Luzerne County soldiers fought at Gettysburg


First Posted: 5/16/2013

Its not widely known, but a Union soldier who won the Medal of Honor at the Battle of Gettysburg attended school in Wyoming Borough.

James May Rutter, for whom Rutter Avenue in Kingston is named, went to school at what was then known as the Luzerne Presbyterian Institute and today is known as the Wyoming Institute. The historic building, which was built in 1843, still stands at the end of Institute Street.

Apprenticed as a machinist, Rutter enlisted in Company C of the Pennsylvania Volunteer 143rd Infantry Regiment at Mill Hallow, present-day Luzerne.

During the Battle of Gettysburg, Rutter was a sergeant. He won the Medal of Honor for, among other heroic acts, rescuing his wounded captain under heavy fire.

Learn about Rutter, Colonel R. Bruce Ricketts, for whom Ricketts Glen State Park is named, and other Luzerne County soldiers, regiments and units who fought at Gettysburg in the booklet “Stories and Images of Luzerne County Soldiers at Gettysburg.”

The booklet was published by the Luzerne County Historical Society in April and co-authored by Jenkins Township resident William Lewis with Anthony T. P. Brooks, Stephen B. Killian, Angela Lopez and Peter Tomsak.

Lewis, of Jenkins Township, is a member of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and Chairman of the Publications Committee for the County Historical Society.

“What we’re trying to do,” Lewis said, “as we did with the Titanic book on the 100th anniversary, is put together small books about historic events that can be read in an hour or two and tie them to a anniversary of the event when people’s interest is piqued.”

This year is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Lewis said that, in 1863, Luzerne County also encompassed Lackawanna County, which wasn’t formed until after the Civil War and that a full treatment of Luzerne County involvement at Gettysburg could fill a 500-page book.

Lewis and the authors will sign books at Barnes and Noble in Wilkes-Barre Township on June 15. The book is also available at the Luzerne County Historical Society on Franklin Street in Wilkes-Barre.

The Historical Society’s next book project will be about President Kennedy’s visit to the Valley as a candidate in 1960.

It will be published next year, the 50th anniversary year of Kennedy’s assassination.

Lewis was nominated to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission by Gov. Tom Corbett last May and confirmed by the State Senate last June.

Lewis and his wife, Dr. Mary Ellen Judge Lewis, are the parents of four children.

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