James Clay Rice

James Clay Rice was born December 27, 1829, in the western Massachusetts hamlet of Worthington. With little formal education he entered Yale University where he was graduated in 1854. For a time he engaged in teaching at Natchez, Mississippi, meanwhile conducting the literary department of a local newspaper and studying law. In 1855 he went to New York and the following year was admitted to the practice of law. He was made a lieutenant of the 39th New York as early as May 10, 1861, captain in August, and lieutenant colonel of the 44th New York on September 13. After becoming colonel of the 44th New York in July, 1862, he led it throughout George B. McClellan's Peninsular campaign. This regiment formed a part of Morell's division of the V Corps with which Rice was thereafter connected. For a time at Second Manassas, he was in command of his brigade. But during the Confederate invasion of Maryland the 44th New York is shown under the command of its major, and at Fredericksburg under the command of its lieutenant colonel. Rice rejoined his men, however, in time to be reported in command on December 31, 1862, and took part in the battle of Chancellorsville in May, 1863, although the brigade to which he was attached sustained only nominal losses. At Gettysburg, Rice performed heroic service on Little Round Top, when the command of the brigade devolved upon him. It is not too much to say that this little band of four regiments, numbering scarcely a thousand muskets, saved the Union cause from disaster on that memorable second of July, while sustaining 352 casualties. For his services at this engagement Rice was made a brigadier general of volunteers on August 17, 1863, and assigned to permanent command of a brigade in Cutler's division of the I Corps. When the I Corps was broken up, Rice rejoined the V Corps and at the beginning of the Wilderness campaign directed a brigade of Wadsworth's division. At Spotsylvania on May 10, 1864, his thigh was shattered by a rifle ball, necessitating amputation of his leg. He failed to rally from the operation and died shortly after. When the surgeon had asked him on which side he would rest more comfortably, he had replied, "Turn my face to the enemy." He was buried in Rural Cemetery, Albany, New York.

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