Edmund Rice was a native of Cambridge, Mass. who attended Norwich for nearly three years beginning in 1856. In 1861, at the age of 19, he mustered into the 19th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, embarking upon a lifelong career of service to his country. He is best remembered for receiving the Medal of Honor while repelling Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg.
Pickett’s Charge took place on the third day of the bloody battle. As thousands of Confederate infantrymen streamed toward a low stone wall, the 19th Massachusetts Volunteers, with then-Major Edmund Rice in command of Company F, rushed to fill a gap that opened in the Union front lines. Five members of the regiment would receive the Medal of Honor—four for capturing enemy colors and one, Major Rice, for his conspicuous bravery.
Rice was wounded three times during his four years of service in the Civil War, at the Battles of Antietam, Gettysburg, and Spotsylvania Court House. At the latter battle, he was taken prisoner but managed to escape and return to Union lines after an arduous journey on foot. He went on to take command of his regiment, and was present at the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House.
The 19th Massachusetts Volunteers disbanded after the Union claimed victory in the summer of 1865. One year later, wishing to dedicate his life to military service, Rice commissioned as a first lieutenant in the regular United States Army. He immediately received brevet promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel for his meritorious service in the war. He had a long and varied army career and retired in 1903 with the rank of brigadier general.
Norwich University granted Rice, who hadn’t formally completed his studies, an honorary bachelor’s degree in 1874 and a master’s degree in 1899. In the true spirit of a Norwich man, he held four patents for inventions of military equipment.
Rice is one of eight Norwich alumni who have received the Medal of Honor. Along with the other recipients, he is commemorated in the Medal of Honor Gallery located in Jackman Hall. The gallery recently received major improvements courtesy of the Sullivan Museum and History Center.
In addition to being a part of the Norwich legacy, Rice continues to be a part of the hands-on learning that is such a part of Norwich University. Staff rides offer on-campus and online students the opportunity to stand where great Norwich men have stood. This summer, Associate Professor of History Steven Sodergren’s annual Civil War staff ride will visit Gettysburg for the first time as they discuss the challenges that Edmund Rice and his compatriots faced.
To start learning more about Edmund Rice, check out his entry in the online Index to Norwich University Newspapers or ask Norwich University Archives staff about viewing the small Collection on Edmund Rice that is housed there.