On July 2, 1863, one hundred and forty-nine years ago today, the Battle of Gettysburg, a turning point in the American Civil War, was in its second day of fighting. By its end on July 3, 1863, the battle saw nearly 8,000 Americans killed and nearly 28,000 wounded. It was the bloodiest battle of the entire war.
Of those that perished in the fighting was a twenty year-old volunteer infantryman named George Lapham (1842-1863). George was born in 1842 in Wayne Co., Michigan the son of Benjamin Lapham and Cemantha Broadway. When the war broke out, he and his brother William enlisted in Company I of the 4th Michigan Infantry on June 20, 1861 at Adrian, Michigan. He was killed in action at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863.
The war monument to the 4th Michigan Infantry marks the area of the battlefield, the south end of the Wheatfield, that was held by the 4th Michigan Infantry and approximately where Colonel Jeffords, regiment commander, was mortally wounded. The following is an account of the 4th Michigan Infantry on July 2, 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg:
“The Regiment was commanded by Colonel Harrison H. Jeffords until he was mortally wounded on July 2nd. Advanced into the Wheatfield, the 4th was attacked from both front and flank, and in its sudden retreat the colors were dropped. Seeing them on the ground about to be claimed by advancing Confederates, Col. Jeffords plunged into the melee with a handful of men. The conflicting accounts testify to the chaos of the desperate hand-to-hand fighting, and to this day it is not known whether the colors were captured, saved, or torn to shreds in the struggle. Colonel Jeffords was mortally wounded, one of the few men and the highest ranking officer to die by the bayonet in the war. Lieutenant Colonel George W. Lumbard took over command of the regiment after Jeffords fell.” (Source: Stone Sentinels)
It is not known if George was among the men that aided Col. Jeffords in this account, but it is clear that he was among the twenty-five men (including Col. Jeffords) from 4th Michigan Infantry that died that day.
Because he was so young when he enlisted, only 19, George never married or had any children. George is the younger brother of my 3rd Great Grandfather, William B. Lapham. I have been told by distant relatives that family oral history states that George’s death at Gettysburg weighed heavily on William for the rest of his life.