The men of the 24th Wisconsin weren’t sure about this. They were coming under heavy fire and from the looks of things they were being asked to commit suicide. Charging uphill into Confederate entrenchments, how could they win? When their second standard bearer went down, they were convinced this attack was a very bad idea. Then an eighteen year old Lieutenant stepped forward and grabbed the flag. Turning to the men he yelled, “On Wisconsin!” and began clambering up Missionary Ridge. With a roar, the men followed, the Lieutenant eventually planting their standard on top of Missionary Ridge. That night of November 25, 1863 the corps commander of the 24th Wisconsin, hard bitten regular army, Major General Phil Sheridan, tearfully embraced the young Lieutenant, and told the men of the 24th to take care of him, because he had just won the Medal of Honor. He had too, although like many of the Civil War recipients, he would not receive the Medal until decades after the War.
In the battles and campaigns that followed the young Lieutenant, who had lied about his age to join the Union Army at 17, rose steadily in rank, eventually commanding the regiment and ending the war as a 19 year old brevet Colonel, the youngest colonel in the Union Army. In Wisconsin he would ever after be known as the “boy colonel”.
After the War, he briefly studied law, but in 1866 he re-enlisted in the Army as a Second Lieutenant, retiring in 1909 as a Lieutenant General.
On September 5, 1912 he rose from his sick bed to attend a reunion of the 24th. Called upon to speak, he looked at the banner he had carried up Missionary Ridge, and began, “Your indomitable regiment” and collapsed dead. His men gathering around their beloved “boy Colonel” one last time and wrapped his body in a fitting shroud, the flag he had borne at Missionary Ridge. His son, Douglas MacArthur said about the passing of his father: “My whole world changed that night. Never have I been able to heal the wound in my heart.”