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The Yale men who died at Gettysburg

Walking through Yale's Civil War Memorial this morning on my way to work, it occurred to me to look for alumni who died at the Battle of Gettysburg, which ended on this day 150 years ago. I found four—one Union and three Confederate, all killed on July 3, 1863:

Charles Mortimer Wheeler ’59 was a captain in the New York Volunteers. According to his Yale obituary, he was a lawyer in Canandaigua, New York, who volunteered in 1862. He was taken prisoner at Harper's Ferry, then, after his release in a prisoner exchange, "entered with new zeal into the duties of his position." The obituary says he was "killed almost instantly" at Gettysburg "by the bullet of a sharpshooter while he was leading a skirmishing party."

Dewees Ogden ’58, a native of Mobile, Alabama, moved to New York with his family at age 14. After Yale, he was eager to return to the South, but his father and mother both died, and he got a job in the post office in New York to support his two young sisters. The pull of the war and the Confederate cause finally took him to Virginia, where he became a private in the Richmond Howitzers. In a letter quoted in Yale's Confederates: A Biographical Dictionary, he expressed his fear that the war would leave his sisters bereft of yet another guardian, but he concluded by saying "My trust is that God, who protects the cause of the fatherless, will spare me, not for my own sake, but for theirs." His commanding officer wrote that he was "killed while standing manfully at his post."

William Gustine Conner ’45 was one of two brothers that attended Yale together and both fought for the Confederacy. Yale's Confederates tells us he was a wealthy Mississippi planter who kept 271 people in slavery. He became a major in the Jeff Davis Legion and died while leading a counterattack at Gettysburg.

Thomas Gordon Pollock ’58 was a captain on the staff of CSA general George Pickett, famous for the diastrous Gettysburg assault known as Pickett's Charge. Indeed, that is where Pollock died, shot from his horse while leading Kemper's Brigade; his body was never recovered. In a letter to his father just four days earlier, he had written that Lee's soldiers were "as happy and as secure in their feeling as if they were already won—simply because they have an almost fanatical confidence in their cause & their leader. Important movements are on foot but it would be imprudent to trust them to the doubtful fortunes of this letter."

For more on Yale's Civil War Memorial and its history, read Ali Frick's excellent article "The Mingled Dust of Both Armies" from our September/October 2011 issue.

Filed under Civil War, Gettysburg
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