By: Captain (Retired) William Rodriguez
“We want America to remember us forever,” said Bill Toledo, an original Navajo Code Talker. Mr. Toledo expressed concern that our country might one day forget the sacrifices of those who fought in World War II. But, what about those forgotten heroes who fought, let’s say, back to the middle of the nineteenth century during the American Civil War? There we found, after long hours and months of investigation, the first veteran born in Puerto Rico, that we know of, and it happens to be Lieutenant Augusto Rodriguez. Lieutenant Rodriguez made history as the very first Puerto Rican veteran. I’m talking about the period between 1861 through 1865, date on which he was discharged as an officer of the Union Army at the end of the American Civil War.
Lieutenant Augusto Rodríguez was born in 1861 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He served as an officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War in the defenses of Washington, D.C. and led his men in the Battles of Fredericksburg and Wyse Fork.
When the island was still a Spanish possession he emigrated with his family to the United States in the 1850s. The 1860 census of New Haven, Connecticut, shows there were 10 Puerto Ricans living there, amongst them Augusto Rodríguez. Many other Puerto Ricans settled in places such as New York and Massachusetts. Upon the outbreak of the American Civil War, many Puerto Ricans joined the ranks of the military armed forces. However, since Puerto Ricans were still Spanish subjects, they were inscribed as Spaniards. This could have been a reason why it was difficult to find his remains since we were looking for a Puerto Rican soldier.
People to become a part of the Union Army were recruited by means of public announcements. It was an all volunteer army. In 1862, Rodríguez volunteered and joined I Company 15th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. For reasons I can’t recall his name was misspelled and listed as “Augustus Rodereques”. His unit was organized on August 25, 1862 in New Haven. It was also known as the “Lyon Regiment” in honor of Nathaniel Lyon, the first General Officer killed in the U.S. Civil War. The Regiment left Connecticut for Washington, D.C. on August 28, and was attached to Casey’s Provisional Brigade, Military District of Washington, serving in the defenses of Washington until September 17, 1862.
In December 1 through 6, the 15th Connecticut Infantry marched to Fredericksburg, Virginia and was assigned to the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, IX Corps, Army of the Potomac commanded by Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside. Lieutenant Rodríguez led his men in the Battle of Fredericksburg which was fought against General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia from December 12–15. The battle resulted in a disastrous defeat for General Burnside and the Union Army. Burnside attempted to make an offensive movement on January 20, 1863, in which Lt. Rodríguez and the men of the 15th Connecticut Regiment were involved. However the offensive, which became known as the Mud March, was aborted because of constant rain.
On March 1865, Lt. Rodríguez and the 15th Connecticut were assigned to the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, District of Beaufort, North Carolina, Department of North Carolina. From March 8–10, Rodríguez once more led his men in combat in the Battle of Wyse Fork, a confrontation against a Confederate army being gathered under Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and Union troops under the command of Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield. The final outcome of the battle resulted in a Union great victory.
Upon the occupation of Kinston, North Carolina by Union forces, the 15th Connecticut Infantry was assigned to provost duty as part of the garrison. They performed this duty until June 6, when it was ordered to New Bern, North Carolina, to prepare for muster-out.
The regiment was mustered out on June 27, 1865 and Lt. Rodríguez was discharged in New Haven on July 12, 1865. For his heroic performance he was awarded the Army Civil War Campaign Medal.
After the war Rodríguez became a businessman but, wearing a uniform and routinely discipline was in his blood stream and soon became also the first Puerto Ricanfirefighter in New Haven. Rodríguez was married to Eliza Rodregues with whom he had a daughter, Clara A. Rodregues. On March 22, 1880, he died in his home in New Haven and was buried in the Evergreen Cemetery of his hometown were his remains were found in the Firefighter Lot, another reason why it was difficult to find his grave since it was expected to be buried in a military cemetery and under the name of Augusto Rodriguez.
It is important to mention that the honorable military career of Lieutenant Augusto Rodriguez has been brought to us thanks to the painstaking of Mr. Rafael Cruz Miller, owner and chairperson of Radio Esfuerzo Estadista, the first spanish spoken web radio dedicated to fight for the civil and human rights of Puerto Rico’s voters who demand to add another star to the Flag of the United States as the 51st State of the union, a mission not too many politicians have had the valor and interest to pursuit. This writing is not complete if we don’t recognize also the interest and the precious time spent by Ms. Deborah Couture. Without her effort this piece of our history would have remained untold and buried with the remains of our hero, Lieutenant Augusto Rodrigues aka: “Augustus Rodereques”
But, this is not the end of this story. Who are Lt. Rodriguez’s descendent still living? Is he a part of my ancestry? My father, born in 1898 was a combatant during the 1st. World War. Who knows, the world is very small and technology will help me discover maybe another story. 
