Thomas Jefferson Truitt enlisted in… Company D of the 62nd Pennsylvania Volunteers on July 24, 1861. He was a carpenter working near Kellersburg in Armstrong County PA. His father, Anderson, died suddenly in October of 1860, leaving the family deep in debt and without a steady income. To make ends meet, the widowed Sarah Caldwell Truitt was forced to sell pieces of the family farm and work odd jobs. The outbreak of the war in 1861 rallied the young men of Armstrong County to the Finlay Cadets. It also provided Jefferson and his younger brother David the opportunity to assist their family financially.
Truitt served with distinction… as the company’s color sergeant. On July 1, 1862 at the battle of Malvern Hill, he rescued the 62nd PA’s flag from capture by securing it inside his uniform coat. For his valor, Truitt received a promotion to 2nd Lieutenant. Marching with the 62nd from Antietam Creek to Fredericksburg, Manassas to Gettysburg, Truitt survived the fiercest fighting of the war. With its three-year enlistment set to expire, the 62nd soldiered on through the unprecedented carnage of the Overland campaign in the Summer of 1864. Jefferson Truitt was killed June 3, 1864 at the Battle of Bethesda Church, Virginia, just one month before he was due to be mustered out of service.
Heroism is more than just… exploits on the battlefield. Ordinary citizens, like Jefferson Truitt, display heroism by putting their lives on hold to serve their country. The causes, justifications, and implications are immaterial to the sacrifices made by citizen soldiers. Calling these people heroes does not make a political statement, nor is it a rallying cry for more conflict. Wars can be pondered and debated without applying undue scrutiny to the brave men and women who fought them. Publicly doubting the heroism of fallen soldiers on Memorial Day is not reasonable discourse. His patriot grave is proof that Jefferson Truitt was a hero.