Ken Harbaugh: Welcome to the Medal of Honor podcast, brought to you in partnership with the National Medal of Honor Museum. I’m Ken Harbaugh. In each episode, we’ll learn about a different service member who has distinguished him or herself through an act of valor.
Joseph De Castro was born in Boston in 1844. Little is known about his past, but he was likely the son of immigrants.
Joseph volunteered for the 19th Massachusetts Infantry at the age of 18, soon after the Civil War broke out.
He enlisted as the standard bearer for his unit - responsible for carrying the Union Flag during battle.
On July 3rd, 1863, Joseph and his unit were fighting in the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle in US history and a turning point in the Civil War when the Union Army stopped the Confederate’s northern invasion.
On the 3rd and final day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Corporal De Castro and 6 other soldiers from his unit saw a Confederate brigade storm the walls where they were stationed.
Rather than retreat, De Castro - carrying only the Union flag - charged forward.
Through cannon fire, he ran ahead into the oncoming wave of enemy soldiers.
In the midst of the fighting, De Castro saw his Southern counterpart - the Confederate standard bearer.
Using his flagstaff as a baton, he beat the soldier and grabbed the Confederate flag.
His commander, General Webb, is quoted saying: “A man broke through my lines and thrust a rebel battle flag into my hands. He never said a word and darted back. It was Corporal Joseph H. De Castro”.
De Castro delivered the enemy’s flag to his general, and rushed back into battle, still armed only with the Union flag.
A year and a half later, President Lincoln himself presented Corporal De Castro with the Medal of Honor - the first Latino to receive the award.
Joseph later moved to New York City, where he was an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic - a Civil War veterans’ fraternal organization and one of the first organized advocacy groups in American politics.
The Medal of Honor podcast is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. We are proud to support the National Medal of Honor Museum. To learn more, and to support their mission, go to mohmuseum.org. Thanks for listening.