Edward Willis (1834 - 1910) MP

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina
Death: Died in Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, United States
Occupation: soldier, businessman
Managed by: Maria Edmonds-Zediker, Volunteer Curator
Last Updated:

About Edward Willis

from his obituary, printed March 1, 1910--

Major Edward Willis was a native of Charleston, descended from Huguenot ancestry on the maternal side, and on the paternal from Judge Jonathan Willis, one of the early jurists from New Jersey.

His great grandfather, Antoine Gabeau, born in Bordeaux, France, entered the Revolutionary war at the age of nineteen, and was a non-commissioned officer in a corps called the "True Blues," under Captain Greenwood. He was captured in the siege of Charleston.

His mother was the daughter of Dr. J. L. E. Shecut, the well known physician and author of valuable medical treatises and scientific works. He was the founder of the Antiquarian Society of South Carolina, which formed the nucleus of the present fine Charleston Museum. He was also founder and first president of the fist cotton mill in Charleston, the American Homespun Company.

The childhood of Edward Willis was passed in Augusta, Georgia where his father, Anthony Gabeau Willis, was for many years and until his death on the staff of the Augusta Constitutionalist. Even as a boy Major Willis was interested in public affairs, and was made a president of a fire company, and a member of the "Good Samaritan Society," in Augusta, Georgia. He was, for over thirty years, secretary and treasurer of the Howard Association of Charleston. After the death of his father in Augusta Mr. Willis returned to the City of Charleston, the place of his birth and entered the business house of John Fraser & Company.

When the War Between the States was declared, Mr. Willis espoused the Confederate cause and threw himself into the ranks of the conflict with all the enthusiasm and vigor of an ardent young patriot. He joined as a private in the Carolina light Infantry of Charleston, 1st regiment of rifles, Colonel Johnston Pettigrew, commanding. He was on duty on the Carolina coast and on Sullivan's Island. In 1861 he was appointed quartermaster, with the rank of major in the brigade of General Thomas Drayton, and after remaining with him at Hardeeville in that capacity, he came on to Charleston and was appointed chief purchasing agent of the Confederate Government and for all blockade goods. He went to Virginia with General Drayton, and on his return to Charleston he was appointed chief quartermaster on General Beauregard's staff. In this office he also served with General's Lee, Longstreet and McLaws.

Serving the army in many ways, Major Willis performed the extraordinary feat (considering his forces and appliances) of taking out of the S. S. Sumter at Wilmington, N. C., two 38 ton Blakely guns, which John Fraser & Co. presented to the Confederate Government for the defense of the City of Charleston. He bridged the Appomattox River with canal boats and passed the army over, horses, artillery and men and was publicly compliment by general Lee for having done it so quickly and so thoroughly. During the siege of Fort Sumter he supplied the garrison with water, by a novel and ingenious device of his own; he got all of the available kegs and barrels, secured them to heavy timbers, and then floated them down on the tide where they were eagerly caught by the inmates of the fort and each time that this novel water wagon was started on its way and the Yankee fleet beheld it, they invariably moved further out to sea, fearing that they were a species of mine. He was commissioned by the Governor of the state to get negro laborers to strengthen Fort Sumter, and these were furnished by the Sea Island rice and cotton planters, who responded to the call by bringing over their own labor and working them.

In the sore straits of the Confederacy, with all resources crippled and all of the seaports blockaded by hostile fleets, Major Willis relieved the exigency of the situation by buying the cotton of the South and trading it for army supplies. Four times he passed through the Union lines on his way to New York, at a great personal risk between 1861 and 1865, on important errands of business for the Confederacy. These trips were to New York city. He was highly commended by army officers for quickly rebuilding the railroad to Salisbury, N. C. and saving all of the engines and cars of the C and S Rail Road. He was remarkable for his energy and promptness in the shipment of troops and the transportation of supplies for the armies of Beauregard and Lee, at Petersburg, Richmond, etc.

In 1863 he established the first "Wayside Home" for the relief of the soldiers returning to Charleston from their commands, or who were passing through to other States, etc. By his personal efforts, he was instrumental in raising half the sum necessary for the maintenance of this useful and noble charity.

After the surrender at Appomattox, Major Willis was ordered by President Davis to Richmond to conduct the Confederate Cabinet further South and he was detailed by the quartermaster general, C. S. A. to look after the personal safety of Mrs. Jefferson Davis, this service lasting over three weeks.



      
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Maj. Edward Willis's Timeline

1834
August 15, 1834
Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina
1860
1860
- present
Age 25
1st Rifle Regiment, Carolina Light Infantry, CSA
1861
May, 1861
- present
Age 26
Confederate States Army
1861
Age 26
Dalton, Whitfield, Georgia, Confederate States of America
1862
August, 1862
Age 27
Dalton, Whitfield, Georgia, Confederate States of America
1864
1864
Age 29
Georgia, Confederate States of America
1866
December 14, 1866
Age 32
Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, United States
1870
1870
Age 35
Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, United States
1910
February 28, 1910
Age 75
Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, United States
March, 1910
Age 75
Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, United States