William Henry Chase Whiting

Contributed by: Diane Siniard

Major-General William Henry Chase Whiting was born at Biloxi, Miss., March 22, 1824, 
of Northern parentage. His father, Levi Whiting, a native of Massachusetts, was for forty 
years an officer of the United States army, from 1812 to 1853, and at his death was 
lieutenant-colonel of the First artillery. He was educated at the Boston high school, at 
Georgetown college, D. C., and at the United States military institute, being graduated 
with promotion to second lieutenant of engineers at the head of the famous class of 1845. 
He served as an officer of the engineer corps on the gulf coast until 1853, on the Pacific 
coast until 1856, and then in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, being engaged in the 
improvements of Savannah River when he resigned in February, 1861, having at that time 
attained the rank of captain. Offering his services to Georgia, he was appointed major of 
engineers, and the same rank was given him in the Confederate States army. He was sent 
to inspect the works at Charleston harbor, and under Beauregard rendered valuable service, 
not only as engineer in fortifying Morris island, but as acting assistant adjutant and inspector 
general in stationing the troops on that island. Soon afterward he was appointed inspector-
general in charge of the defenses of North Carolina, and after the coast defenses were 
safely in the hands of the State, he joined Gen. J. B. Johnston at Harper's Ferry as chief 
of staff. He was in charge of the blowing up of the arsenal at Harper's Ferry, which Johnston 
pronounced a masterly piece of work, and made the arrangements for moving the army to 
reinforce Beauregard at Manassas Junction. His service at the glorious victory of July 21st 
was gratefully mentioned in the official report of General Johnston, and President Davis 
promoted him on the field to the rank of brigadier-general of volunteers. He was assigned to 
the command of the brigade of the lamented General Bee, his classmate at West Point, 
with which and Hood's brigade he handsomely dislodged Franklin's Federal divi- sion during 
the retreat from Yorktown. At Seven Pines he was in command of G. W. Smith's division, 
and by vigorous fighting prevented the junction of Sumner with Keyes. It is related by Major 
Fairly of his staff that Whiting suggested to General Lee the stratagem of reinforcing Jackson 
in the valley, to keep back reinforcements for McClellan while Jackson should move rapidly 
and strike the Federal flank, and that Whiting volunteered to take his brigade and Hood's 
and move to Staunton. Thence he returned at the head of Jackson's corps, and in the battle 
of Gaines' Mill skillfully handled the two brigades under E. M. Law and Hood, driving the 
enemy from their fortified line, winning the battle. In November, 1862, he was assigned to the 
district of Cape Fear, N. C., where it was his duty, during the remainder of the war, to keep 
open the port of Wilmington, of vital importance to the Confederate cause. Aided by Col. 
William Lamb he provided batteries for defense with consummate skill, and in letter after 
letter implored troops sufficient to repel the attack which must soon be expected. He was 
promoted major-general, tardily, in February, 1863. A year later J. E. Johnston wrote him 
that he made a vain effort to have him commissioned lieutenant-general and assigned as 
second in command to himself. "The reason for putting aside the recommendation," Johnston 
said, "was an odd one to me. It was that you were too valuable in your present place." But it 
is a remarkable fact that while Whiting was esteemed too valuable at Wilmington for promotion, 
as soon as the port was threatened by the vast Federal armada Bragg was given command 
over him, and the gallant officer, without orders, went into the fort, and refusing to relieve Lamb 
of command, assumed the duty of counseling him and fighting as a volunteer. The garrison, 
who almost worshiped him, easily repulsed the first attack of the enemy. Again at the opening 
of the second attack he came to the fort, and said to Lamb: "I have come to share your fate, 
my boy. You are to be sacrificed." After two days and nights of a terrific bombardment, by 
the side of which all previous artillery fighting in the world's history was child's play, Whiting 
and Lamb could still rally a little band which repelled the attack of the United States naval 
troops. Then calling his men to meet another column, Whiting joined in a hand-to-hand fight 
with the enemy, and fell with two wounds in the act of tearing down a Federal flag. The garrison 
did not surrender, but were forced from the fort and finally captured on the shore. General 
Whiting was carried as a prisoner of war to Governor's Island, N.Y., where he died March 10, 

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