Hartland in the Civil War – Part 4


(Fourth Installment, June, 2013)

by Les Motschman

The last installment in this series comprised firsthand accounts of camp life in Virginia as experienced by the “Nine Months” men of the Second Vermont Infantry Brigade. I enjoyed reading the 60 letters Pvt. James Bowers wrote to his young wife, Maroa. I thought they gave good insight into how the men were spending their time, their thoughts about the war and home, and how they coped with the danger posed by not just the rebs but also the ever-present threat of disease. While working on that issue, I was trying to acquire copies of the “Hammond” letters Howard Coffin cites several times in Nine Months to Gettysburg and refers to in his latest book Something Abides: Discovering the Civil War in Today’s Vermont. Coffin thanks long-time Hartland resident Sidney Hammond for giving him copies. I received the copies from Sid’s son, John, just as I finished the last issue, so I will write a little about them now.

The 44 Hammond letters are mostly from 20-year-old Jabez writing to his father, Dan, in West Windsor. Three are from Dan to Jabez, wanting to know everything that his “four little boys were doing in the Great Big War.” There were four Hammond brothers in Co. A of the 12th Vermont Infantry Regiment. Ira was the oldest at 27; as a teamster, his duties were different from those of most of the men. Pvt. Bowers in his letters referred to a “Lieutenant Hammond,” who would have been 26-year-old Stephen. Harler was the next in age, and Jabez, the youngest, was a corporal. His duties included making up the details for picket duty and guard duty at the camp. Dan refers to his sons by several nicknames, and Sid wrote that he didn’t always know who was who. Jabez sometimes signed as Bogus; other names were Lightfoot, Scratchass, Deacon, and The Orderly.

Both Bowers and Hammond wrote a lot about their health and how others in the company were doing. In return, the letters from home included health updates on the family members and neighbors. I think people must have been very thankful when they were enjoying good health  because they knew when they weren’t feeling well it could turn into something serious, especially in the camps.  Surprisingly, another topic both men wrote a lot about, especially when spring came, was when they would head back to Vermont. It seems to have been a major topic of discussion in camp. They weren’t sure if their nine months started when they enlisted, or left home for Brattleboro, or were sworn into the U. S. Army. Both men mentioned late May as a possible end of their service. Their last letters around the middle of June when they were aware some big battle might be shaping up, indicated they were sure July 4th was the last day the Army could keep them. Both men repeated rumors either that they might be released early or that the Army wouldn’t let them go in the middle of the “fighting season” and they would involuntarily be extended three to six months. July 14, 1863, was in fact the day the men in the 12th Vermont Regiment were mustered out of the Army.

Sid Hammond first encountered the packet of letters in his grandmother’s bureau drawer, as an eleven-year-old interested in stamp collecting. He was told he must not tamper with them in any way. Home from college in 1949, Sid noticed that his father, confined to bed with an illness, was reading them. Sid spent many hours that summer transcribing them into typewritten pages to make them easier to read.

When he had five children of his own, they used the typed letters for reports and term papers at school. Sid did not see the original letters again until 1982, when he learned another Hammond family had them. They


gave the letters to Sid, and he went to work again to decipher the handwriting and the sometimes confusing capitalization and punctuation. He created the fine 60-plus page folder I enjoyed spending a few hours with, a welcome addition to the Hartland Historical Society.

Sid was Jabez Hammond’s great-grandson. Sid owned a farm on Mace Hill Rd. near the center of town. Sid’s son John now owns the farm, and John’s son Jabez Hammond lives there. Sid died in 2000.

[These letters are available to read at vermontcivilwar.org/units/12/Hammond.php.  You will see a description, and then can click on the dates for individual letters.]

Chancellorsville  Campaign

The second issue in our Civil War series ended with the disastrous Union defeat at Fredericksburg, Virginia, on December 13, 1862. Both the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia remained in the Fredericksburg area for the winter. President Lincoln relieved Gen. Burnside of his command January 25, 1863. He was replaced by one of his corps commanders, Gen. Joseph Hooker, who worked through the winter to restore morale and get his army ready for a spring offensive. By the end of April, Gen. Hooker had the best equipped army yet as well as a plan to divide his forces and trap Gen. Lee’s rebel army. The battle of Chancellorsville was a series of battles from May 1st to 6th, 1863.

