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Amos Humiston
April 26, 1830(1830-04-26) – July 1, 1863 (aged 33)
Amos Humiston
Place of birth Oswego, New York
Place of death Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1862 – 1863
Rank sergeant
Unit 154th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment
Battles/wars American Civil War
*Battle of Chancellorsville
*Battle of Gettysburg

Sergeant Amos Humiston (April 26, 1830 – July 1, 1863) was the "unknown soldier" killed at the Battle of Gettysburg.

When Humiston's body was found the only identification he had on his person was a picture of three children that he clutched in his hand at his death.

This is the picture Sgt. Humiston clutched as he died

A description of the picture was printed on October 19, 1863, in the Philadelphia Inquirer with a story under the provocative headline: "Whose Father Was He?" At that time, newspapers were unable to print photos.

The article said "a Union soldier was found in a secluded spot on the battlefield, where, wounded, he had laid himself down to die. In his hands, tightly clasped, was an ambrotype containing the portraits of three small children ... and as he silently gazed upon them his soul died. How touching! How solemn! ... It is earnestly desired that all papers in the country will draw attention to the discovery of this picture and its attendant circumstances, so that, if possible, the family of the dead hero may come into possession of it. Of what inestimable value will it be to these children, proving, as it does, that the last thought of their dying father was for them, and them only."

Amos' wife, Philinda Humiston, living in Portville, New York, eventually came upon a news account of the photo. So much sympathy was poured out for the Humiston family that the proceeds allowed for the creation of an orphanage in Gettysburg for children of soldiers.

In a New York Times interview by filmmaker Errol Morris, author Mark H. Dunkelman describes the process of researching Humiston, and writing a book about him and his family Gettysburg's Unknown Soldier. Dunkelman was able to find a descendant, Allan Lawrence Cox, who had a collection of letters written by Humiston.[1] One of the letters includes a poignant poem written by Humiston in May 1863 detailing how much he missed his family.


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