About James Clay Rice
James Clay Rice (December 27, 1828 - May 10, 1864) was a lawyer from Massachusetts, who became a brigadier general of volunteers in the Union Army during the American Civil War.
Rice was born in Worthington, Massachusetts on December 27, 1828 to William Rice and Welthea (Cottrell) Rice. He was self educated for most of his early life and eventually graduated from Yale University. He became a teacher in Natchez, Mississippi, and worked for a newspaper. During this time he began studying law and was admitted to the bar in New York City where he began his practice.
When the Civil War began in 1861 Rice enlisted in the 39th New York Infantry Regiment quickly becoming a captain before the regiment was mustered out of service in August 1861. The next month Rice became lieutenant colonel of the 44th New York Volunteer Regiment (also known as People's Ellsworth Regiment). He fought in the Peninsula Campaign and on July 4, 1862, became colonel of the regiment. At the Second Battle of Bull Run, Colonel Rice took command of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, V Corps when its commander, Daniel Butterfield took command of the consolidated 1st and 2nd Brigades and other ranking officers were wounded on the second day of battle. Rice returned to command of the 44th New York and led it at the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. At the Battle of Gettysburg Rice and his regiment were sent to the defense of Little Round Top. During the fighting, brigade commander Colonel Strong Vincent was mortally wounded and Rice once again assumed command of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, V Corps and led it for the remainder of the battle. For his service at Gettysburg, Rice was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on August 17, 1863. In March, 1864, General Rice was in command of the 2nd Brigade, 4th Division, V Corps which he led into action at the Battle of the Wilderness. Rice was mortally wounded at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. As he lay dying he muttered the words "turn me over that I may die with my face to the enemy." He died on the Spotsylvania battlefield on May 10, 1864. He was buried at Albany Rural Cemetery, Menands, New York, in section 42, plot 11.
James Clay Rice was a direct descendant of Edmund Rice, an English immigrant to Massachusetts Bay Colony, as follows:
James Clay Rice, son of William Rice (1778 – ?), son of Joseph Rice (1745 – 1826), son of Ebenezer Rice (1709 – 1793), son of Ebenezer Rice (1671 – 1724), son of Benjamin Rice (1640 – 1713), son of Edmund Rice (1594 – 1663)
An impressive monument to the 12th New York and Rice's own 44th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment was constructed on the Gettysburg battlefield.
In the film Gettysburg, Colonel Rice was portrayed by Joshua D. Maurer and is briefly seen congratulating Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain following the fighting on Little Round Top, informing him of the name of that place.
Brig. General James Clay Rice (USA) ("Old Crazy")'s Timeline
December 27, 1828
December 10, 1862
May 10, 1864
Round Top, Gettysburg, Virginia, USA
Albany Rural Cemetery