First, in an attempt to distract Lee, Gen. John Sedgwick took the First and Sixth Army Corps across the Rappahannock near Fredericksburg, and made another assault on Marye’s Heights, site of the worst fighting in December. Attack after attack was repulsed, but the Confederate force wasn’t as large as before, so by noon Sedgwick’s forces broke through and headed for Chancellorsville ten miles away. The 1st Vermont Infantry Brigade was attached to the First Corps, so Hartland men in the 3rd, 4th and 6th regiments were at Marye’s Heights. Corp. Roderick Bagley was wounded and taken prisoner there May 3. He was paroled June 23 but didn’t return to the 3rd Vermont.

As Sedgwick’s troops moved to the rear of Lee’s forces, they encountered a Confederate division at Salem Heights, sent to beat back the Union threat. The Vermont 3rd, 4th, and 5th regiments fought there, while the 6th did gallant service at nearby Bank’s Ford. There the 6th drove back the rebs and took 250 prisoners. Samuel Jones was wounded there May 4.

Meanwhile, Gen. Hooker, with the main Union force, was trying to circle Lee’s army, unfortunately without adequate reconnaissance from the cavalry. They found themselves in an area known as The

Wilderness, a country of stunted, scrubby holly and cedar trees tangled in webs of vine and briars. Gen. Hooker called a halt near Chancellorsville as they could not see the enemy. Confederate Generals J.E.B. Stuart and Stonewall Jackson knew the country well, so they engaged the Union in battle for four days.

It was horrible fighting in the thickets. Cannons belched grapeshot and canister at close range, setting the

woods on fire. The screams of the wounded as the fire approached were reportedly beyond description. Sedgwick and Hooker retreated across the river. Hooker lost 17,000 men. Lee lost 13,000, including his favorite General, Stonewall Jackson, who was shot by his own men while he was checking the lines at dusk.

[These accounts of the Battle of Chancellorsville are mostly from Howland Atwood’s notebook where he cites The Compact History of the Civil War.]


Chancellorsville was the last of a series of Union failures in Virginia, after each of which Lincoln changed commanders. Gen. Burnside’s whiskers inspired the term “sideburns.” It is said that Gen. Hooker’s name was appropriated to describe a certain kind of camp follower, a term that is still in use today. The Gen. Hooker equestrian statue guards the Hooker entrance to the Massachusetts State Capitol in Boston.

I have been to Fredericksburg twice. Like most battlefield parks, it has been preserved or restored to look as it did before the battle.  It’s a beautiful, peaceful place.  You can walk the broad slope where tens of  thou- sands of Union troops attacked in wave after wave. Thousands fell there, killed or wounded. Above you are the stone wall and sunken road defended by rebel infantry. From atop the hill called Marye’s Heights, the Confederate artillery rained fire on the open field. I wondered, as most men would, what was it like to have been there? What would I have done? As a noncombant Marine with several weeks of infantry training, I know something about discipline, following orders, and unit cohesiveness–but no one of us knows how we would perform in combat until tested. I think Pvt. Bowers speaks for most men when he wrote to his wife, “If I ever go into battle, I hope I shall be able to do my duty, and if I fall I hope to die in a good cause.”

War has always been part of human history and shows no sign of abating. Clans, sects and countries often take up arms to settle their differences. What draws men to fight? A little piece in the Vermont Civil War Sesquicentennial Visitor Guide gives some insight.

In June of 1863, Maj. Richard Crandall was home on leave from the 6th Vermont Regiment. He and a friend camped on the summit of Mt. Ascutney. On that early summer evening, Crandall talked of being part of Gen. John Sedgwick’s attack at Second Fredericksburg and remarked, “Oh, to have lived a minute then was worth a thousand years.”  Crandall was killed by a sharpshooter in the Cold Harbor trenches a year later.


The biggest battle ever fought in the Western Hemisphere

Books, reports, and accounts of the Battle of Gettysburg abound. The three-day battle on July 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, 1863, was the biggest of the Civil War. In Gettysburg are the largest number of  monuments of any Civil War battlefield, marking the spots where units served or officers fell. Gettysburg is the most visited Civil War battlefield; tourists have gone there since the smoke cleared. In 2013, the 150th year since the battle, tens of thousands of re-enactors and about 200,000 visitors are expected in the weeks just before and after the battle dates.

Maintaining my theme, I will not try to describe the entire massive battle, instead concentrating on where Hartland men were. I will make a couple of exceptions though, for some Vermont units without Hartland men that earned everlasting glory for little Vermont at pivotal points in the battle that turned out to be the pivotal battle of the whole War. The Civil War exhibit at the Vermont Historical Society building in Barre indicates that 11 Vermont regiments were at Gettysburg where the 13th, 14th, and 16th Regiments and the 1st Cavalry saw most of the action.

