Thomas R. Williams

Thomas Williams was born on January 10, 1815, in Albany, New York. His father, one of Detroit's earliest settlers, had moved his family to Albany during the troubles incident to the War of 1812. The elder Williams was a militia general and during the Black Hawk War his son served as a private under him. In 1833 young Williams was appointed to West Point and in 1837 was graduated as an artillery subaltern. During the next seven years Williams discharged a variety of tasks which included service against the Florida Seminoles, garrison duty, and a tour at the Military Academy as an instructor. From 1844 to 1850 he was aide-decamp to General-in-Chief Winfield Scott and was brevetted captain and major for gallantry in the Mexican War. During the next decade he was stationed in garrison at several points and also saw further service against the Seminoles and in the West. He was at the Artillery School for Practice at Fort Monroe, when the Civil War broke out in 1861. On May 14 he became major of the 5 th Artillery and on September 28 brigadier general of volunteers. After briefly acting as inspector general of the Department of Virginia and commanding his old regiment in Philadelphia, he took part in Ambrose E. Burnside's North Carolina expedition in October, 1861, and was in command of Fort Hatteras until March, 1862. He was then assigned to a brigade of Benjamin F. Butler's forces for the land operations against New Orleans. After the Lower Mississippi was opened and New Orleans occupied, Williams and his brigade were detailed to the occupation of Baton Rouge. Under orders from Butler he made an abortive effort to isolate Vicksburg from the Mississippi by digging a canal across the neck of land opposite. On August 5, 1862, he was back in Baton Rouge, where he was assailed by the forces of John C. Breckinridge, who was endeavoring to recapture the town. While conducting a most competent and successful defense of his position with greatly inferior numbers, Williams was killed by a rifle ball in the chest. Some three weeks later he was buried in the family lot in Elmwood Cemetery, Detroit.

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