Maj. General William Dorsey Pender (CSA)

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Maj. General William Dorsey Pender (CSA)'s Geni Profile

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William Dorsey Pender

Birthplace: Edgecombe County, North Carolina, United States
Death: Died in Staunton, Virginia, United States
Cause of death: mortally wounded on 2 July 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg
Place of Burial: Tarboro, Edgecombe County, North Carolina, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of James Pender and Sallie Pender
Husband of Mary Frances Pender
Father of Samuel Turner Pender; William Dorsey Pender; Stephen Lee Pender; Samuel Turner Pender and Dr William Dorsey Pender II
Brother of Joseph Pender; Mary J Ricks; Patience Pender; David Pender; Evelina Taylor and 2 others

Managed by: Private User
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About Maj. General William Dorsey Pender (CSA)

William Dorsey Pender (February 6, 1834 – July 18, 1863) was one of the youngest, and most promising, generals fighting for the Confederacy in the American Civil War. He was mortally wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Early life

Dorsey Pender, as he was known to his friends, was born at Pender's Crossroads, Edgecombe County, North Carolina to James and Sally Routh Pender. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1854 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Artillery regiment. He served later in the 2nd Artillery, and then the 1st Dragoons (heavy cavalry), where he demonstrated personal bravery in Washington Territory, fighting in the Indian Wars.

Civil War

On March 21, 1861, Pender resigned from the U.S. Army and was appointed a captain of artillery in the Confederate States Army. By May he was a colonel in command of the 3rd North Carolina Infantry (also designated the 13th North Carolina) and then the 6th North Carolina. Tried in combat successfully in the Battle of Seven Pines in June 1862, he was promoted to brigadier general and command of a brigade of North Carolinians in Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill's Light Division. Confederate President Jefferson Davis personally promoted Pender on the Seven Pines battlefield.

During the Seven Days Battles, Pender was an aggressive brigade commander. He was wounded in the arm at the Battle of Glendale, but recovered quickly enough to rejoin his brigade and fight at Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run (where he received a minor head wound from an exploding shell), Harpers Ferry, and Antietam. At Antietam, Pender arrived in the nick of time with A.P. Hill after a 17-mile march to save the Army of Northern Virginia from serious defeat on its right flank.

At Fredericksburg, he was wounded again, in his left arm, but the bone was unbroken, so he continued in command, despite the spectacle of him riding around bleeding. At Chancellorsville, on May 2, 1863, A.P. Hill was wounded in Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's famous march and attack on the flank of the Union XI Corps; Pender assumed command of the division. On the following day, Pender was wounded in the arm yet again, this time a minor injury from a spent bullet that had killed an officer who stood in front of him.

Following the death of Jackson, Gen. Robert E. Lee reorganized his army and promoted A.P. Hill to command the newly formed Third Corps. Pender, at the young age of 29, was promoted to major general and division command. He was well regarded by his superiors. Lee wrote to Jefferson Davis, "Pender is an excellent officer, attentive, industrious and brave; has been conspicuous in every battle, and, I believe, wounded in almost all of them."


Dorsey Pender's promising career ended at the Battle of Gettysburg. On July 1, 1863, his division moved in support of Maj. Gen. Henry Heth's division down the Chambersburg Pike towards Gettysburg. Heth encountered stronger resistance from the Union I Corps than he expected and was repulsed in his first assault. Uncharacteristically for the normally aggressive Pender, he did not immediately charge in to assist Heth, but took up positions on Herr Ridge and awaited developments. In Heth's second assault of the day, Hill ordered Pender to support Heth, but Heth declined the assistance and Pender once again kept his division in the rear. For the second time in the day, Heth got more than he bargained for in his assault on McPherson's Ridge. He was wounded in action and could not request the assistance from Pender he had earlier refused. Hill ordered Pender to attack the new Union position on Seminary Ridge at about 4 p.m. The 30-minute assault by three of his brigades was very bloody and the brigade of Brig. Gen. Alfred M. Scales was almost completely destroyed by Union artillery canister fire. In the end, Pender's men forced the Union troops back in and through Gettysburg.

