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156 years ago yesterday, the 6th U.S. Cavalry had its biggest fight of the war a few short miles from Gettysburg, outside the small town of Fairfield, Pennsylvania. The understrength regiment had a brief fight with an entire brigade of Confederate cavalry which did not go well for the bluecoats. Among the dead from the battle was Private William Mottern of Company H.
William Mottern was born in Berks County, Pennsylvania in 1833. Prior to the Civil War he worked as a boatman. He enlisted into Company H on August 12, 1861 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His enlistment documents describe him a 5’ 6 ½” tall, with light hair, blue eyes, and a fair complexion.
Private Mottern served in the regiment’s “flank squadron,” the only squadron equipped with carbines until after the battle of Antietam. On July 3, 1863, his company was partnered with Company C under 2nd Lieutenant and former first sergeant Joseph Bould as the regiment’s reserve. When the Confederate cavalry broke the through the regiment’s thin defensive line, Bould countercharged to stem the attack. Priavte Mottern was killed in the melee.
Private William Mottern is buried alongside his regimental comrades in the cemetery at Gettysburg.