Rebel general dies of wounds

Losses: Maj. R. R. Hutchinson wrote to Nellie Ramseur of her husband after the battle: 'He died as became a Confederate soldier and a strong believer.'

Cedar Creek : A Remembrance

October 10, 1999|By Sheree Price | Sheree Price,Special to the Sun

Among the events from the Battle of Cedar Creek selected for this year's re-enactment is a portrayal of the death of Confederate Maj. Gen. Stephen Dodson Ramseur, who was mortally wounded while leading the rear guard at the end of the battle.

At his death during the Battle of Cedar Creek, Oct 19, 1864, the 27-year-old Ramseur, hailing from North Carolina, commanded a division under Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early.

"Ramseur in personal appearance was slight, erect, alert, earnest in speech, with dark prominent eyes and a well developed forehead. He was an ideal soldier," according to William R. Cox, a congressman and former Confederate brigadier general who presented a paper on Ramseur to the Ladies' Memorial Association of Raleigh, N.C., in 1891.

In a report on Cedar Creek, Early wrote: "Major General Ramseur has often proved his courage and his capacity to command, but never did these qualities shine more conspicuous than on the afternoon of the 19th of this month, when, after two divisions on his left had given away and his own was doing the same thing, he rallied a small band, and for one hour and a quarter held in check the enemy, until he was shot down himself.

"In endeavoring to stop those who were retiring from the field, I had occasion to point them to the gallant stand made by Ramseur with his small party, and if his spirit could have animated those who left him thus battling the 19th of October would have had a far different history. He met the death of a hero, and with his fall the last hope of saving the day was lost."

Letter to his wife

Maj. R. R. Hutchinson wrote to Ramseur's wife, Nellie, telling her of her husband's death. The couple had been married less than a year, and Ramseur had received word of the birth of their child on the eve of the battle of Cedar Creek. This is Hutchinson's account of Ramseur's final hours:

"I do not know how to write to you; how to express my deep sympathy in your grievous affliction; but the Christian soldier who has gone before us to that other world has asked me to do it, and I must not shrink from the performance of this duty, however painful.

"I am writing by the side of him whose last thought was of you and his God, his country and his duty. He died this day at 27 minutes past 10 o'clock a.m., and had at least the consolation of having by his side some who wore the same uniform and served in the same holy cause as himself.

"His last moments were peaceful; his wounds were painful, but his hope in Christ led him to endure all patiently. He received his mortal wound yesterday afternoon [Oct. 19] between the hours of 5 and 6 p.m. at the post of honor and of danger, where he always was. Our troops had fallen back a short distance but had reformed, and were stubbornly contesting a position on a hill which the enemy attacked from three sides.

"He exposed himself to every shot, cheering and encouraging all. I was not far from him when I saw his horse shot; he procured another, which was shot also, and immediately after he received his fatal wound (the second), all in the space of a very few minutes.

"I ran over to him, got some men, and bore him to the rear, your brother joining us on the way. I then went off after an ambulance, found it, but saw on returning with it that he had been left, as I thought, in the enemy's lines. This fear was soon after dissipated, however, by seeing him on Captain Randolph's horse, the captain running along side and supporting him.

"We got him then to the ambulance I had brought up. I thought he was safe then, not knowing how dangerous was his wound, and remained with the rear guard. When I was subsequently captured by the enemy's cavalry, I was carried to General Sheridan's headquarters, and learning that General Ramseur had been captured, asked and obtained permission to remain with him.

"The road had been blocked up by wagons, causing a delay, that gave the enemy time to get up and take him prisoner, just south of Strasburg. Many of his former friends (West Pointers) called to see him yesterday and to-day, and offered every assistance in their power, General Sheridan among the number. He was taken to General Sheridan's headquarters and made as comfortable as circumstances would permit. Dr. James Gillespie (Cutshaw's battalion of artillery), a Confederate surgeon, assisted by the enemy's surgeons, attended to him and did all that could be done under the circumstances.

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