Today in Texas History – May 6

From the Annals of the Civil War –  Color Sergeant Leopold Karpeles won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at the battle of the Wilderness on this date in 1864. Karpeles was a Jewish native of Prague who emigrated to Texas in 1849.  He worked as a merchant in Galveston.  However, his opposition to slavery and secession led him to leave Texas for Massachusetts in 1861 where he enlisted in the Forty-sixth Massachusetts Infantry.  He mustered out in 1863 and in 1864 joined the Fifty-seventh Massachusetts Infantry.  His incredible bravery at the Wilderness was rewarded with the highest military honor. At several crucial stages of the battle, Karpeles exposed himself to enemy fire by climbing up on stumps and rallying the regiment around its colors to repel an enemy advance. Of the 548 men his regiment, 262 were lost in the battle – casualty figures that are hard to fathom in this day and era.  He was later badly wounded in the Battle of North Anna, and spent the next year recovering in military hospitals.  He was discharged in May 1865 after the war ended.  In 1870 he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Wilderness.

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