William Whedbee Kirkland

Contributed by: Diane Siniard

Name: William Whedbee Kirkland 
State Served: North Carolina  
Highest Rank: Brig-Gen  
Birth Date: 1833 
Death Date: 1915 
Birth Place: Hillsboro, North Carolina 
Army: Confederacy  
Promotions: Promoted to Full Captain
Promoted to Full Colonel (21st NC Inf)
Promoted to Full Brig-Gen  
Biography: Brigadier-General W. W. Kirkland, as colonel of the Eleventh
North Carolina volunteers, known later as the Twenty-first
regiment, reached the field in Virginia in time to participate
in the affair at Mitchell's ford on Bull run, with Bonham's
brigade, on July 18, 1861.

On the memorable 21st of July he was field officer of the day
for the brigade, and at 2:30 a. m. brought to General Bonham
information of the approach of the enemy toward the stone
bridge. His regiment manfully sustained a heavy fire through
the day, and at 3 p. m. assisted in the pursuit of the enemy.

Subsequently he was assigned to the brigade of Col. Jubal A.

Early, and later to that of General Trimble, and with General
Ewell's division participated in the Shenandoah valley
campaign of 1862. Trimble's command opened the attack on
Winchester, May 25th, and Kirkland and his regiment gallantly
dashed into the western part of the town, driving in the
pickets, and was for a time exposed to murderous fire from a
Federal regiment posted behind a stone wall, in which Colonel
Kirkland was wounded, and a large number of officers and
privates were killed or disabled.

His wound kept him from service with his regiment until the
Gettysburg campaign, when he resumed command, the brigade then
being under command of Gen. R. F. Hoke, and temporarily under
Col. I. E. Avery, and participated in the desperate fighting
of July 1st and 2nd.

In August, 1863, he was promoted to brigadier-general, and on
September 7th was assigned to command of General Pettigrew's
old brigade of Heth's division, A. P. Hill's corps, consisting
of the Eleventh, Twenty-sixth, Forty-fourth, Forty-seventh and
Fifty-second North Carolina regiments. With this command he
took a gallant part in the battle of Bristoe, October 14th,
where the North Carolinians suffered heavily in a hasty attack
upon largely superior forces of the enemy, and he fell
severely wounded.

His gallantry was commended in the reports of Heth and Hill.
But he was incapacitated from further active duty for nearly a
year, General MacRae taking his place until August, 1864, when
he was assigned to the command of the North Carolina brigade
of Hoke's division, formerly commanded by General Martin.

He served with Longstreet north of the James river, before
Richmond, participating in the attack on Fort Harrison and
other engagements. His brigade was one of the best
disciplined on the line, and was complimented by General Lee
for the fine appearance of its camp and defenses.

Being transferred to Wilmington late in December, he advanced
to the relief of Fort Fisher, and with two regiments held in
check the advance of Butler's forces, by his spirited action
persuading that commander that a large body of Confederates
was before him. Butler abandoned the attack, but it was
renewed under Gilmore, when Kirkland again at the front
skirmished with the enemy near Sugar Loaf, but was withdrawn
by Bragg.

During the retreat to Wilmington he commanded the rear guard,
was engaged at Northeast river, and subsequently took a
prominent and dashing part in the fighting at Wise's Fork
against the enemy under Gen. J. D. Cox.

At Bentonville the steadfastness of Kirkland and his brigade
contributed materially to the failure of Sherman's attempt to
break the Confederate line. It is related that during the
battle, Johnston inquired who was responsible for heavy firing
then going on at the moment, and was told that the enemy was
attacking Kirkland's brigade. Turning to Hardee, Johnston
said, "I am glad of it. I would rather they would attack
Kirkland than any one else. "

The military career of this gallant officer ended with the
surrender at Greensboro.

Source: Confederate Military History, vol. V, p. 321 

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