Laurence Simmons Baker

Contributed by: Diane Siniard


Name: Laurence Simmons Baker 
State Served: North Carolina  
Highest Rank: Brig-Gen  
Birth Place: Gates County, North Carolina 
Army: Confederacy  
Promotions: Promoted to Full Colonel (1st NC Cav)
Promoted to Full Brig-Gen  

Biography: Brigadier-General Lawrence S. Baker, distinguished as a
cavalry officer in the service of the Confederate States, was
born in Gates county, N. C., in May, 1830. His family is an
old and honorable one, founded in America by Lawrence Baker,
who came to Virginia from England early in the seventeenth
century and became a member of the house of burgesses.

His descendant, Gen. Lawrence Baker, of North Carolina, was a
leader in the movement for independence, served in the
Revolutionary war, and was one of the two representatives of
North Carolina in the Continental Congress. His son, John B.
Baker, M. D., father of Gen. L. S. Baker, was a well known
physician and prominent citizen of North Carolina, in the
legislature of which he sat as a member from Gates county.

General Baker received his early education in his native State
and at Norfolk academy, and then entered the United States
military academy at West Point, where he was graduated in the
class of 1851. At his graduation he was promoted second
lieutenant of the Third cavalry, and by meritorious and
gallant service he had passed the grade of first lieutenant,
and had been promoted captain, when he resigned after his
State had announced its adherence to the Confederacy, in order
that he might tender his services for the defense of North

He was commissioned lieutenant-colonel, Confederate States
cavalry, to date from March 16, 1861, and on May 8th was
appointed lieutenant-colonel of the Ninth North Carolina
regiment, afterward known as the First North Carolina cavalry.

With this command he joined the cavalry brigade of Gen. J. E.
B. Stuart, in 1861, and on March 1, 1862, he was promoted
colonel of his regiment. During the opening of the Seven
Days' battles which followed, he served upon the right wing of
the army, and on June 29th commanded the Confederate cavalry
in the affair on the Charles City road, which was, in fact, a
reconnaissance in which the Federal cavalry were driven back
until reinforced by heavy bodies of infantry, when Colonel
Baker was compelled to retire.

After this campaign the cavalry division was organized and
Colonel Baker and his regiment were assigned to the brigade of
Gen. Wade Hampton. With the active and heroic work of this
brigade through the campaigns of Manassas and Sharpsburg,
Colonel Baker was gallantly identified.

He fought with his regiment at Frederick City, Md., and in
defense of the South Mountain passes; took part in the battle
of Sharpsburg, and subsequently skirmished with the enemy at
Williamsport. During the many cavalry affairs that preceded
and followed the battles of Fredericksburg and
Chancellorsville, he rendered valuable service.

Particularly at the battle of Fleetwood Hill, preceding the
movement into Pennsylvania, he displayed his soldierly
qualities. Here, on June 9, 1863, in command of his regiment
and supported by the Jeff Davis legion, he charged upon the
enemy, and after what may truly be said to have been in point
of the number of men who crossed sabers, the most important
hand-to-hand contest of cavalry in the war, drove the Federals
from their position.

At Upperville he was again distinguished, and it was to his
regiment that Hampton turned in the moment of greatest peril,
drawing his saber and crying, "First North Carolina, follow

The regiment participated in Stuart's Pennsylvania raid, and
reaching the field of Gettysburg on July 3rd, engaged in the
desperate hand-to-hand cavalry fight on the right of the army.
In this bloody action Hampton was twice wounded, and Colonel
Baker was given command of the brigade during the subsequent
important work of protecting the retreat of the army,
including fighting about Hagerstown and Falling Waters.

After the army had crossed into Virginia, Colonel Baker was
assigned the duty of picketing the Potomac from Falling Waters
to Hedgesville, and had frequent skirmishes with the enemy
until withdrawn to the line of the Rappahannock.

Here, on July 31st, the Federal cavalry crossed the river in
force and advanced toward Brandy Station, stubbornly resisted
by Hampton's brigade of cavalry under command of Colonel
Baker, General Stuart also being at the front. In his report
of this affair, Gen. R. E. Lee wrote: "Hampton's brigade
behaved with its usual gallantry and was very skillfully
handled by Colonel Baker. Our loss was small, but among our
wounded, I regret to say, are those brave officers, Colonel
Baker, commanding the brigade; Colonel Young, of Cobb's
legion, and Colonel Black, of the First South Carolina

On the same day General Lee recommended Colonel Baker for
promotion to the rank of brigadier-general, which was promptly
confirmed, and in the subsequent reorganization of the cavalry
he was assigned to the command of a brigade composed
exclusively of North Carolina regiments, the First, Second,
Fourth and Fifth.

But the wound he had received at Brandy Station was a serious
one -- the bones of his arm being completely shattered, and
the use of it lost to him, in consequence of which he was
unable to continue his service with the cavalry.

When General Wade Hampton became chief of the cavalry in the
spring of 1864, he desired General Baker to accept division
command under him with promotion to major-general, but the
disability prevented, and he was assigned by the war
department to the responsible command of the Second military
district of South Carolina, in which capacity he had the
duties of a major-general, in charge of the forces at
Goldsboro, Kinston, Wilmington, Plymouth and Weldon, and was
particularly intrusted with the protection of the Weldon

Later he was called to confront Sherman's advance in the
vicinity of Savannah and Augusta, GA, and then being recalled
to North Carolina by Bragg, he commanded in the final campaign
the First brigade of Junior reserves, in Hoke's division of
Hardee's corps. He surrendered at Raleigh, after the
capitulation of Johnston, and then, having spent all his life,
so far, in military employment, was confronted by the
difficult task of finding a place in civil life in a country
ravaged by war.

He lived at New Bern for awhile, and near Norfolk, Va.,
carried on a trucking business, after which he returned to
North Carolina, and was engaged in insurance until 1877. At
the latter date he was offered the position of agent of the
Seaboard Air Line railroad at Suffolk, Va., a position he has
since occupied.

General Baker is held in warm remembrance by Confederates
everywhere, particularly in Virginia and North Carolina, where
his bravery and devotion are most intimately known. He
maintains a membership in Tom Smith camp, United Confederate
Veterans, at Suffolk, and keeps alive his comradeship with the
survivors of the great struggle.

In 1855 he was married to Elizabeth E., daughter of Dr. Alex.
Henderson, of North Carolina, and they have three children
living: Alexander Baker, sheriff of Nansemond county, Va.;
Stuart A. Baker, of Richmond, and Elizabeth E. Baker.

Source: Confederate Military History, vol. V, p291

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