top of page

At Ease: Civil War Colonels - Leading the Charge!

Eagles and Stars

Colonels—commanders of regiments, and frequently taking over brigades out of chain of command necessity—were important officers on Civil War battlefields. They also penned many of the battle reports that form the Official Records, helping researchers piece together what happened in combat. It was challenging this week to pick which stories and officers to spotlight, and we hope you'll be pleased and surprised with the highlights. We enjoyed reading your answers to the survey!


Survey Results

Check out the survey results from last week and the answers to the question: who is your favorite Colonel from the Civil War? (Answers were not limited to officers in Central Virginia.)

  • Colonel Henry "Harry" King Burgwyn, Jr. (26th North Carolina Infantry Regiment)

  • Colonel Peyton H. Colquitt (46th Georgia Infantry Regiment)

  • Lt. Colonel Rufus Dawes (6th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment)

  • Colonel John Egbert Farnum (70th New York Infantry Regiment)

  • Colonel Patrick O'Rourke (140th New York Infantry Regiment)

  • Colonel James A. Beaver (148th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment)

  • Colonel Emory Upton (121st New York Infantry Regiment)

  • Colonel Strong Vincent (83rd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment)

  • Colonel John Singleton Mosby - 2 votes (43rd Battalion of Virginia Cavalyr, aka Mosby's Rangers)

  • Colonel Edward Cross (5th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment)

  • Colonel Edward Baily (21 New York Infantry Regiment)

  • Colonel Robert P. Cummins (142nd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment

Union and Confederate insignia for the rank of colonel


Winning General's Stars

One of the most famous colonels from the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House? Emory Upton. He launched an important attack and vowed to win his promotion to general through the effort. The new video explores the moment of attack:


Colonel John D. Kennedy

Commanding the 2nd South Carolina Infantry, Colonel John D. Kennedy led troops to the aid of Cobb's men defending the Sunken Road during the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862. In the words of his brigade commander, Joseph B. Kershaw: "...I was directed to send two regiments into the city to the support of General Cobb then engaged with part of his brigade at the foot of Marye's Hill, and having called for re-enforcements. I sent forward at once Col. John D. Kennedy with his own (Second) regiment and the Eighth Regiment South Carolina Volunteers." Kennedy himself reported later getting to Marye's Heights and what happened next: "I then moved the two regiments into the field to the left of the wood (in which I had halted), fronted, and advanced in line of battle, making the Eighth the battalion of direction, and obliquing to the right, so as to throw the two commands between the two right batteries of the Washington Artillery on the hill and the [Marye] house. The fire of shell and small arms was terrific, raking the whole field. The men moved forward in fine style, obeying promptly every command issued. When I arrived at the crest of the hill, I gave the command double-quick, and moved the two regiments to the stone fence on the Telegraph road, and where General Cobb was posted. One volley was fired before reaching it, and that by the Eighth Regiment."

John D. Kennedy, post war photograph


Colonels at The Wilderness

By May 1864, William Francis Bartlett and George N. Macy had both been promoted to colonels, but early in the war they had been junior officers together in the 20th Massachusetts Infantry. In Bartlett's Memoirs, their incident of meeting again on the Wilderness battlefield is described: A dramatic incident occurred at this battle of the Wilderness. Bartlett and Macy had last seen each other in the field on the 24th of April, 1862, when they both were Captains in the 20th Massachusetts Infantry. In the battle of the Wilderness, they were wounded nearly at the same time, and as they emerged from the woods, Bartlett drooping over the neck of his horse and with his arms clinging round it, and Macy borne on a stretcher, they met, both of them Colonels of Massachusetts Infantry regiments. It was a strange chance that men who had parted with the rank of captain, should next meet in the field more than two years after, both colonels, serving in different corps d 'armée, and both wounded in the same battle. Both colonels survived.

Colonel William F. Bartlett (left) and Colonel George N. Macy (right)


Central Virginia Battlefields Trust's mission is to preserve, protect, and educate about Civil War hallowed ground at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania.

3 views0 comments


bottom of page