A Double amputee, losing both arms from a single piece of shrapnel, at the Battle of Fredericksburg.
Thomas Plunkett enlisted as a corporal in Co. “E” of the 21st Massachusetts Infantry on July 19, 1861 at West Boylston, Mass., a 21 year old mechanic, and was discharged for wounds on March 9, 1864. Being simply put in this fashion, sounds like countless other brief descriptions of soldier’s service, but Plunkett’s story stands out like relatively few others.
On December 13, 1862, while the 21st Mass charged up Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg toward a well fortified confederate position behind a stone wall, Sergeant Plunkett remained behind his company to keep stragglers from retreating back to safety. He noticed that both of the color bears holding the Regimental National and State colors had fallen, so he quickly moved forward and pick up the regiments flag now becoming a target of opportunity from the enemy.
As the the regiment got close to the stone wall, a shell burst near Plunkett, killing three other soldiers, and a piece of shrapnel taking his right arm away just below the shoulder, leaving it dangling by only a piece of flesh, while that same piece of shrapnel struck him in the other arm, just above the wrist. Plunkett still moved forward, encouraging the men, now with his blood soaking the regimental colors was soon relieved by another member of Company “H.”
Blood stained colors of the 21st Mass.
With the assistance of an officer, Plunkett made it down hill to an awaiting stretcher that would take him to hospital.
In 1866, Plunkett received the Medal of Honor.
There is far too much to write regarding Plunkett, his career, and specifically on the Battle of Fredericksburg, and that story can be easily had on the internet.
This image of Plunkett was most likely taken by J.W. Black of Boston after his return home. He is seated in his frock coat, his forage cap placed at the juncture where his empty sleeves join on his lap.
A great image in fine condition.
From the Michael McAfee Collection.