Relative talks about his battle wound at his grave site in Salisbury Township.

They were farmers, painters and watchmakers. Saddlers, millers and carpenters.

Boys from towns like Easton. And men from tiny hamlets like Bath.

Almost all of the 993 soldiers in the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment hailed from Northampton County. They were people of the soil. Novice soldiers naive to the horror of war.

Many were young — about 80 under the age of 18 and as green as 12, posing as men so they could fight for their country.

A few were much older — about 25 over the age of 45 and as seasoned as 54, shaving gray beards to blend with the crowd.

Some boldly proclaimed they enlisted "to maintain the independence of the greatest country on the face of the earth." Others simply wanted to escape a home where their drunken father abused their mother.

There were 83 sets of brothers. Nine sets of fathers and sons. Countless uncles, nephews, neighbors and friends.

Just two months after a defeat at the hands of famed Confederate Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson in Chancellorsville, Va., the boys from Northampton County were back on their native soil.

On the morning of July 1, 1863 — 150 years ago Monday — 530 to 575 men from the 153rd Pennsylvania marched 10 miles at a dog-trot pace to a grassy hill on the northeast corner of the small town of Gettysburg.

Disguised by a thicket of trees, the Confederate Army waited. What happened that afternoon does not fill chapters of the many histories written about one of the world's most famous battles. The regiment did not make a courageous bayonet charge on Little Round Top like the 20th Maine, which immortalized those men and saved the Union's left flank. The 153rd did not repulse Pickett's Charge on July 3, the turning point of the war.

But many Northampton County men bled and died on that grassy hill. About a dozen lie buried in Gettysburg National Cemetery. The others returned home and their gravestones dot the Lehigh Valley.

Some of their lives are long forgotten, but many are remembered through descendants who tell the story and honor their sacrifice.

The battle

Within minutes of forming a line of battle along a creek north of Gettysburg in the early afternoon of July 1, the 153rd would fight in one of the first skirmishes of what would become the bloodiest and most famous battle in American history. In less than two hours, the regiment would suffer shattering casualties.

It began as the 153rd approached a tree line near the creek where the Rebels had been spotted.

Lt. William Beaver dutifully repeated the command: "Forward men, forward!"

Beaver, of East Allen Township, was only 21 and single. Almost immediately after repeating the command, "Brave Beaver," as a comrade called him, was shot through the heart. He died immediately.

Daniel Weaver, 26, of Lower Saucon Township marched forward. He was using his pay to support his widowed mother, with whom he lived in a rented home.

As the troops came under fire from the Rebels, Weaver was in his proper place in line. The Confederates charged out of the woods and up the knoll. Another Rebel brigade, led by Gen. Jubal Early, attacked from the east.

Along with regiments from New York, the 153rd had been poorly positioned by Brig. Gen. Francis C. Barlow, a New Yorker who was unpopular with the men.