eat without assistance, he did not frequently use them later in life. His wife lamented this fact, saying that instead he was content allowing strangers to transact his business for him. In another deposition, an acquaintance describes how Dunphy could “take up a glass of soda off the counter between his teeth and hold his head up and drink it down,” depicting how he had adapted to his disability.
On September 20, 2013, I had the pleasure of attending a town hall meeting at Gettysburg College featuring three members of Congressional Medal of Honor Society (CMOHS). Each had served our country with bravery and valor, each had gone above and beyond the call of duty, and each had earned the same medal as the man whose life I have been exploring for the past several months.
The first question from Chris Wallace, moderator of the event, asked the veterans about their service. In turn, each bearer of the medal humbly rejected the title of “hero.” To them, they had simply been doing their duty. These soldiers did not seek glory or commendation; they did as they were trained to do in order to protect those they fought with and fought for. Now retired, they act as advocates of the need for brave men and women to fight for freedom, liberty, and security. Continue reading “Richard D. Dunphy: The Measure of Honor”
By January 1866, the war had concluded and the country’s divisions had begun to heal. Richard Dunphy, meanwhile, devoted himself to claiming his pension and his medal. When the Medal of Honor he had earned during the Battle of Mobile Bay was lost amidst the naval bureaucracy, Dunphy took it upon himself to write a letter directly to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. He believed that Welles, who had been involved in the creation of the award, would be able to help obtain his well-deserved medal. This letter, owned by the Gilder Lehrman Institute, provides unique insight directly into Dunphy’s mentality during the years immediately following the war.
The letter begins with an apology for Dunphy’s audacity in addressing Gideon Welles directly, rather than filing his request through the Navy. He explains that Admiral Farragut had planned to send the medal through a mutual acquaintance, but that it had never arrived. “I place a great value on it and I believe I am justly entitled to it,” he writes. The medal had been awarded for the same action during which Dunphy lost both of his arms, and so it was an important memento of his experience and a reward for his gallant sacrifice that warranted a direct appeal to the highest authority.
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”
One morning as he was preparing the morning paper, Boston-based Washington dispatch examiner Joseph O’Hare’s eye caught a dispatch noting the Medal of Honor was being awarded to a Lewis Horton for courageous acts while rescuing crew members of the U.S.S. Monitor off the coast of Cape Hatteras in 1862. O’Hare was particularly struck by the name of the man, since a double arm amputee veteran named Lewis Augustine Horton worked at the local customs house. O’Hare related the dispatch to Horton, noting the similar name, to which Horton reportedly responded in genuine surprise, “By Jove! It may be for me. I was one of the volunteers that went out in the Rhode Island’s cutter and saved the crew of the Monitor.”
In December of 1862, Horton was an ordinary seaman aboard the U.S.S. Rhode Island. On the night of December 30, the Rhode Island was towing the Monitor of Hampton Roads fame when a terrible storm started. In the storm the Monitor sprung a leak and began to sink. Horton and six other seamen volunteered to undertake a rowboat rescue mission to save the crew. All but four officers and twelve men were rescued. After two successful trips, on the third trip the men found the Monitor had completely sunk. After waiting for a period of time for potential survivors, the men turned the cutter about and began to make for the Rhode Island. The Rhode Island appeared to be about two miles away, but the rain and fog from the storm severely reduced visibility and the men lost sight of her. The men chose to row northwest in hopes of coming across another vessel patrolling the coast and continued to row all night long to keep them out of the strong northeast current that threatened to send them deep into the Atlantic Ocean. Continue reading “Tales from a Boston Customs House: Lewis Augustine Horton”
???His noble death . . . should present an example for emulation to patriotic defenders of the country through all time to come???: First Sergeant Frederick Fuger, a native of Germany, arrived on the field at Gettysburg with Battery A of the 4th U.S. …
His noble death . . . should present an example for emulation to patriotic defenders of the country through all time to come.
First Sergeant Frederick Fuger, a native of Germany, arrived on the field at Gettysburg with Battery A of the 4th U.S. Artillery early on the morning of July 2, 1863. This battery was attached to General Winfield Scott Hancock’s Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac. Fuger spent most of that day in command of a section of the battery, which volleyed with Confederate guns on and off throughout the afternoon. Despite the steady exchange of fire, Battery A reported minimal losses on the 2nd. However, July 3rd would prove to be the true test of the battery’s might and the loyal Sergeant Fuger’s leadership qualities.
On the afternoon of July 3rd, from their position near the Angle behind the now-famous stone wall that lines Cemetery Ridge, members of Battery A readily awaited the onslaught of southern troops charging across the open field before them. As Pickett’s Charge reached its climax and the great wave of grey swept up the ridge, the twenty-seven year old Fuger found himself in charge of the battery’s guns. Battery commander First Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing, 22, had fallen dead in the melee, and all of Fuger’s superior officers were killed or severely wounded. Continue reading “First Sergeant Frederick Fuger, First Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing, and the Medal of Honor”