Henry Walton Wessells


Henry Walton Wessells was born on February 20, 1809, in the Berkshire village of Litchfield, Connecticut. He was graduated from West Point at the age of twenty-four, and then served for three years against the Florida Seminoles. In the Mexican War he was brevetted major and later was presented with a jeweled sword by his state for gallantry at the battles of Contreras and Churubusco. During the next fourteen years he served without promotion on the Pacific Coast and in the Dakotas and Kansas. His first Civil War duty was as colonel of the 8th Kansas Infantry on the Missouri border, but in March, 1862, he was transferred east to the Army of the Potomac and on April 25 became a brigadier general of volunteers. In the Peninsular campaign, where he was wounded slightly at Seven Pines, he commanded a brigade of Keyes's IV Corps. He was stationed at Suffolk that autumn and then took part in the operations in North Carolina. On May 3, 1863, he became commander of the District of the Albemarle and a year later had the misfortune to be garrisoning the town of Plymouth, North Carolina, when he was assailed and forced to surrender by the Rebel forces of General Robert F. Hoke. This action resulted in Hoke's becoming one of the youngest major generals in Confederate service, and Wessells' becoming a prisoner of war for four months. After his exchange General Wessells acted for a time as commissary of prisoners and then as commandant of a New York draft rendezvous. At the end of the war he was brevetted brigadier general in the Regular Army and later in 1865 became lieutenant colonel of the 18th U. S. Infantry. Stationed on the Indian frontier for a time, he was on retirement and recruiting service until he was retired at his own request in 1871. He returned to the town of his birth and died on January 12, 1889, in Dover, Delaware. He was buried in the cemetery at Litchfield.

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