(1843 - 1913)
Home State: New York
Branch of Service: Infantry
Unit: 16th New York Infantry
He had arrived in New York from Ireland with his family about 1850. On 27 April 1861, then age 17, giving his age as 19, he enlisted at Potsdam for two years and mustered as Private, Company F, 16th New York Infantry on 15 May.
On the Campaign
He later recalled his experience at Crampton's Gap:
On the 14th of September, 1862, our regiment engaged the enemy at South Mountain, Md. A charge brought us to a dense cornfield, separated from the base of the mountain by a stone wall. While we were charging through the corn, the command: 'Right oblique' was given, which a comrade and myself did not hear. We kept straight on toward the wall. When quite near it we were met by a volley which checked us for a moment. My comrade said to me:He was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1890 for his actions there.
'Hold on, Jim, what shall we do?'
'We'll charge them from behind that wall,' I replied.
At our approach the rebels retreated from the breastworks up the steep mountain side. We followed and climbed the wall. A ball struck my brave comrade in the left leg and made him unfit for further action. I found a comfortable place for the poor fellow in a crevice and gave him a drink from my canteen.
'Richards,' said I, 'if I pull through all right, I'll come and take care of you.'* I then followed the retreating rebels.
By this time they had reached a road running up the mountain which was skirted on our side by another wall, over which they had disappeared. The only thing for me to do was to climb also. As I drew myself up, I was met by another volley, but was only slightly wounded. Putting on a bold face, and waving my arms, I said to my imaginary company: 'Up, men, up!'
The rebels, thinking they were cornered, stacked their arms in response to my order to surrender. I made haste to get between them and the guns, and found that I had fourteen prisoners and a flag taken from the color-guard [of the 16th Georgia Infantry].
While thus situated I saw our colonel advancing up the road. Just out of gunshot he stopped, and taking his glasses, carefully scanned my party. He then approached, and, learning the details, rode back for a guard, to whom I handed over the prisoners.
The rest of the War
He was promoted to Corporal on 14 October 1862 and mustered out with his Company on 22 May 1863. He served with the US Military Railroad from September 1863 to October 1865.
After the War
Trained as a carpenter, he went west by 1870 and was then living in Clayton County, Iowa. He moved to Dakota County, Minnesota by 1880, was in Mankata County in 1885, and finally, in St. Paul by 1900. He was living in the Soldiers' Home there by 1912. In 1913 he went east to visit family and attend a reunion at Gettysburg, PA, but died at his brother Henry's home in Carthage, NY on 31 August at age 70.
References & notes
His service from the Adjutant General.1 The quote above from Deeds of Valor.2 His MOH citation is online from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Details from a bio sketch (PDF) by Laura Gallup online from the Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial. His gravesite is on Findagrave.
He married Susan Blanchard Morgan (1844-1912) about 1866 and they had 2 sons Burton E. (1866-1937) and Benton O. Allen (1876-1942), who died without having children.
* Pvt. James W. Richards died of his wounds on 20 September 1862.
05/05/1843 in IRELAND
08/31/1913; Carthage, NY; burial in Oakland Cemetery, St. Paul, MN
1 State of New York, Adjutant-General, Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of New York [year]: Registers of the [units], 43 Volumes, Albany: James B. Lyon, State Printer, 1893-1905, For the Year 1899, Ser. No. 19, pg. 536 [AotW citation 22557]
2 Beyer, Walter F., and Oscar F. Keydel, compilers, Deeds of Valor: How America's Heroes Won the Medal of Honor , Detroit: The Perrien-Keydel Company, 1901, Vol. 1, pp. 73-74 [AotW citation 22558]