Pender County, NC - Photographs

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General William Pender - Confederate Hero

"Our Heritage"
By Claude Moore

Last week in my column on the role of North Carolina in the War Between the States, I mentioned that William Dorsey Pender was one of the eight major generals from North Carolina in the War.

He died on July 18, 1863, as a result of wounds received at the Battle of Gettysburg. Pender County was named for him in 1875 & a monument was dedicated to him on the courthouse square in Burgaw.

William D. Pender was born on February 6, 1834, on a plantation near Tarboro & was the son of James & Sarah Pender. He attended common schools & at the age of 15 went to Tarboro to clerk in a store owned by his brother, Robert.

In 1850 he received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He graduated in 1854 & stood 19th in a class of 47.

Among his classmates were G. W. Custis Lee, (son of General R. E. Lee), J. E. B. Stuart & John Pegram. He received a commission as Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

Lt. Pender was first stationed with the Second Artillery at Fort Myers, Florida. He was later transferred to the First Regiment of Dragoons in New Mexico & then to the Washington Territory.

He saw action in an engagement with the Apache Indians at Spokane Plains on November 28, 1859.

Young Pender came home on leave & was married on March 3, 1859 to Fannie Shepherd, a daughter of the Honorable A. H. Shepherd, a member of Congress from Salem. Her brother, Samuel Shepherd had been a fellow cadet of Pender's at West Point. She went with him to his outpost in the Washington Territory.

He took part in several expeditions against the Indians on the West Coast. He was then transferred to San Francisco & while there a son, Samuel, was born. He was later transferred to recruiting duty in Pennsylvania.

Early in 1861 Pender was home on leave & seven states had already sceded from the Union.

He resigned his commission & reported to Montgomery, Alabama & was given a commission as Captain in the Artillery of the Provisional Army. After North Carolina seceded from the Union (May 20, 1861) Captain Pender was given commission by Governor Ellis, as lieutenant colonel in the 1st N.C. Regiment.

He was engaged in training recruits at Camp Mangum near Raleigh & later at Garysburg. Lieutenant Colonel Pender was promoted to Colonel & was assigned to command the 3rd N.C. Volunteers at Suffolk, Virginia.

Another son, William Dorsey, Jr. was born in May, 1861.

In August 1861, Colonel Pender was given command of the 6th N.C. Regiment. He showed unusual bravery by leading his men in battle at the Battle of Manassas.

In a letter to his wife, he states that he was baptized into the Episcopal Church on October 8, 1861 at Camp Hill, Virginia. He was later confirmed at Monumental Episcopal Church in Richmond.

For the remainder of the winter of 1861-62, Colonel Pender was stationed at Camp Barton near Fredericksburg. During the Peninsula Campaign, Colonel Pender was assigned to the Confederate left as General McClellan approached Richmond. He showed such military skill & bravery at the Battle of Seven Pines that he was promoted on the field of battle by President Jefferson Davis to the rank of Brigadier General.

Pender's brigade lost about one third of its men in the Seven Days Battle around Richmond. They were engaged at the Second Battle of Manassas & at the Battle at Sharpsburg (Md.) in September, 1862.

General Pender took part in the Battle of Fredericksburg in December, 1862. He went into winter quarters. His brigade took part in the Battle of Chancellorsville, May 1863. After the battle, General Pender was promoted to the rank of Major General at the age of 29 & was given command of a Light Division.

General Lee wrote of General Pender when recommending him for promotion to President Davis, "Pender is an excellent officer, attentive, industrious & brave, has been conspicuous in every battle & I believe wounded in almost all of them."

On July 2, 1863, during the bloodiest of the fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg, General Pender was riding to the left of his line, when the enemy opened fire with 350 pieces of artillery.

He was wounded in the thigh & was given leave to come home to North Carolina for recuperation. He arrived at Staunton, Virginia & while there would begin to hemorrhage. A surgeon attempted to mend the artery but it was not successful.

General Pender died on July 18, 1863 & his body was carried to Tarboro where he was buried in the churchyard at Calvary Episcopal Church.

A stained glass window was later placed in the church in his memory. Mrs. Pender continued to live in Tarboro where she died in 1922.


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This file was contributed for use in the USGenWeb Archives by
Guy Potts -

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