 For those interested read: “The history of the Fifteenth Connecticut volunteers in the war for the defense of the Union, 1861-1865″; By Sheldon B. Thorpe; Page 154; Publisher” Kessinger Publishing, LLC; Library of Congress E499.5 15th; Open Library OL13493623M; LC Control Number 02012831; OCLC/WorldCat 3521760.
El Teniente Augusto Rodríguez, nacido en San Juan, Puerto Rico en el 1841, emigró hacia Connecticut. en el 1860. Para esa época, surge la Guerra Civil Americana y muchos puertorriqueños se unieron al ejército siendo el Teniente Rodriguez el primer veterano puertorriqueño aceptado como Teniente del Ejército de la Unión. Cabe destacar que el Teniente Rodriguez era considerado Español ya que Puerto Rico era una colonia española. Luego de pasar el cedazo de seis miembros de la Unión, fue reclutado como siendo asignado a la 15ta Unidad de Infanteros Voluntarios de Connecticut.
Tal vez el ser considerado ciudadano español se perdió su rastro como puertorriqueño. Gracias a gestiones del Sr. Rafael Cruz Miller y con la ayuda de la señora Deborah Couture del Cementerio Evergreen de New Haven, CT, este se dio a la tarea de encontrar los restos del Teniente Rodriguez. Grande fue su sorpresa al encontrar que este fue sepultado en el panteón de los bomberos bajo el nombre que se le conocía en el ejército, su seudónimo: “Gustave Rodrique”.
Para los interesados en rendirle honores el próximo lunes, Día del Veterano, sus restos están sepultados en la fosa #2 del Lote de los Bomberos en el mencionado cementerio de New Haven, Evergreen. Los puertorriqueños nos sentimos orgullosos de nuestros veteranos y especialmente del Teniente Augusto Rodríguez quien logró su gloria en la defensa de Washington, D.C. En las batallas de Fredericksburg y Wyse Fork.
Datos pueden ser corroborados en la Librería del Congreso, “The History of The Fifteenth Connecticut Volunteers in The War for the Defense of the Union (1861-1865 Páginas 154-173.
TENIENTE AUGUSTO RODRIGUEZ VIVE!!!!!!!!
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This week marks the 150th anniversary of the start of American Civil War. In an effort to link up our contribution, albeit not often mentioned, during the civil war we decided to introduce you to the men that served and received decorations for their service and valor. Our first feature of this series is Puerto Rican born and Union Army Lieutenant Augusto Rodríguez.
Lieutenant Augusto Rodríguez was born in 1835 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Rodríguez migrated to the United States and according to the 1860 census, was one of the only 10 Puerto Ricans living in New Haven, Connecticut.
In 1862, Rodríguez joined the 15th Connecticut Regiment, Connecticut’s volunteer infantry also known as the Lyon Regiment which was named after the first General officer killed in the civil war Nathaniel Lyon. Rodríguez’s Regiment was first assigned to serve as the defense of Washington D.C. until September 17, 1862.
In December 1862, Rodríguez’s Regiment marched to Virginia where, under the command of Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, they fought against General Robert E. Lee’s confederate army in the battle of Fredericksburg.
In March of 1865, Rodríguez along with his men, joined the battle of Wyse Fork under the command of Major General John M. Schofield and were victorious against the Confederate army.
Rodríguez was awarded the American Civil War Campaign medal and was discharged on July 12, 1865. Soon after Rodríguez became a firefighter for the city of New Haven, CT.
Pa’lante salutes this patriot and demonstrates that Latinos’ contributions to this nation is not recent. Back in 1865 Puerto Rico was a Spanish subject nation, not a U.S. commonwealth. Therefore, Rodriguez’s joining the Union Army was not related to being a U.S. citizen but an act of voluntary enrollment by a man that felt compelled to defend his newfound country.
