David Henry Williams

David Henry Williams was born on a farm in Otsego County, New York, March 19, 1819. After obtaining a rudimentary education in the schools of the neighborhood, he studied civil engineering and at the age of eighteen went to Detroit, where he was a railroad surveyor for the next decade. According to his obituary he took part in the Mexican War, although he does not appear in F. B. Heitman's Historical Register as an officer. He later moved to Pittsburgh, where he practiced his profession and became interested in militia matters, for, soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, he was commissioned colonel of the 82nd Pennsylvania, a regiment called the 31st Pennsylvania until the termination of the campaign of 1862 on the Peninsula. The regiment was engaged at Seven Pines and lost quite heavily at Malvern Hill, where it was in Couch's division of Keyes's IV Corps. Williams' command sustained nominal losses in the course of the Maryland campaign, which culminated in the battle of Sharpsburg (the most savage, single day fight of the Civil War); after this battle Darius N. Couch's old division was assigned to the VI Corps. At Fredericksburg in December, Williams' regiment was in Cochrane's brigade of Newton's division—the brigade sustaining only twenty-four casualties in its six regiments. Meantime he had been promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on November 29, 1862, but apparently the commission was not forwarded, since on January 31, 1863, he was commander of the 82nd Pennsylvania in the division now commanded by Charles Devens. This was his last appearance in the Official Records, and as of March 4, 1863, his appointment expired by law, the Senate failing to act upon his nomination. He then returned to Pittsburgh and resumed his profession of engineer, a career which was soon terminated by the failure of his health. For many years an invalid, he wrote prolifically for magazines and newspapers. He died in Allegheny (now Pittsburgh) on June 1, 1891, and was buried in Allegheny Cemetery.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.