In his 1960 book Civil War, Bruce Catton writes that Chancellorsville was Gen. Lee’s most brilliant victory, but won at a heavy cost. Lee knew he was winning the battles but losing a war of attrition. Lee’s army numbered just 60,000 at Chancellorsville, half of “Fighting Joe” Hooker’s army. If not for Hooker’s caution


and unfamiliarity with the terrain, the Confederate army might have been crushed. Lee decided to mount another daring raid on the North while he still could. A major decisive Union defeat in Pennsylvania would so alarm the populace in the North that it might bring an end to the war on terms favorable to the South. Lee knew if he lost in Union territory, he might very well lose his army and the war.

President Lincoln was devastated by Hooker’s loss. Hooker wanted to make another move on Richmond. Lincoln said “No, Lee’s army must be the ‘objective point.’ ” Federal columns started north in pursuit of Lee’s invading army. It was certain that the two armies would soon meet again in a full battle. Lincoln thought Hooker was the wrong man to have in command, so on June 28 he replaced him with Maj. Gen. George Meade, a corps commander. Gettysburg seemed like a likely battle site as roads from all directions converged there. Lee’s Southern army approached from the north. Meade’s Northern army approached from the south.

Also on June 28, the Vermont First Cavalry Regiment was attached to the U. S. Cavalry. As the cavalry gained experience, it became a better match for Confederate Gen. J. E. B. Stuart’s daring, skilled horsemen. The Vermont Humanities Council’s weekly Civil War paper of June 7 states that the Gettysburg Campaign started with the Battle of Brandy Station on June 9, 1863. The Union Cavalry discovered that Lee’s army was on the move. Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle of the war and both sides had hundreds of casualties. Stuart was deeply embarrassed that the Union attack had taken him by surprise.

As reported earlier, one of the main cavalry functions was to provide information to commanders on the enemy’s strength and position. Gen. Hooker had just suffered a terrible defeat because he sent his army into battle not fully knowing the terrain or the enemy’s exact strength and location. The Union cavalry was away trying to destroy railroads above Richmond in an effort to cut off supplies to the Confederate Army. Just a few weeks later, it was Lee’s turn to be maneuvering blind. When the invading army entered Pennsylvania, Lee’s three infantry corps and cavalry were widely separated. Their presence had the desired effect as it caused widespread panic. Yet, with J. E. B. Stuart’s cavalry raiding well to the east, Lee did not know that the Union army had left Virginia and was closing fast on him. As all roads led to Gettysburg, that was the handiest place to concentrate his forces.

July First

The first Confederate troops to enter Gettysburg were looking for shoes. They encountered Union cavalry there and skirmished with them. As more troops from both armies poured in, the fighting intensified. The Confederates pushed the Union forces out of the town and formed a defensive line along Seminary Ridge.

When the battle opened, the Sixth Army Corps, including the First Vermont Brigade with several Hartland men, was still in Maryland 30 miles away. That evening, they started for Gettysburg. Gen. John Sedgwick gave his famous order to “put the Vermonters ahead and keep the column well closed.”

Meanwhile, the Second Vermont Brigade led by hard-driving Gen. Stannard, had stopped for the night at Emmitsburg, Maryland. Stannard received an order from Gen. John Reynolds, Commander of the First Army Corps, to hasten to join him as he was nearing Gettysburg and expected to be attacked that day. The weary Vermonters, including about three dozen Hartland men who had been marching for six days, hit the road. Soon, orders were received to detail the 12th and 15th to guard the First Corps wagon train. The majority of Hartland men were in the 12th, so they would not be engaged in the great battle. The 13th, 14th, and 16th arrived the evening of the first day of the bloody battle. The First Corps had entered the battle as soon as they arrived. Gen. Reynolds was killed. The Union troops were forced to give ground until Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock took command and rallied Union forces to retake some lost ground.


The fighting had died down for the night and most of the Second Vermont Brigade was told to sleep on the ground in full dress with their rifles by their sides. One third of the 16th was assigned picket duty. Those 200 men spent a warm and fearful night among the dead and wounded on the battlefield between the armies. Seven Hartland men in Co. H of the 16th were Charles Alexander, Thomas Benjamin, William Dodge, Charles S. Gardner, Thomas Lenehan, Lewis J. M. Marcy, and Thomas Tracy. They would have been the ones fighting at Gettysburg. Benjamin and Gardner were wounded July Third.

