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Home North Carolina Edgecombe County City of Tarboro Historical Markers W. D. Pender

W. D. Pender

Main Street, Tarboro, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 35° 54' 53.6148", -77° 32' 45.1356"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Confederate major general; graduate of U.S. Military Academy, 1854. Mortally wounded at Gettysburg, age 29. Grave is 4 blocks east."
     William Dorsey Pender, Confederate major general, was born in Edgecombe County (present Wilson County) on February 6, 1834, the son of James and Sarah Routh Pender. Dorsey Pender, as he was commonly called, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1854 in the same class as future Confederate generals J.E.B. Stuart and Stephen D. Lee, as well as Union general Oliver O. Howard.

     From 1856 to 1860, Dorsey saw active service on the frontier in New Mexico, California, Oregon, and Washington as a member of the 1st U.S. Artillery and the 1st U.S. Dragoons. In March 1859 he married Mary Frances Shepherd and had three sons: Samuel Turner, William D., and Stephen Lee. In 1860, he was appointed adjutant of the 1st U.S. Dragoons stationed in San Francisco. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Pender resigned his commission, choosing to fight for his native state. Appointed an artillery captain by the Confederate government, he was sent to Baltimore as a recruiting officer.

     In May 1861, Pender returned to North Carolina and instructed new regiments forming at Raleigh and Garysburg. He was elected colonel of the 3rd North Carolina Volunteers (13th N.C. Troops), and then transferred as commander of the 6th North Carolina Troops. In combat at Seven Pines, during the Seven Days Battles, Pender performed so valiantly that he received a promotion to brigadier general. Pender commanded the brigade throughout the Peninsular Campaign and was wounded at Malvern Hill. Returning to duty, he was wounded again at Second Manassas, but continued on through the Maryland Campaign, Fredericksburg where he was wounded a third time, and Chancellorsville.

     At Chancellorsville, Pender took command of A. P. Hill’s division when Hill was wounded. Following the death of Stonewall Jackson Hill was promoted to command of the Army of Northern Virginia’s Third Corps, and Pender received promotion to major general in command of Hill’s division. Lee wrote of the 29-year-old: “Pender is an excellent officer, attentive, industrious and brave; has been conspicuous in every battle, and, I believe, wounded in almost all of them.”

     Two months after Chancellorsville, Pender led the division in Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania. On July 2, 1863, Pender was struck by a piece of artillery shell while leading his division in an assault on Cemetery Hill at the Battle of Gettysburg. He was evacuated to Staunton, Virginia, where he underwent a botched amputation of his leg. The procedure ruptured an artery, and he bled to death on July 18, 1863. His body was returned to North Carolina, and he was buried in Calvary Churchyard in Tarboro. After his death, Lee remarked, “His promise and usefulness as an officer were only equaled by the purity of excellence in his private life.”

     Pender County is named for W. D. Pender. In World War II, the U.S. Navy commissioned a Liberty Ship, the SS William D. Pender, in his honor.

Richard W. Iobst, The Bloody Sixth (1965)
Martin Schenk, Up Came Hill: The Light Division and Its Leaders (1958)
Jon L. Wakelyn, ed., Biographical Dictionary of the Confederacy (1977)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, V, 63-64—sketch by John G. Barrett
William W. Hassler, ed., The General To His Lady: The Civil War Letters of William Dorsey Pender to Fanny Pender (1965)

Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
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W. D. Pender Historical Marker Location Map, Tarboro, North Carolina