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General William Gamble (1818 - 1866):
Soldier; engineer

William Gamble was born in Dunross, County Fermanagh, and practised as a civil engineer before emigrating to the United States at age twenty. Having served for a time as a dragoon in the British army, he joined the United States army in 1839 as a private and was rapidly promoted before his honourable discharge in 1843, by which time he had seen action against the Seminoles (Native Americans in Florida) and reached the rank of Sergeant of Dragoons (in the 1st Dragoons, later the 1stCavalry). He then moved to Chicago, where he worked as a civil engineer. He was also a founder of the Indiana Street Methodist church, the first Methodist church north of the Chicago River, and which had many members who were strong abolitionists. He moved to Evanston, where he built a house which later housed the Anthropology Department of Northwestern University.

On the outbreak of the American Civil War, he was invited by Congressman John Farnsworth, a friend of Abraham Lincoln in September 1861, he was made lieutenant-colonel of the 8th Illinois Cavalry, becoming its colonel on December 5, 1862. He saw action near Malvern Hill, Virginia, where he was severely wounded, receiving a bullet in the chest, but returned to service at Fredericksburg in December 1862, and by January 1863 was a Brigadier. On the opening day of the battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, Gamble's brigade, despite his suffering from a bad cold or allergies, and described as constantly sniffing, sneezing, wheezing, and wiping his nose and his watery eyes on his coat, did the early skirmishing against the advance brigades of the Army of Northern Virginia; they blocked the enemy attacks for several hours until the Union infantry could be deployed.

In May 1864, he transferred from Ulysses S Grant's Army of the Potomac to command the cavalry division in the Department of Washington. In December of the same year he was honourably mustered out of service, but called up again in 1865, and appointed full brigadier-general of volunteers. In 1866, in the wake of the postwar reorganisation of the army, he was appointed major in the 8th Cavalry. His regiment having been ordered to California, Gamble died of cholera in Virgin Bay, Nicaragua, on the Central American Transit Route. A son, George, who had served under Gamble, would die in the San Francisco earthquake of 1806.

Born: 1 January 1818
Died: 20 December 1866
Richard Froggatt

Dr Brian Lambkin, Dr Patrick Fitzgerald, Mellon Centre for Migration Studies, Omagh, Northern Ireland


Biographical archive, Mellon Centre for Emigration Studies, Omagh, County Tyrone;