July Second

When Gen. Meade arrived with the main Union army, the Federal forces immediately seized Cemetery Hill, Cemetery Ridge, and Culp’s Hill. As more Union forces entered the battlefield, the nearly three-mile Union line took the shape of a giant fishhook. The 1,500 soldiers in the Second Vermont Brigade found themselves to be near the center of the line somewhat to the rear, close to Gen. Meade’s headquarters. The Hartland men in the 12th accompanied the Corps wagon train to Rock Creek Church, about two and a half miles from the battlefield.  Company B, which included 26 Hartland men, was sent forward to guard the ammunition wagons at the edge of the battlefield.

The fighting was mostly on the right and left flanks of the Union line. The fighting on the left was especially fierce, with hundreds of casualties. The Union line was getting thin in places. Late in the day, Lee sent even more troops against the blue line in an attempt to roll it towards the center and possibly break through. A Minnesota regiment was brought to the line and quickly lost four-fifths of its men. The three regiments of the Second Vermont Brigade were still resting on Cemetery Hill. They formed up and marched at double quick a mile down the Tanneytown Road to where the battle was loudest. As soon as the Vermonters leading the First Corps crested the ridge, they were in the thick of the battle, firing and taking fire. The Union line held and the second bloody day of the battle ended. That night, men from the 16th were again sent out onto the battlefield to do picket duty among the dead and dying. The 13th and 14th dug in along the line to make their position more secure for the battle that would surely take place the next day.

The seasoned Vermonters of the First Brigade came in at the head of the 15,000-man Sixth Corps near the end of the fighting. The exhausted troops were deployed at the extreme left of the Union line to replace men lost in the day’s fighting. The “Old Brigade” would not have to fight at Gettysburg.

July Third

As another hot day dawned, the Confederates attacked Culps Hill on the right end of the Union line. The Second Vermont Brigade took occasional cannon fire. One shot hit an ammunition wagon and killed or wounded several men of the 14th. Mid-morning, the Confederates called off the attack and quiet settled over the battlefield. After noon, the men could see movement along Seminary Ridge a mile away across the open battlefield. At one o’clock, a single cannon shot signaled 150 Confederate cannon along a two-mile line to commence firing. When Federal cannon joined in, over 275 cannon were engaged in a great artillery duel. Lt. Benedict, an aide to Gen. Stannard, described it: “The air seemed filled with flying missiles. Shells whizzed and popped on every side. Spherical case exploded over us and rained down iron bullets. Canister hurtled around us and round shot plowed up the ground.”

Howard Coffin in Nine Months to Gettysburg says the men of the Second Brigade laid face down on the ground under a hot mid-day sun during the artillery barrage which lasted over two hours. Many men were wounded by shrapnel, and some  were killed, but as Cemetery Ridge is only a gentle rise, many of the shells passed over the front lines and landedfar in the rear. The fire wreaked havoc on supply wagons and support troops. Many horses were maimed or killed. At Gen. Meade’s headquarters, an orderly serving lunch was torn in half by a shell. The men of the 16th still out on the field on picket were in the safest place as shot from both sides sailed over them. Incredibly, there were reports that many men lying in the hot sun were lulled to


sleep by the constant din. Through it all, Gen. Stannard and his staff stood erect or walked among the lines.

Around 3 p.m., Union cannons let up. Soon the Confederates stopped shelling as well. The silence was awesome. Men woke up, the wounded were taken to the rear, and officers checked their men. The Vermonters seemed to be in good condition. They understood that the intense fire directed at them near the Union center was a prelude to an infantry attack. Remember that the entire Second Brigade was made up of Nine Months men whose enlistments were just about up. The men in the 12th would be back in Vermont in less than a week. One can only imagine how many prayers they offered up from the battlefield that day. If they could just get through this battle, they’d be headed home.

As the smoke cleared from the battlefield, Vermonters could see long ranks of gray-clad soldiers emerging from the rebel line, battle flags unfurled and bayonets gleaming. Lee had ordered more than 12,000 men to attack the middle of the long Union line. Major General George Pickett and 5,000 Virginians led the charge. Union cannon opened fire and blew holes in the gray ranks, but still they came at a quick pace. No officer had to give the men of the 16th an order to leave the picket line; they rose, fired once, and ran to the Union lines. Gen. Stannard ordered the men not to fire until the rebs were near. The broad line of attack seemed to be focused on a small copse of trees to the Vermonters’ right as the whole mass of confederates veered that way. Now the rebels were passing across the front of the Vermont regiments at a distance of a thousand feet. The 14th rose and let loose a volley followed by the 13th.

