Joseph H. De Castro
Corporal Joseph H. De Castro (November 14, 1844 – May 8, 1892), was the first Hispanic-American to be awarded the United States' highest military decoration for valor in combat—the Medal of Honor—for having distinguished himself during Pickett’s Charge in the Battle of Gettysburg of the American Civil War.
Early years De Castro was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, he was among the men who joined the all-volunteer 19th Massachusetts Infantry.
Civil War service
Cannons representing Hancock’s defenses, stormed by Pickett’s Charge.
De Castro bore the Flag of Massachusetts for Company I, 19th Massachusetts Infantry. The unit participated in the Battle of Gettysburg at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania as part of the III Corps, 3rd Brigade, U.S. Army under the command of Colonel Norman J. Hall. On July 3, 1863, the third and last day of the battle, his unit participated in what became known as Pickett’s Charge. The charge was a disastrous infantry assault ordered by Confederate General Robert E. Lee against Major General George G. Meade's Union positions on Cemetery Ridge.
During the battle, De Castro attacked a Confederate flag bearer from the 19th Virginia Infantry regiment, with the staff of his own colors and seized the opposing regiment’s flag, handing the prize over to General Alexander S. Webb. General Webb is quoted as saying, “At the instant 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, one of my color bearers. He had knocked down a color bearer in the enemy’s line with the staff of the Massachusetts State colors, seized the falling flag and dashed it to me”. On December 1, 1864, De Castro was one of seven men from the 19th Massachusetts Infantry to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Medal of Honor citation
Sergeant Joseph H. De Castro
Rank and organization: Corporal, Company I, 19th
Place and date: At Gettysburg, Pa., July 3, 1863
Date of issue: December 1, 1864
Capture of flag of 19th Virginia regiment (C.S)
Post Civil War
After the war De Castro entered the regular Army and served for a few years. De Castro married Rosalia Rodriguez and in 1882 moved to New York City. There hewas an active member of the Phil Kearny Post Number 8 of the Grand Army of the Republic. He was employed by the New York Barge Office when, on May 8, 1892, he died in his home at 244 West 22nd Street. His funeral was held at the 18th Street Methodist Church and he was buried at Fairmount Cemetery (Section 2, Lot 300, Grave 2) in Newark, New Jersey. was an active member of the Phil Kearny Post Number 8 of the Grand Army of the Republic. He was employed by the New York Barge Office when, on May 8, 1892, he died in his home at 244 West 22nd Street. His funeral was held at the 18th Street Methodist Church and he was buried at Fairmount Cemetery (Section 2, Lot 300, Grave 2) in Newark, New Jersey.
Awards and decorations
Joseph H. De Castro’s awards and decorations include the following:
Medal of Honor (Army version)
Army Civil War Campaign Medal
In popular culture Linda Vasquez, the outgoing White House Chief of Staff, presents Vice President Frank Underwood with De Castro’s Medal of Honor in “Chapter 21,” the eighth episode of the second season of the Netflix political drama House of Cards.