Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Forgotten Cavalryman & Medal of Honor Recipient Timothy O’Connor

In my last post on the First Battle of Deep Bottom, I mentioned the lone Medal of Honor recipient to emerge from the battle – Pvt. Timothy O’Connor, Co. E, 1st U.S. Cavalry.

For more on the story of Pvt. O’Connor, I highly recommend reading fellow blogger and historian Don Caughey’s blog post devoted to the topic

During my ongoing research for my forthcoming book on the battle, I sent out a request for help to several colleagues trying to find out more information about Pvt. O’Connor.

O’Connor won the Medal of Honor “for extraordinary heroism on 28 July 1864, while serving with Company E, 1st U.S. Cavalry, in action at Malvern, Virginia, for capture of flag of the 18th North Carolina Infantry (Confederate States of America).”

Below is a picture of the actual flag captured by O’Connor which was returned to the state of North Carolina in 1905.

 NC Dept. of Cultural Resources 

The task of finding out basic information on this individual was quite an ordeal.

Think of it:

- The most basic details of his life were sketchy and sometimes contradictory (some sources have him listed as being buried in Arlington, others say he's buried in Kansas)

- He was an Irish immigrant

- He had no middle name and a last name that is extremely common

- Some sources refer to him as “Timothy Connors” or “Timothy Conners”

- He fought in a unit that is difficult to get detailed information on

After weeks of fruitless searching, Craig Swain kindly put me in touch with Don, who is the leading expert on all things pertaining to the regular U.S. cavalry during the Civil War.

As you can see, Don applied his expertise to the problem and came up with a much clearer picture of who Timothy O’Connor was. 

In so doing, he has rescued a courageous young recipient of our nation’s highest honor from obscurity, for which we owe him a debt of gratitude.

O'Connor's Memorial Headstone in Arlington National Cemetery with incorrect death date.


  1. I am Timothy's great-great-great grandaughter and according to our family he left his family and went back to County Kerry, Ireland. His bones were never found and despite trips to Ireland our family still can't find him. We are also looking for his wifes family to regain the Medal and place it back with the O'Connors.

    1. Hi Megan,

      Thank you so much for getting in touch about your ancestor!

      Please email me at – I would like to send you a complimentary copy of my book on First Deep Bottom. It describes the action in which Pvt. O’Connor won his Medal of Honor in detail and I hope it will help in some small way to help you and your family remember his bravery and courage on July 28, 1864.



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