On July 2, Pender was posted near the Lutheran Seminary. During the en echelon attack that started with James Longstreet's assault on the right, from the Round Tops through the Peach Orchard, Pender's division was to continue in the attack sequence near Cemetery Hill, to the left of Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson's attack on Cemetery Ridge. Pender was wounded in the thigh by a shell fragment fired from Cemetery Hill, and turned command over to Brig. Gen. James H. Lane. His division's momentum was broken by the change in command and no effective assault was completed. Pender was evacuated to Staunton, Virginia, where an artery in his leg ruptured on July 18. Surgeons amputated his leg in an attempt to save him, but he died a few hours later.


Pender is buried in Calvary Churchyard in Tarboro, North Carolina. He is memorialized in the name of Pender County, North Carolina, founded in 1875. He is the posthumous author of The General to his Lady: The Civil War letters of William Dorsey Pender to Fanny Pender, published in 1965.

During World War II, the United States Navy commissioned a Liberty Ship, the SS William D. Pender, in honor of the fallen general.

William Dorsey Pender Bio-Sketch from NC Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans.

"William Dorsey Pender was born February 6, 1834 on his family's plantation at Pender's Crossroads in Edgecombe County, NC. His parents are James and Sally Routh Pender. Dorsey Pender, as he liked to be called, attended the US Military Academy, graduated in 1854, was commissioned a second lieutenant,, and assigned to the 1st Artillery. He then served in the 2nd Artillery until transferred to the 1st Dragoons In this unit he distinguished himself fighting Indians in what would later become the state of Washington.

In March 1861, with the rising tensions in the South, Pender resigned his commission in the US Army and offered his services to the Confederacy. He was commissioned a captain in the artillery. By May of 1861, he had been appointed Colonel of the 13th NC Regiment before leading the 6th Regiment. Dorsey Pender saw his first action in June of 1862 in the Seven Pines Battle. His success in this battle earned him a promotion, made personally on the battlefield by President Davis, to Brigadier General. He was then assigned to lead a brigade of Tar Heel regiments in Ambrose Powell Hill's Division.

Pender was an aggressive brigade commander in the Seven Days Battle Campaign. He fought gallantly and was wounded in the arm during the Battle of Glendale. Pender did not remain on the sidelines for long, returning from his wounds in time to take part in the Battles of Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Harper's Ferry, and Sharpsburg. In the Maryland Campaign, Hill's Division, with Pender and his men, saved the Army of Northern Virginia with a forced seventeen mile march to reinforce the Army's right flank and turn back Union troops.

In the Battle of Fredericksburg, Pender was wounded in the left arm and bled badly. However, he remained astride his horse and commanded his men. In May of 1863, the Army of Northern Virginia would find itself fighting at Chancellorsville. There, Pender assumed command of the Division when A P Hill was wounded. Then, on May 3, 1983, Pender again received a minor wound. However, the biggest wound was to the Army of Northern Virginia when Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was accidentally wounded by Confederate troops. Following his death, Robert E Lee reorganized his Army and promoted A P Hill to Corps Commander. The Division command that was A P Hill's fell to Dorsey Pender. At age 19, Pender became the youngest Major General in the Confederate Army.

In June of 1863, Robert E Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania. On July 1, 1863, Pender's Division moved in support of General Henry Heth's Division down the Chambersburg Pike toward Gettysburg. Pender and his division saw action around 4:00 pm when Hill ordered him to attack Seminary Ridge. The assault by Pender's Division forced the Union troops back into Gettysburg despite heavy Confederate losses

Pender again saw action on July 2, 1863. He led his troops in an attack on Cemetery Hill. In this action, he was wounded in his thigh by artillery shell fragments. He turned over command to James Lane. His troops faltered and were repulsed after the loss of their Division Commander

In the subsequent retreat back to Virginia, Pender was taken to Staunton, Virginia to recover. There, on July 18, an artery in his leg ruptured. Surgeons amputated the injured leg but it proved futile as William Dorsey Pender bled out and died. His remains were taken to Tarboro, NC and buried in the Calvary Parish Church Cemetery. The perimeter of his grave is lined with cannonballs."

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Maj. General William Dorsey Pender (CSA)'s Timeline

February 6, 1834
Edgecombe County, North Carolina, United States
November 28, 1859
Age 25
Age 24
Age 26
May 28, 1862
Age 28
Edgecombe County, North Carolina, United States
July 3, 1863
Age 29
Staunton, Virginia, United States
Age 28
Edgecombe County, North Carolina, United States
Tarboro, Edgecombe County, North Carolina, United States