William W. Henry

William Wirt Henry (November 21, 1831 August 31, 1915) was a manufacturer and a colonel in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He was a recipient of the brevet grade of brigadier general of volunteers and of the Medal of Honor for gallantry in action.

William Wirt Henry
Bellows Falls Times, October 2, 1897
Born(1831-11-21)November 21, 1831
Waterbury, Vermont
DiedAugust 31, 1915(1915-08-31) (aged 83)
Burlington, Vermont
Place of burial
Lakeview Cemetery,
Burlington, Vermont
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Army
Union Army
Years of service1861, 1862 - 1865
Rank Colonel
Brevet Brigadier General
Commands held10th Vermont Infantry
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War
Awards Medal of Honor

Early life

Henry was born in Waterbury, Vermont, the son of James Madison and Matilda (Gale) Henry. He taught school in his hometown for one year, then caught 'gold fever,' and moved to California in 1851. He served as constable in White Oak, El Dorado County, California, in 1856. He returned to Vermont in 1857 and joined his father's business manufacturing pharmaceuticals.

Henry married on August 5, 1857, Mary Jane Beebe, daughter of Lyman and Mary (Sherman) Beebe of Waterbury, Vermont. They had five children. Mary Jane died in 1871, and Henry married Valeria (Lillie) Heaton, daughter of Timothy and Susan (White) Heaton of Waterbury.

Civil War

He was commissioned first lieutenant of Company D, 2nd Vermont Infantry, on May 20, 1861, but resigned on November 5, 1861, for medical reasons. He rejoined his father's business, and returned to the Washington area, selling drugs to sutlers and military surgeons. He then accepted a position as major of the 10th Vermont Infantry on August 26, 1862. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on October 17, 1862, and assumed command of the regiment as colonel on April 26, 1864, replacing Albert B. Jewett, who had resigned. He commanded his regiment at the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Totopotomy Creek, Cold Harbor, and Cedar Creek.

He was wounded in action six times, slightly at Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864, and Monocacy on July 9, 1864, and was hit four times at Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864. Due to his wounds and other medical reasons, he resigned his commission on December 17, 1864 and was mustered out of the volunteer service. His departure from the regiment, was "greatly regretted by the officers and men, and their personal regard and regret found expression in a highly complimentary parting testimonial, signed by all but two of the officers of the regiment. In this paper they also requested Colonel Henry to carry home with him and present to the Legislature of Vermont the tattered colors of the regiment, under which no less than twenty of the color guard had been killed or wounded."[1]

After Henry was mustered out of the Union Army, on March 7, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln nominated Henry for appointment to the brevet grade of brigadier general, to rank from March 7, 1865, and the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on March 9, 1865.[2]

On December 21, 1892, he received the Medal of Honor for his actions at Cedar Creek, "though suffering from severe wounds, rejoined his regiment and led it in a brilliant charge, recapturing the guns of an abandoned battery."

Postwar life

After he returned from war, Henry rejoined the family business, which included, over the years, manufacturing and wholesaling of drugs, first in Waterbury, and then in Burlington, Vermont.

Henry served as a state senator from Washington County from 1865 to 1868, and from Chittenden County in 1888-1889. He served two years as mayor of Burlington, from 1887 to 1889. He was appointed United States Marshal on April 10, 1879, replacing George P. Foster, and served until June 24, 1886. In 1892 he was appointed U.S. Immigration Inspector. From 1897 until 1907, he was the American Consul in Quebec.

He became a Mason in 1858, was a member of the I.O.O.F, the Grand Army of the Republic, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, the Society of the Army of the Potomac, and the Knights of Pythias.

Henry died at the age of 83, and is buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Burlington, Vermont.[3]

Medal of Honor citation

Rank and organization: Colonel, 10th Vermont Infantry. Place and date: At Cedar Creek, Va., October 19, 1864. Entered service at: Waterbury, Vt. Born: November 21, 1831, Waterbury, Vt. Date of issue: December 21, 1892.


Though suffering from severe wounds, rejoined his regiment and let it in a brilliant charge, recapturing the guns of an abandoned battery.

See also


  1. Benedict, ii:330.
  2. Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3. p. 748
  3. "Funeral of Gen. W. W. Henry". St. Albans Messenger. St. Albans, VT. September 3, 1915. p. 3 via Newspapers.com.


  • Benedict, G. G., Vermont in the Civil War. A History of the part taken by the Vermont Soldiers And Sailors in the War For The Union, 1861-5. Burlington, VT.: The Free Press Association, 1888, i:98; ii:278, 281-283, 2897, 295-296, 301, 306, 312-315, 319-320, 323-325, 329-330.
  • Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Peck, Theodore S., compiler, Revised Roster of Vermont Volunteers and lists of Vermonters Who Served in the Army and Navy of the United States During the War of the Rebellion, 1861-66. Montpelier, VT.: Press of the Watchman Publishing Co., 1892, pp. 43, 382, 736 751.
  • Ullery, Jacob G., compiler, Men of Vermont: An Illustrated Biographical History of Vermonters and Sons of Vermont, Brattleboro, VT: Transcript Publishing Company, 1894, part ii, p. 192.
  • "Finding Aid for William Wirt Henry (1831-1915) Family Papers, Vermont Historical Society". Retrieved October 5, 2010.

Further reading

  • Coffin, Howard, Full Duty: Vermonters in the Civil War. Woodstock, VT.: Countryman Press, 1995.
  • -----. The Battered Stars: One State's Civil War Ordeal during Grant's Overland Campaign. Woodstock, VT.: Countryman Press, 2002.
  • Haynes, Edwin Mortimer. A history of the Tenth Regiment, Vermont Volunteers, Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Co., 1894 (2nd edition).
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.