ON THIS DATE in 1864, fifteen-year-old Private Nathaniel Gwynne of the 13th Ohio Cavalry charged a Confederate force at Petersburg, Virginia, and retrieved his unit’s flag — despite a bullet wound that would require amputation of his left arm.
The Civil War charge on a Confederate fortification known as “Fort Hell” nearly occurred without Gwynne. A Union captain tried to pull the young man back from the charge, but either Gwynne didn’t hear the officer or willfully disobeyed him.
When the bugler’s charge sounded, Gwynne raced on horseback toward the enemy, veering away from his comrades halfway through the charge to attack Confederates who had captured his unit’s flag. Under a hail of bullets, he retrieved the banner and raced back to the Union side when an enemy shot ripped into his flag-holding arm, which would later be amputated.
Gwynne received the Medal of Honor for what his citation called “extraordinary heroism” on January 27, 1865.