William's Top Matches
About William Whedbee Kirkland
William Whedbee Kirkland (February 13, 1833 – May 12, 1915) was a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He was the only former US Marine to serve as a Confederate general.
Kirkland was born in Hillsborough, Orange County, North Carolina. He was appointed to the United States Military Academy in 1852, but did not graduate. Despite this failure, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps in 1855. He resigned his U.S. commission in 1860.
When the Civil War broke out, Kirkland was colonel of the 11th North Carolina Volunteers, later designated the 21st North Carolina. He fought at First Manassas, and, the next year, he participated in Stonewall Jackson's Shenandoah Valley Campaign. Kirkland was shot through both thighs during the First Battle of Winchester, putting him out of action for several months. When he returned, Kirkland became chief of staff for Patrick Cleburne during the Murfreesboro campaign in December 1862.
Kirkland returned to active service with his old regiment at the Battle of Gettysburg, taking part during the fighting on July 1 & 2. He was promoted to brigadier general in August 1863, and commanded the former brigade of J. Johnston Pettigrew at the Battle of Bristoe Station, where his left arm was fractured by a bullet. In 1864 he fought in the Battle of the Wilderness and the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse before being wounded again at the Battle of Cold Harbor, when he was once again shot in the right thigh. Kirkland was assigned to the command of another brigade in Robert F. Hoke's division in August 1864.
Kirkland served under James Longstreet at Richmond, taking part in the attack on Fort Harrison in October 1864. Transferred to North Carolina in December, Kirkland assisted in the defense of Fort Fisher by forcing back the Federal advance under the command of Benjamin Butler. Later, when the Confederates abandoned the fort and withdrew to Wilmington, he commanded the rear guard and directed events in the fighting at Wise's Fork. He fought at Bentonville and surrendered with Joseph E. Johnston on April 26, 1865 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
After the war, Kirkland settled in Savannah, Georgia, where he worked in the commission business. He later moved to New York and worked for the post office there. An invalid by the end of the century, he spent the last years of his life in a soldier's home in Washington, D.C.. Kirkland died on May 12, 1915, and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
Kirkland's daughter Bess became famous on the Broadway stage under the name "Odette Tyler." His family home, Ayr Mount, in Hillsborough, NC, is now a house museum.