North Carolina’s General Pender
At Gettysburg on July 2nd General William Dorsey Pender’s division assaulted the Northern position at Seminary Ridge with great success despite suffering heavy losses. Near sundown as Pender encouraged his men to continue pressure on the enemy, he was hit in the thigh with a shell fragment and forced to relinquish command to Gen. James H. Lane.
In too much pain to mount his horse, Pender was taken by ambulance to a nearby field hospital while his division’s assault subsided. It is said that this near rout of the enemy inspired the following day’s famous frontal assault on Cemetery Ridge.
Recuperating in a hospital at Staunton, Virginia two weeks later, Gen. Pender’s leg began hemorrhaging due to a severed artery which could not be repaired, and amputation followed. The General lived for only a short time after, passing on July 18th.
Devastated by the loss of such an able commander, General Robert E. Lee remarked: “If General Pender had remained on his horse half an hour longer, we would have carried the enemy’s position.”
It was said that Pender became a devout Episcopalian early in the war which helped fuel his disgust with the invading Northern armies which he referred to as “drunken rabble and unprincipled villains.”
Though a native of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, in the 1870’s Pender County, North Carolina was named in his honor. His epitaph reads: “Patriot by nature, soldier by profession, Christian by faith.”
(Confederate Generals of North Carolina, Joe A. Mobley, History Press, 2011)