William Dorsey Pender

Contributed by: Diane Siniard

Name: William Dorsey Pender 
State Served: North Carolina  
Highest Rank: Major-Gen  
Birth Date: 1834 
Death Date: 1863 
Birth Place: Edgecomb County, North Carolina 
Army: Confederacy  
Promotions: Promoted to Full Colonel (13th NC Inf)
Promoted to Full Colonel (6th NC Inf)
Promoted to Full Brig-Gen
Promoted to Full Major-Gen  
Biography: PENDER, William Dorsey

Colonel, Sixth North Carolina Infantry, May 27, 1861.
Brigadier general, P. A. C. S., June 3, 1862.
Major general, P. A. C. S., May 27, 1863.

Died July 18, 1863, from wounds received at Gettysburg
(July 2, 1863).


Brigade composed of the Thirteenth, Sixteenth, Twenty-
second, Thirty-fourth, and Thirty-eighth North Carolina
Regiments Infantry, Anderson's Division, A. P. Hill's Corps,
Army of Northern Virginia.

Division composed of the brigades of Pender, McGowan, Lane
and Thomas, Army of Northern Virginia.

Pender, William Dorsey, born in North Carolina, appointed
from North Carolina cadet United States Military Academy, July
1, 1850; graduated nineteenth in a class of forty-six.

Brevet second lieutenant, First Artillery, July 1, 1854.

Second lieutenant, Second Artillery, August 16, 1854.

Second lieutenant, First Dragoons, March 3, 1855.

First lieutenant, May 17, 1858.

Regimental adjutant, August 31, 1860, to January 31, 1861.

Resigned March 21, 1861.

Source: General Officers of the Confederate States of America

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 3rd.

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 Fredericksburg, 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 intrenchments, with the most distinguished

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

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. "
Source: Confederate Military History, vol. V, p. 334

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