On this day in 1864, former Texas merchant Leopold Karpeles won the Medal of Honor for his actions at the battle of the Wilderness. Karpeles was born in Prague, Bohemia, in 1838. In 1849 he emigrated to Texas, settling with his older brother in Galveston, where he worked as a merchant. In 1861 his opposition to slavery and secession led him to leave Texas for Massachusetts. He enlisted in the Forty-sixth Massachusetts Infantry in 1862, mustered out in 1863, and enlisted in the Fifty-seventh Massachusetts Infantry in the spring of 1864. At several crucial stages of the battle of the Wilderness, during which his regiment lost 262 of its 548 men, Karpeles exposed himself to enemy fire by climbing up on stumps and rallying the regiment around its colors. He was badly wounded a few weeks later and spent most of the next year in military hospitals before being discharged in May 1865. In 1870 he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Wilderness. Karpeles died in 1909.
On this day in 1936, journalist Hugh Nugent Fitzgerald died in Austin. The South Carolina native moved to Texas in 1889, where he began newspaper work, first as a sports writer and later as a political commentator. He became managing editor and staff correspondent on the Dallas Morning News, with which he was associated for fourteen years. In the early 1900s he was employed as editor of the Dallas Times Herald for ten years. He later edited the Fort Worth Record and was owner, publisher, and editor of the Wichita Falls Record News, before he joined the Marsh-Fentress interests and established his home in Austin in 1921; there he was chief editorial writer for the Austin American, the Austin Statesman, and allied newspapers for more than ten years.
On this day in 1838, the oldest active missionary Baptist church in Texas was organized north of Nacogdoches. It was originally called Union Baptist Church because settlers from various religious denominations made up the first congregation, but was later renamed the Old North Baptist Church. The church was officially organized at a meeting at Liberty School House when ministers Isaac Reed and Robert G. Green preached and invited people with church letters who wanted to constitute a church to come forward. John and Betsy Eaton, Charles Whitaker, Sarah Tipps, Mary Crain, Emily Knight, Ruth Anderson, and Anthony and Chancy, the last two slaves, came forward. Twenty people were baptized at the church in June and July; these were the first Baptist baptisms in East Texas. In 1839 the Texas Woman's Missionary Union, the first Baptist women's group in Texas, was organized at the church. The congregation met in the school house until 1852, when a frame building was constructed on the same foundation.
On this day in 1864, in one of the most moving incidents of the Civil War, Confederate general Robert E. Lee ordered the celebrated Hood's Texas Brigade to the front, and they in turn ordered him to the rear. During a critical moment of the fierce Battle of the Wilderness, as the Southern battle line was crumbling, Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, was heartened to see the Texas Brigade, under the command of John Gregg, arrive on the field as reinforcements. With a cry of "Hurrah for Texas!" Lee ordered them forward against the Union army and, carried away by his enthusiasm, began to lead them into the charge. The Texans, unwilling to risk their idol in battle, stopped and gathered around him, yelling "Lee to the rear!" and held onto his horse until he withdrew. The Texas Brigade suffered severe losses, but the Union army was once more fought to a standstill.