William Rufus Shafter was a Union officer in the Civil War. Born in 1835 in Michigan, he was in seminary at the outset of the Civil War and enlisted in the Union Army. About thirty years after the end of the Civil War, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for meritorious service pertaining to an incident on May 31, 1862. Shafter had been a lieutenant involved in bridge construction near Fair Oaks, Virginia when the Union forces were engaged by Confederate troops. Shafter left the bridge and took about twenty-two men to counter the Confederate attack. All but four of his troops were killed and he received a flesh wound and possibly other wounds. However, Shafter stayed on the field, concealing his wounds. In a later battle, he was captured by the Confederates and served three months in a prison camp in 1864 before being released. He was then assigned to the 17th United States Colored Infantry, which appears to be his command when the war ended. Shafter had been elevated to the rank of brevet brigadier general.
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