The volleys did damage to the rebel attack, but some had breached the Union line and headed for the cannons. Gen. Stannard saw an opportunity and gave what Coffins calls “the order of his life and maybe of the whole war.” He ordered the 13th and 16th to form up on the field and make a line so they could fire at short range directly into the Confederate flank. The Vermonters were not experienced in battle, but they had spent many hours in camp drilling. They jogged in formation a hundred yards down the field to get closer to the rebs and then executed a complex drill maneuver peeling off company by company to quickly form a 900-man firing line close to the rebel flank. The field was littered with Confederate casualties, but their soldiers were still pressing the center of the Union line hard, with bayonet fighting along Cemetery Ridge.

The Vermonters fired no more than 8 to 12 rounds, but every bullet took effect at such short range. Some of the attackers turned on the Vermonters. The Confederates were taking canister fire at their front and musket fire on three sides. Finally, rebs were throwing down their guns and running towards the Vermonters to surrender. Colonel Randall, the 13th’s commander, ran in front of his men ordering them to cease fire, and then directed the rebs into his lines, thus saving many Southern lives.

Where Confederate troops engaged Union defenders on Cemetery Ridge is considered the “High Water Mark of the Confederacy.” The repulse of Pickett’s Charge dashed the South’s hopes of a great victory on Northern soil. Although the War would last almost another two years, the momentum was now with the Union. The next day, July Fourth, Vicksburg, 1,000 miles away, was surrendered to Gen. U. S.  Grant. The Union now controlled the entire Mississippi River.

Late in the battle, Gen. Stannard was wounded but, he stayed on the field until the end of the fighting. He is credited as the first Vermonter to volunteer when war was declared. In 1867 the Vermont Legislature named a town in his honor. His statue stands atop on a very tall column on the battlefield where he commanded the Second Vermont Brigade. The Second Vermont suffered 46 killed, 240 wounded, and 56 missing. Some wounded died weeks later in Vermont and some veterans suffered physical or mental disability for years.

Also late in the battle, the 1st Vermont Cavalry, then part of the U. S. Cavalry, participated in an ill-conceived charge with five killed, 16 wounded and 55 missing. This may have been where Hartland’s  Capt. Oliver Cushman was wounded. Cushman left Dartmouth early in the war to join the Cavalry. The Cushmans lived on what is now known as the Hoisington Farm.


July Fourth

The exhausted troops of the 13th, 14th, and 16th were told to go and sleep in the rear. It started raining in the night and accounts indicate most men slept for hours lying on the ground in the pouring rain. Gen. Lee prepared his army to be attacked. True to form, the Union Commander, Meade, did not think his army was in good enough shape to press Lee. The Confederates started slipping away toward the Potomac. After hearing from President Lincoln, Meade mounted a half-hearted pursuit. Lee’s 17-mile-long train consisted of not only the army and its supplies, but also 10,000 animals accumulated from Pennsylvania farms as well as Union prisoners. The train’s progress was stalled at the Potomac crossing, where the troops set up a strong defensive position. The Union force sent to pursue encountered the Confederates on July 10th. The Third Infantry Regiment was on the front line of a fierce fight known as the Battle of Funkstown. Hartland soldier Thomas Leonard was wounded there. The Army of Northern Virginia returned to Virginia able to fight another day.

In describing where Vermonters were at Gettysburg, I have used Howland Atwood’s notebook, and of course Howard Coffin’s Nine Months to Gettysburg. Coffin says he wrote Nine Months because he didn’t think Vermonters get enough credit in the history books for the important work they did there. I have also referred to Coffin’s first book, Full Duty. I have the book that was Coffin’s main source for Nine Months, the 900-page History of the 13th Regiment, Vermont Volunteers, which Coffin calls one of the best regimental histories from the Civil War. Pvt. Ralph Sturtevant spent his whole life writing this history and gathering individual accounts and pictures of the nearly 1,000-man 13th Regiment. My great-grandfather, Marcus Best, from the northwestern Vermont town of Highgate was a tentmate of Sturtevant’s and was in an Alexandria hospital at the time of Gettysburg. The book was published nearly 50 years after Gettysburg and a couple years after Sturtevant’s death.

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In the last issue, I indicated I would like to hear about your Civil War ancestors, even if they are not connected to Hartland. The newsletters will end with whatever HHS members give me to share with you.