By Efrain Nieves – reposted from Pa’lante Latino with the author’s permission –original link
Puerto Rican Military History Homepage
Puerto Rican Military History
Tony Santiago, a.k.a. “Tony the Marine,” is the Editor of our Puerto Rican Medal of Honor Channel and Puerto Rican Military History Channel. He is a writer and administrator for Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, specializing in Puerto Rican related topics. email
Puerto Rican Medal of Honor
Puerto Rico’s Military History
65th Infrantry WebSite
|Puerto Rican Korean War hero dies on March 2.Sergeant First Class Modesto Cartagena (July 21, 1921-March 2, 2010), was a soldier who served in the 65th Infantry Regiment, an all-Puerto Rican regiment also known as “The Borinqueneers”, during World War II and the Korean War. He was the most decorated Puerto Rican soldier in history.Cartagena was raised in the mountains of Cayey, Puerto Rico to a poor family during the Great Depression. Cartagena enlisted in the U. S. Army in San Juan and was assigned to the 65th Infantry, which was also known as the Borinqueneers, because it was made up entirely of Puerto Rican enlisted men, a segregated unit. Read more.|
|My dear friends,I would like to share with you what happened in my recent trip to Puerto Rico. As you all know, I have written many articles about the contributions which Hispanics have made to the United States, out of love and with the intention of educating the public in general. I do not seek nor have I ever asked for any type of recognition. That is why I was surprised when the Senate of Puerto Rico presented me with a Resolution last November and that the President of the Puerto Rican Senate, the Honorable Kenneth McClintock, invited me to attend the unveiling of the names of Puerto Rico’s fallen heroes in “El Monumento de la Recordacion” this Memorial Day with all expenses paid. Picture on the right, (L-R), Mrs. McClintock, myself, Senator McClintock and my wife, Milagros.I went to Puerto Rico with my family and to my pleasure, was surprised to see how my island had changed in the last 18 years, it was wonderful. This humble servant was expecting to attend the ceremonies on Memorial Day as a simple spectator, therefore, I was totally unprepared to what happened to me and I would like to share this with my closest friends.On Monday, May 26, 2008, I was publicly recognized by the Government of Puerto Rico as a Historian who has written the biographies of prominent Puerto Ricans who have served in the military. I was invited to the Puerto Rican Capitol Building and in the presence of my wife Milagros, members of the Puerto Rican Senate and the Camera, was presented with a gift by the President of the Puerto Rican Senate, the Honorable Kenneth McClintock. Also, present in my recognition was the former President of the United States Bill Clinton and his wife, New York State Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Brigadier General Hector Pagan, the Deputy Commanding General of the United States Army Special Warfare Center and School, presented me with a medal of excellence. I was also recognized in speech given by Mr. De La Luce, in representation of Luis G. Fortuño, the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico to the United States Congress, during the ceremonies held in front of the Capital Building in which the names of Puerto Rico’s fallen soldiers were unveiled. When McClintock made his speech and mentioned my name, he made me stand up and I received the applause of those present.As I have said before, I do not believe that I deserve such recognition’s, but what really made me feel good was when my granddaughter and children told me how proud they were of me. I am sending a couple of pictures to share with you.Tony Santiago
Tony the Marine
Civil War buffs may remember that it was David Farragut who uttered, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” as he rallied Union sailors in the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864 in Alabama.
What may have been lost in the mists of time, however, is Farragut’s heritage: His father was Spanish, and his mother was American. The man who was made a full admiral in 1866 was one of 20,000 warriors in the conflict who claim Hispanic or Latino heritage.
That’s the emphasis of a 40-page National Parks Service book, “Hispanics and the Civil War: From Battlefield to Homefront,” which outlines the contributions to the war effort, whether North or South.
Or West. It’s easy to overlook the pivotal role that California and the West played in the War Between the States. Not only did Californians fight in the war, but California was considered a key part of the Confederacy’s strategy. As Confederates tried to create a corridor from Texas to California, skirmishes and battles occurred throughout the Southwest, and Latinos played a key role, the book reminds us.
Their loyalties were divided. The Mexican government did not allow slavery, and many Latinos took that stance. (After the war with Mexico ended in 1848, they became U.S. citizens as Mexico ceded these lands.) But some residents of the New Mexico Territory relied on forced labor so their sentiments lay closer to their Southern counterparts. Thus Latinos were apt to turn up on either side of the battle.
One of the pivotal encounters was the Battle of Glorieta Pass, an 1862 engagement in New Mexico Territory. Union forces finally tipped the scale by attacking and destroying a Confederate supply train. That action, the book says, was under the command of Lt. Col. Manuel Chavez, another one of the 20,000 whose stories are now being told.
The book costs $4.95 and is available at many national parks or through the website.