The Battle of Gettysburg: Famous Soldiers from the Battle

The Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War was considered the turning point that set the Union Army on the path of victory over the Confederates. It was a very bloody battle that will never be forgotten. It is believed that in this 3 day battle, there were approximately 50,000 soldiers killed. President Abraham Lincoln in honor of the death toll at Gettysburg gave his famed speech there in November of 1863…The Gettysburg Address.

In today’s post, we are going to take the “time machine” back to the Battle of Gettysburg and see 12 famous soldiers who served in the battle. We will examine what they did in the service, and why they are famous. Scroll down and learn about 12 Civil War soldiers.

The Battle of Gettysburg: 12 Famous Soldiers

# 12: Captain John Tidball-Union Army 1825-1906

Captain Tidball commanded the 2nd Brigade Horse Artillery during the Battle of Gettysburg. He was quite competent, and even President Lincoln complimented the Captain on his abilities after the Battle.

Tidball was essentially a career Army Officer. Many believed he deserved a higher rank such as the Commander of the Cavalry Corps, Alfred Pleasonton who said:

“are now performing the duties of general officers with only the rank of captain, and I most urgently recommend that they be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. The Artillery arm requires organization in the higher grades. There are no general officers who by their service are so much entitled to this distinction as Captains Robertson and Tidball.”

There are 3 things that gave Tidball fame:

  1. He was the Commander of the Department of Alaska.

  2. He was Commandant at West Point and at the Artillery School in Fort Monroe, Virginia.

  3. He wrote Manual of Heavy Artillery Service which was the Army’s artillery guidebook for years.

# 11: Colonel Paul Revere-Union Army 1832-1863

How many of you just said, “He was in the Revolutionary War!” No, this Paul Revere was in the Civil War, and he was the Midnight Rider’s Grandson. This man was mortally wounded at Gettysburg and the Grandson of the Revolutionary War hero was promptly given a posthumous promotion to Brigadier General.

# 10: Brigadier General James Pettigrew-Confederate Army 1828-1863

Pettigrew gained his fame before the Civil War. He gained prestige at the University of North Carolina as a class leader, and also excelled in fencing and boxing. President James Polk was so impressed by this young man that he appointed him as an assistant professor at the U.S. Naval Observatory. Pettigrew went on to become an attorney and also wrote the book Notes on Spain and Spaniards.

General Pettigrew was seriously wounded at Pickett’s Charge in the Battle of Gettysburg. General Lee saw his terrible wound and sent him to the rear. He continued to Command troops, but when Union troops closed in on them, he was shot in the belly and died soon after.

# 9: Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick-Union Army 1836-1881

Here was a Calvary Commander who showed no mercy. Many called him “Kill-Calvary” because he was a reckless Commander who endangered his troops often. During the Battle of Gettysburg, Kilpatrick and Brigadier General Elon Farnsworth were ordered to make a charge. Farnsworth argued and Kilpatrick exclaimed:

“Then, by God, if you are afraid to go I will lead the charge myself.”

Farnsworth complied, and died.

After the Civil War, Kilpatrick ran for Congress in New Jersey and lost. President Andrew Johnson appointed Kilpatrick as Minister of Chile.

2 people who are related to Kilpatrick are:

  • Gloria Vanderbilt is his great granddaughter.

  • Anderson Cooper is his great-great grandson.

# 8: General Abner Doubleday-Union Army 1819-1893

When the name Abner Doubleday is mentioned, many people think baseball. Before the Civil War began, many claim that Doubleday invented the game in a cow pasture near Cooperstown, New York. Much of this claim has been disputed as Doubleday was in attendance at West Point during the supposed occurrence.

Doubleday was an excellent military leader, and his ability during the Battle of Gettyburg was superb.

After the war, Doubleday took out the patent on the Cable car system in San Francisco. That, he did invent.

# 7: Brigadier General Fitzhugh Lee-Confederate Army 1835-1905

This nephew of the Confederate leader, Robert E. Lee was a great military mind in his own right. Before the Civil War, he was appointed as instructor of Cavalry tactics at West Point but resigned when Virginia seceded.

Immediately after the Battle of Gettysburg, Lee was promoted to Major General because of his great leadership.

Lee became Governor of Virginia from 1886-1890. He also commanded the 3rd Division during President Cleveland’s inaugural parade, and Cleveland appointed Lee Consul General to Havana. In 1899, he was the Military Governor of Havana.