I’ll go first.  I mentioned Marcus Best above. Sturtevant writes that the fever Best had in camp affected him the rest of his life. Still, he was a farmer and ran a store for a while. He also had seven children with three wives. The youngest, my grandfather, Guy Best, came with Marcus when he moved to Reading late in life.  Guy Best lived in Hartland his entire adult life.

Life-long Hartland resident Edith Barrell White has two connections to the Hartland Roster. Perry Lam-phere was her grandfather, John F. Barrell’s half-brother. Lamphere was in the 6th Vermont Infantry Regt. From October 15, 1861 to January 1, 1864. He died of disease in New York City and is buried in the  Hartland Village Cemetery. John F. Barrell’s oldest brother, Hubbard, went to the Civil War from Connecticut. Another brother, Edgar Barrell, enlisted October 19, 1861 in the 6th New Hampshire. Infantry Regt. From Plainfield, He was wounded at Second Battle of Bull Run, August 29, 1862.

  • William Barker was Edith’s great-grandfather. He was in the 14th New Hampshire. Infantry Regt. and died in a Washington, D.C. hospital.
  • Another great-grandfather, Auria Luce, enlisted October 16th, 1863, in the 17th Vermont Infantry Regt. from Royalton. He spent the last year of the war in a hospital.


  • A third great-grandfather, Andrew Gallagher of Roxbury, Massachusetts served in the 4th Massachusetts Cavalry during the last year of the war.

The other Hartland connection is that John F. Barrell’s oldest sister married Oscar Davis, one of the Davis twins in the 12th Vermont Infantry Regiment.  Although a “Nine Months’ Man,” he served only six months, so he would have missed the long march and Gettysburg.  [Thanks, Edith, for this information.]

A Southern Family in the Civil War

[A Southern Family in the Civil War was submitted by Fielding L. Williams of Richmond, Virginia and Hartland, Vermont.

The Civil War had a tragic impact on families on both sides. Juxtaposed against stories of Hartland families are stories of southern families, such as that of Lewis B. Williams. In 1861 he was a lawyer in Orange, Virginia, in practice with his son, Lewis B. Williams, Jr., age 28, a graduate of Virginia Military Institute.

By early 1861 seven Southern states had seceded from the Union. Virginia was not one of them and was undecided as to what course to follow. The Virginia legislature called for an election of delegates to a special convention to decide whether Virginia should secede. Lewis Williams was opposed to secession and ran as a delegate in support of the Union.  He was defeated by a secessionist candidate.

The delegates convened in Richmond, Virginia, on February 13. After weeks of debate, and despite the secession of other states, on April 4, by a vote of 90 to 45, the delegates voted that Virginia should not secede. Eight days later, on April 12, the Confederacy attacked Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. Still Virginia failed to act. Then, on April 15, President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers from all states to put down the rebellion. This meant Virginia must turn against sister Southern states, and it aroused anti-unionism to the point that, on April 17, the convention approved Virginia’s secession by a vote of 88 to 55.

Lewis Williams, Jr., immediately joined the Confederate army and was appointed a Captain in the 13th Virginia Infantry Regiment. Wounded, captured and released in 1862, he rose to the rank of Colonel, and on July 3, 1863, he commanded the 1st Virginia Regiment at Gettysburg in the attack on Union positions known as Pickett’s Charge. Because he was ill on that day, he was granted permission to ride a horse as he led his troops in the attack, making him an especially vulnerable target. As he crossed the field, he was struck by a shell that severed his spinal cord, and when he fell from his horse, he landed on his drawn sword. He died after four days of agony and was buried on the battlefield.

Burial of Confederate dead at Gettysburg was understandably haphazard. There were more than 3,000 bodies to be dealt with. Unlike the Federal dead who were reburied in a special battlefield cemetery, the Confederates, regarded as traitors by the Federal Government, were left in shallow graves or trenches. Their ultimate removal and reburial is a story in itself.  Colonel Williams’ body was shipped to Baltimore by friends in 1863 and later, in 1896, was removed to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, and was buried next to General George Pickett.

Lewis Williams, the father who had ardently opposed Virginia’s leaving the Union, had subsequently become a loyal supporter of the Confederate cause and lost to it his beloved namesake.

The havoc caused by the Civil War is very sad, but there is consolation in the perspective of historian Shelby Foote: Before the war it was always “the United States are.” After the war it became “the United States is.”  It made us one.

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Thanks to Susan Motschman for typing and layout and to Pat Richardson for help editing.


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