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""Boy" Colonel 26th N.C. Regt. Killed at age 21 at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. Home stood 4 miles south." Henry “Harry” King Burgwyn, Jr. was known as the “Boy Colonel” because he attained that rank at the age of twenty. He was perhaps the youngest colonel in the Confederate Army. As a soldier, Burgwyn was a natural. Unfortunately, he never lived to see his twenty-second birthday.
Burgwyn was the son of Northampton County planter Henry King Burgwyn Sr. and New England native Anna Greenough. He was born in Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts, at his mother’s ancestral home. Capt. John G. Foster privately taught Burgwyn at the U.S. Military Academy since he was too young at fifteen to enter the institution. In 1857 Burgwyn enrolled at the University of North Carolina; he graduated in 1859. To further his education, he entered the Virginia Military Institute.
Burgwyn stayed briefly in Richmond with other VMI cadets following the start of the Civil War. In North Carolina as a captain, he instructed the Lafayette Light Infantry in drill at Camp Ellis, located at the original State Fairgrounds, and was sent to the mountains to raise a company. As a major, Burgwyn commanded Camp Crabtree near Raleigh. In August 1861, the Twenty-sixth regiment’s company officers elected the nineteen-year-old Burgwyn as lieutenant colonel, making him second in command behind Col. Zebulon B. Vance. Burgwyn’s regiment took part in operations in eastern North Carolina and in Virginia. With Vance’s election as North Carolina’s governor in August 1862, Burgwyn was promoted to colonel.
From August 1862 to May 1863, Burgwyn’s regiment fought in eastern North Carolina. In May the Twenty-sixth joined the Army of Northern Virginia. On July 1, 1863, at Gettysburg, the Twenty-sixth regiment took part in an assault that resulted in the death of Burgwyn. After ten color-bearers had fallen with the regimental flag, Burgwyn seized the colors. He cheered on his troops; the soldiers moved forward. A private took the colors from Burgwyn. After speaking with Lt. Col. John R. Lane, Burgwyn was struck by a bullet that passed through both lungs. He was buried at Gettysburg. In June 1867 Burgwyn was reinterred at Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh.
Archie K. Davis, Boy Colonel of the Confederacy (1985)
Samuel A. Ashe, ed., Biographical History of North Carolina, VIII, 67-73
Walter Clark, ed., Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War, 1861-65, II (1901)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 276-277—sketch by Clyde Wilson
Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
North Carolina Civil War Historical Markers.