Fitzhugh Lee also wrote several pieces including:

  • General Lee, a wartime biography

  • Cuba’s Struggle Against Spain

# 6: Brigadier General Alfred Scales-Confederate Army 1827-1892

Scales was a Colonel when he was wounded early in the Civil War. His determination had him back leading troops just before Gettysburg. At Gettysburg, Scales showed fearlessness as many of his soldiers were being killed. Scales was also wounded, but recovered.

Before the war, Scales was an attorney and also elected to Congress in 1857. After the Civil War, Scales returned to his law practice. He was again elected to Congress for 4 terms starting in 1874. In 1884, he was elected overwhelmingly as Governor of North Carolina.

# 5: Colonel Joshua Chamberlain-Union Army 1828-1914

This great leader was awarded the Medal of Honor for his courage during the Battle of Gettysburg. His maneuvers in the battle have been depicted in the award winning book The Killer Angels and in the 1993 movie Gettysburg.

After the war, Chamberlain was elected to 4 terms as the Governor of Maine. After that, he became President of Bowdoin College. From everything I have read about this great leader, those who take on Military leadership should have to research the leadership of Joshua Chamberlain.

# 4: Brigadier General George Custer-Union Army 1839-1876

We all should know where George Custer gained his fame. He, along with many of his soldiers were slaughtered by Indians at the Battle of Little Big Horn. But, many people do not know that Custer was one of the great leaders at Gettysburg.

At 23 years old, just before the Battle of Gettysburg, Custer was promoted from Captain to Brigadier General. Custer was nearly killed in the 1st day of Battle, but was rescued by a Private Churchill. He went on to lead his men to a great assault against the Confederates. After the War, Custer was involved in many controversial issues (maybe a subject of a later post). His death came at the hands of Indians.

# 3: General J.E.B. Stuart-Confederate Army 1833-1864

This Confederate Commander made life quite difficult for many Union Leaders. His name was James Ewell Brown Stuart, but everyone just called him Jeb.

Stuart always had a penchant for the military. His family were friends with the Lee family. Jeb joined the Army in 1855. In 1859, Stuart invented a saber hook and the government paid him $5,000. Soon after, tensions arose between the Union and the Confederacy. Jeb chose the Confederate side.

Stuart became a leader of leaders and friend of Stonewall Jackson.

During Gettysburg, Stuart took a route that angered General Lee. After Gettysburg, Lee laid the loss on the back of General Stuart.

Later in the War, a Private shot Stuart in the side with his .44 caliber revolver which killed the great leader after much suffering. General Robert E. Lee cried that day.

# 2: General George Meade-Union Army 1815-1872

While not nearly as famous as General Ulysses Grant, Meade should be. It is because of favoritism in the media that Grant was elevated higher than Meade.

General Meade’s leadership won the Battle of Gettysburg. Some claim if he would have chased the Confederates down, he could have won the war, but he performed wonderfully at Gettysburg.

As a humble man, Meade allowed Grant to step into the spotlight and become the hero, but truly more recognition should be given to General Meade, and that is why I list him here.

# 1: General Robert E. Lee-Confederate Army 1807-1870

This Confederate Military leader was skilled and cunning. If he would have had a stronger troop base, there is a strong chance he may have won the war.

One thing many do not know is that in all senses, General Lee opposed slavery. The Civil War was about much more than just that. This is something General Lee wrote to his wife:

“In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.”

Lee’s downfall essentially was Gettysburg. He made a bad decision to take all his troops into that battle, but in the end, it is what it is.

After the war, Lee became President of Washington University. He helped push for reconstruction, and measures to adapt both the best from the South with the best from the North.

Final Thoughts

As we watch some people seemingly trying to “erase” history, I must laugh. How exactly can we erase things that happened? We can learn from them though.

I do not laugh about all the needless deaths at Gettysburg, but it is history. We have grown into a strong nation because of this history.

In no way do I glorify Confederate ideologies with this article, but in the same sense, there are many Union patterns that should not be repeated also.

Now I ask, what are your thoughts on these people of fame who were present at Gettysburg? Do you have any you would add to this list? All comments are welcome, as long as they keep a respect and an understanding that history is in the past. To move into a better future, we need to learn from that history… not try to erase it.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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