Gettysburg's Unknown Soldier

The Life, Death, and Celebrity of Amos Humiston

Mark H. Dunkelman, Errol Morris

Lying dead in Gettysburg with no identification, a lone Union soldier was named the "Unknown Soldier." Dunkelman weaves the story of Sgt. Humiston, his widow, and his children who struggled the rest of their lives.
Publication date:
April 2020
Publisher :
Gettysburg Publishing
Illustration :
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781734627602

Dimensions : 229 X 152 mm
Available in 3-4 weeks


Lying dead in Gettysburg in 1863, a solitary Union soldier lacked any standard means of identification. Only a single clue was clutched in his fingers: an ambrotype of his three young children.

With this photograph the single clue to his identity, a publicity campaign to locate the soldier's family swept the North. Within a month, his grieving widow and children would be located in Portville, New York. The soldier, a devoted husband and father, was revealed as Sergeant Amos Humiston of the 154th New York Volunteers. Using many previously untapped sources, noted historian Mark H. Dunkelman recreates the fascinating story of 19th-century war, sentiment, and popular culture in full detail.

The Humiston story touched deep emotions in Civil War America, inspiring a wave of prose, poetry, and song. Amid the outpouring of public sympathy, a charitable drive grew to assist the bereft family. At the end of the war, the crusade was expanded to establish a home in Gettysburg for orphans of deceased soldiers, The Homestead. The first residents of the institution were Amos Humiston's widow Philinda and her three children: Franklin, Alice, and Frederick. In this extensive account, a full portrait emerges of Amos Humiston, the husband and father destined to be remembered for his death tableau, and of his family, the widow and orphans who struggled for the rest of their lives with celebrity born of tragedy.

This paperback reprint edition is updated with a new introduction by the author, as well as a foreword by Academy award-winning film director Errol Morris.


…a beautiful volume that cannot be missing on the shelves of fans and historians of the American Civil War, a story that will thrill and move even today.
Old Barbed Wire