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Hispanic Heroes of the Union Army in the Civil War
When the American Civil War pitted North against South and abolitionists against slavers, the Hispanic community in the United States was also divided.
Mexicans, Cubans, Spaniards, Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics, as well as their American born descendants fought on both sides of the American Civil War. It is difficult to ascertain how many Hispanics fought on both sides. The number generally agreed on is 10,000 but the final figure could be upwards of 13,000.
Many died. Some became heroes for both sides and all fought with as much passion for their cause as every other American. Among the best known Hispanic units that fought for the Union are the 2nd Regiment of New Mexico Volunteers, the 1st Regiment of the Texas Cavalry, the 1st Battalion of Native Cavalry with the California Militia and the 4th D Company – the Spanish Company – of the 39th New York State Volunteers, the Garibaldi Guard.
Admiral Farragut and others who fought for the Union
Probably the most prominent Hispanic to wear the North’s blue uniform was David Farragut, the first ever to hold the ranks of rear admiral, vice admiral and full admiral in the U.S. Navy. The son of Spanish immigrant and Revolutionary War hero Jorge Farragut, Admiral Farragut became famous during the 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay when he uttered the famous, but inaccurately reported “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” order.
Other Hispanics that were prominent in the Union Army were:
* Julius Peter Garesché. With the rank of lieutenant colonel, the Cuban born Garesché served as chief of staff of the Cumberland Army under Major General William Rosecrans. As such, Garesché designed the defenses of Washington D.C. during the war. He was decapitated by a cannon ball at the Battle of Stones River.
* Miguel E. Pino. A colonel, this New Mexico native commanded the 2nd Regiment of New Mexico Volunteers at the 1862 battles of Valverde and Glorietta Pass, helping stop the Confederate invasion of his home state.
* Augusto Rodríguez. A lieutenant of the 15th Connecticut Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers, he was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Rodríguez participated in the defense of Washington D.C and in the 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg and 1865 Battle of Wyse Fork.
* Carlos de la Mesa. The Spanish born de la Mesa was a colonel who fought at Gettysburg as part of the Spanish Company of the Garibaldi Guard.
* Federico Fernández Cavada. Cuban born Fernández Cavada was the commander of the 114th Pennsylvania Volunteers at Gettysburg.
* Salvador Vallejo. The scion of an old Californio family, he was a major in one of the California corps that operated with the Union Army in the west.
Medal of Honor Recipients
During the conflict, three Hispanics, two of them sailors, won the Medal of Honor, just recently created by President Abraham Lincoln, for exceptional gallantry in combat. They were: Corporal Joseph H. De Castro, a member of Company 1, 19th Massachusetts Infantry; Seaman John Ortega, who served aboard the USS Saratoga and Seaman Philip Bazaar, a crew member of the USS Santiago de Cuba:
* De Castro, from Boston, was awarded the medal for his valor during Pickett's Charge in the Battle of Gettysburg. He was the first Hispanic so honored.
* Ortega, a Spanish immigrant, won the distinction during the South Atlantic Blockade and then Bazaar, a Chilean by birth, received the medal for his action during the attack of Fort Fisher.
Hollywood Ignores Luis Emilio
Captain Luis F. Emilio was an officer with the all black, but white led, 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The son of most likely Spanish, but maybe Cuban, immigrants, Emilio lied about his age and joined the Union Army in 1861 when he was 16 years old.
* Northern Military Advantages in the Civil War
* African Americans in the Civil War
* Planning a Civil War Wedding
His gallantry earned him quick promotions and by 1883, he was assigned to the 54th as a second lieutenant but moved up to captain within a month. After the brutal struggle on July 18, 1863 to take Fort Wagner, he was the only officer alive and therefore commander of the unit. He was part of the 54th for the next two years.
Following his discharge from the Union Army in 1865, he wrote a book: A Brave Black Regiment. The History of the 54th Massachusetts 1863-1865. Emilio’s book was the main source for the 1989 movie Glory. Oddly, his character does not appear in the film.