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Former Texan rallies Union troops, wins Medal of Honor

May
06
1864

On this day in 1864, former Texas merchant Leopold Karpeles won the Medal of Honor for his actions at the battle of the Wilderness. Karpeles was born in Prague, Bohemia, in 1838. In 1849 he emigrated to Texas, settling with his older brother in Galveston, where he worked as a merchant. In 1861 his opposition to slavery and secession led him to leave Texas for Massachusetts. He enlisted in the Forty-sixth Massachusetts Infantry in 1862, mustered out in 1863, and enlisted in the Fifty-seventh Massachusetts Infantry in the spring of 1864. At several crucial stages of the battle of the Wilderness, during which his regiment lost 262 of its 548 men, Karpeles exposed himself to enemy fire by climbing up on stumps and rallying the regiment around its colors. He was badly wounded a few weeks later and spent most of the next year in military hospitals before being discharged in May 1865. In 1870 he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Wilderness. Karpeles died in 1909.

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