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John Tommy


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Not much is known about this immigrant from China except that he died a hero's death.

John Tommy arrived in New York in time to join the 70th Regiment of the Excelsior Brigade under General Dan Sickles. He was enrolled in the infantry. He enlisted at 18 in 1861.

John Tommy was popular among the soldiers in his regiment. Being bright, smart, and honest, he soon became a favorite at Red Hook, Staten Island, and was, at once, the butt and the wit of the whole regiment.

On March 19, 1862, he left his camp at Cockpit Point on Potomac Run and crossed the Rappahannock River. He participated in a foray to Dumfries during which he was captured in a doctor's home and turned over to the Confederate Army.

John Tommy was held in Libby Prison in Richmond where he was badly treated. Most had never seen a man from China before. General Magruder asked him whether he was a mulatto or an Indian, and was shocked to learn that John Tommy was from China.

John Tommy was paroled on March 13, 1863. After returning to his regiment, he cared for the sick and injured before heading to Gettysburg. At Gettysburg, his unit was assigned to the fight on Little Round Top.

On the third and last day of the Gettysburg battle, July 3, 1863, John Tommy was hit by an artillery shot which tore off both of his legs. He died shortly afterwards from loss of blood.

John Tommy from China died an American hero!

Netlinks for John Tommy

Image credit: "The Young Soldier" by William H. Clark, 2010.

Chinese in the American Civil War: John Tommy

History News Network: John Tommy

New York Times, July 12, 1863: China At Gettysburg

Granite Studio: Chinese Soldier Dies At Gettysburg

A Qing Historian: More on Chinese Soldiers in the American Civil War

US Department of Defense: Chinese Soldiers in the American Civil War

Tenured Radical: Asian Americans in the Civil War

Richmond Enquirer

Richmond Times Dispatch

Credits for John Tommy

Image of "The Young Soldier" by William H. Clarke, FOLK ARTIST from Blackstone, VA. used with permission. This painting well-captures the view of a young Chinaman in an Union uniform fighting for his country! See more of William's art work at: FaceBook Folk Artist . You can also email him at clarkecandraw@aol.com

Page created July 12, 2010. Anne Pemberton. Updated Sun, Feb 5, 2012. AP.