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W. D. Pender, One of Lee’s Lieutenants

Image from the N.C. Museum of HistoryOn May 27, 1863, William Dorsey Pender was promoted to major general in command of Gen. A.P. Hill’s division at only 29 years old.

Born in in 1834 in what is now Wilson County, Pender graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. From 1856 to 1860, he saw active service on the frontier in New Mexico, California, Oregon and Washington state.. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Pender resigned his commission, choosing to fight for his native state.

Pender was first elected colonel of the 3rd North Carolina Volunteers and then transferred as commander of the 6th North Carolina Troops. In combat at Seven Pines, Pender performed so valiantly that he received a promotion to brigadier general. While commanding the brigade, Pender was wounded at Malvern Hill, Second Manassas and Fredericksburg. He took over command of A.P. Hill’s division at Chancellorsville after Hill was wounded.

Two months after Chancellorsville, Pender led the division in Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania. While leading his division in an assault on Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg, he was struck by a piece of artillery shell. He later suffered a botched amputation of his leg. The procedure ruptured an artery, and he bled to death.

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