Musicians played a significant role during the Civil War, cheering up the men in the camps and preparing them to go into battle. But they also took on additional duties, some of which could be dangerous, and they took their roles as soldiers seriously.
As we commemorate the recent anniversary of the pivotal Civil War Battle of Gettysburg, we remember Army Musician Richard Enderlin, who transformed his role into that of an infantryman when a comrade needed help.
Enderlin was born in Baden, Germany, on Jan. 11, 1843, but he grew up in Chillicothe, Ohio. In November 1861, a few months after the Civil War began, he joined the Union Army as part of the 73rd Ohio Infantry, Company B.
About a year and a half later, he found himself in the thick of the fight during the three-day Battle of Gettysburg.
Enderlin had voluntarily joined the defense of Cemetery Ridge, thinking his unit was not directly engaged in battle. But it turned out that the ridge, which was roughly the center of the Union line, was a major focus of the Confederates who were trying to break through.
Enderlin earned his Medal of Honor in the nighttime hours of July 2, 1863, when he rescued Pvt. George Nixon, the great-grandfather of a future president, Richard M. Nixon.
According to the National Civil War Museum, Nixon was seriously wounded and lay between Cemetery Ridge and the rebels’ position.
After hearing Nixon’s cries of pain, Enderlin put down his instrument and picked up a rifle. According to his Medal of Honor citation, he “voluntarily and at his own imminent peril went into the enemy’s lines at night.” Despite the heavy volley of fire between the rebels and the Union, Enderlin dragged the injured man back to safety.
For his extraordinary courage, Enderlin was promoted the following day to the rank of sergeant.
Unfortunately, Nixon did not survive the wounds he suffered. He died several days later and is buried at the cemetery at Gettysburg, which is now a national landmark.
Enderlin continued on with his role as a musician until he was injured in battle in the spring of 1864. He was then transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps until he was discharged when the war ended.
The Medal of Honor was created during the Civil War, and more than 1,500 men who fought then earned the decoration. Enderlin was awarded the honor on Sept. 11, 1897.
Enderlin went on to live a long life. He died on Feb. 11, 1930, and was buried in Grandview Cemetery in his Ohio hometown. Chillicothe also displays a memorial to Enderlin outside Yoctangee Park.