Edward Fitzgerald was born in County Limerick, Ireland in 1837. He immigrated to the United States, and was working as a laborer in New York when he joined the army. He was enlisted into Company E, 1st U.S. Cavalry in Albany, New York by Lieutenant Johnston on January 9, 1858, at the age of 21. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’8 1/2” tall, with brown hair, blue eyes and a ruddy complexion.
Fitzgerald served in Company E with the 1st, then 4th U.S. Cavalry for the next five years, earning promotions to corporal, sergeant and first sergeant of the company. At the beginning of the Civil War, he served in a squadron consisting of his company and Company A in the Army of the Potomac until the winter of 1862. Once the peninsula campaign started, they served the majority of that time as the headquarters escort for the Army of the Potomac and Major General McClellan. As the company first sergeant, Fitzgerald was responsible for the company’s discipline. This was sometimes a less than popular position with his soldiers, as exhibited in one of Charles Bates’ letters here.
Fitzgerald’s enlistment expired at a camp near Falmouth, Virginia on January 8, 1863, shortly before the squadron returned to the rest of the regiment in the western theater. By the time the squadron reached the regiment, however, he was back in uniform.
First Sergeant Fitzgerald was appointed a second lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Cavalry on February 19, 1863, and assigned to Company I. He served with his company and regiment throughout the campaigns of 1863 and 1864, receiving a promotion to first lieutenant on May 9, 1864.
Lieutenant Fitzgerald was wounded while charging against a battery of three enemy guns at the front of his company on December 17, 1864 during fighting near Franklin, Tennessee. He never recovered from his wounds, and died on February 16, 1865.
Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903), page 422.
Henry, Guy V. Military Record of Army and Civilian Appointments in the United States Army, Volume II (New York: D. Van Nostrand Publishing, 1873), pg 90.
Muster Rolls, 4th U.S. Cavalry, NARA, M744
U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914