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William Dorsey Pender
Confederate General

Mortally Wounded at Gettysburg [Bibliography]

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Major-General William Dorsey Pender was born in Edgecomb county, N. C., February 6, 1834, at the country home of his father, James Pender, a descendant of Edwin Pender, who settled near Norfolk in the reign of Charles II. The mother of General Pender was Sarah Routh, daughter of William Routh, of Tidewater, Va. He was graduated at the United States military academy in 1854, the class of Custis Lee, Stephen D. Lee and J. E. B. Stuart. His first commissions were in the artillery, but in 1855 he secured a transfer to the First dragoons, and in 1858 was promoted first lieutenant. He had an active career in the old army, in New Mexico, California, Washington and Oregon, fighting the Apaches at Amalgre mountain, Four lakes and Spokane plains. He served as adjutant of his regiment during the latter months of 1860, and was then ordered on recruiting service at Carlisle, Pa. On March 3, 1859, he had married Mary Frances, daughter of Hon. Augustine H. Shepperd, of Salem, and after reaching Washington they made a visit to their native State. Here he observed the situation and determined to go with North Carolina, consequently resigning his commission and accepting that of captain of artillery in the Confederate army. His first service was in charge of the recruiting depot at Baltimore, whence he returned to North Carolina, and made ready for service the First, or Bethel, regiment. On May 16th, being post commandant at Garysburg, he was elected colonel of the Third infantry. He was with this command at Suffolk until in August, 1861, when he took command of Fisher's famous Sixth regiment at Manassas. At Seven Pines, while advancing into action, he suddenly found himself menaced on the flank and rear by a Federal command, but in a flash gave the order, "By the left flank, file right, double-quick," his splendidly-drilled regiment responding as if on parade, and before the enemy could complete his formation assailed with such vigor that all danger was past. A brigade joining in the attack was repulsed and Colonel Pender reformed its ranks with great coolness. President Davis, who witnessed his conduct, said to him on the field, "General Pender, I salute you," and three days later he was put in command of Pettigrew's brigade. His commission as brigadier-general was dated from this day, June 3d. At Beaver Dam he led two desperate assaults ordered against the Federal works, in which his men suffered great slaughter, but bore themselves as heroes. He fought next day at Cold Harbor, then at Frayser's Farm, and at Cedar Run, by a skillful and energetic flank movement, saved the day. At Second Manassas he exposed himself almost recklessly, fighting like Ney. At Chantilly he led the movement, and was again wounded. At Winchester, Harper's Ferry and Sharpsburg he was a heroic figure, and at Fredericks-burg, where he was wounded, he and his brigade received great praise for coolness and steadiness under heavy fire. At Chancellorsville, General Jackson, after receiving his fatal wound, recognized in the darkness the gallant Pender near him, and said, "You must hold your ground, General Pender, you must hold your ground, sir.'' This last command of Stonewall Jackson's was obeyed, and more, for in General Lee's report of the next day's fight, it is recorded that "General Pender led his brigade to the attack under a destructive fire, bearing the colors of a regiment in his own hands up to and over the intrench-ments, with the most distinguished gallantry.'' After the wounding of A. P. Hill, Pender took command of the "Light division," and was himself wounded in the battle. General Lee recommended his permanent assignment to this position, as "an excellent officer, attentive, industrious and brave; has been conspicuous in every battle, and I believe wounded in almost all of them." He was promoted major-general May 27, 1863. At this time he was just twenty-nine years of age, and very attractive as well as soldierly in appearance. His height was about five feet ten, his carriage graceful, complexion a clear olive, head faultless in shape, eyes large and lustrous. His manner was both dignified and modest. So reserved was he that Jackson knew him only by his gallantry in battle, the discipline of his troops and the orderliness of his camps, after Pender had fought under him in half a dozen battles. Pender's first battle as a major-general was Gettysburg, and unhappily it was his last. On July 1st his division drove the enemy from Seminary ridge. On the second day, while riding down his line to order an assault on Cemetery hill, he was struck by a fragment of shell and mortally wounded. He lived to be carried to Staunton on the retreat, where his leg was amputated July 18th, an operation which he survived only a few hours. His body was interred at Tarboro, in Calvary churchyard. His wife and three sons survived him, Samuel Turner, William D. and Stephen Lee Pender. Gen. G. C. Wharton has related, that in a conversation with A. P. Hill and himself, General Lee said: "I ought not to have fought the battle at Gettysburg; it was a mistake. But the stakes were so great I was compelled to play; for had we succeeded, Harrisburg, Baltimore and Washington were in our hands; and we would have succeeded had Pender lived." It is a tradition that Lee regarded him as the officer who should take the place of Stonewall Jackson. However that may be, General Lee wrote in his official report: "The loss of Major-General Pender is severely felt by the army and the country. He served with this army from the beginning of the war, and took a distinguished part in all its engagements. Wounded on several occasions, he never left his command in action until he received the injury that resulted in his death. His promise and usefulness as an officer were only equaled by the purity and excellence of his private life.'' Gen. A. P. Hill wrote: "No man fell during this bloody battle of Gettysburg more regretted than he, nor around whose youthful brow were clustered brighter rays of glory."
Confederate Military History
Side Confederate
State North Carolina
Born February 6, 1834
Pender's Crossroads, North Carolina
Died July 18, 1863
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Buried Calvary Church Cemetery
Tarboro, North Carolina

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