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William H. C. Whiting

William H. C. Whiting, standing

William H. C. Whiting Gravesite

Digitized and Colorized Image of W.H.C. Whiting

William Henry Chase Whiting (March 22, 1824 – March 10, 1865) was an United States Army officer who resigned after 16 years of service in the Army Corps of Engineers to serve in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He was wounded at the Second Battle of Fort Fisher by a musket ball to his leg, and died on March 10, 1865, of dysentery that entered his wounds.

West Point and the officer corps[edit | edit source]

William Whiting was born on March 22, 1824, in the coastal community of Biloxi in southern Mississippi. At the age of twelve, he was an outstanding student and graduate of English High School of Boston in Boston, Massachusetts. At sixteen, he graduated from Georgetown College (now University) in Washington, D.C.. The son of Levi Whiting, a respected artillery officer, and Mary A. Whiting, he continued to impress his instructors at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, from which he graduated first in the class of 1845. Appointed second lieutenant of engineers, Whiting was involved in constructing seacoast defenses in Maryland and Florida and surveying military routes and frontier forts in west Texas. Whiting served at Fort Davis, Texas. He was the first to survey the Big Bend area for the U.S. Army. Promoted to first lieutenant in 1853, Whiting was sent west, erecting harbor fortifications in San Francisco, California, and serving on the board of engineers for Pacific coast defenses until 1856. Lt. Whiting spent the five years before the Civil War improving rivers, canals, and harbors in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. He was promoted to captain, corps of engineers, in 1858.

Civil War[edit | edit source]

In January 1861, then Captain Whiting was an engineer responsible for US Army installations in Georgia and Florida. As Georgia and Florida state militia seized these sites by force, Whiting took no discernible action. On January 3, Whiting received information that Georgia was moving to take Fort Marion, but he made no effort to warn the garrison there or its commander. By the end of the month, more than half a dozen U.S. Army forts, arsenals, and barracks had fallen to state forces without any action by Whiting.[1]

Whiting resigned his commission February 20, 1861, in the weeks before Fort Sumter, and was appointed major of engineers, Confederate States Army. After improving defenses of Charleston harbor, Whiting served under Major General Joseph E. Johnston as chief engineer of the Army of the Shenandoah and at the First Battle of Bull Run. Promoted to brigadier general in August 1861, Whiting later commanded a division at Seven Pines, rapidly redeploying to support Stonewall Jackson in his second Valley Campaign, and returning by rail to the Peninsula with his division to fight in the battles at Gaines' Mill and Malvern Hill.

Robert E. Lee was not satisfied with Whiting's performance during the Seven Days Battles and replaced him with Brig. Gen. John Hood. Assigned command of the more peaceful military district of Wilmington, North Carolina, Whiting remained in that post, briefly taking over Petersburg defenses as a major general in May 1864. By the beginning of 1865, Whiting found himself defending the district against forces under Maj. Gen. Alfred Howe Terry. Wounded and captured at Fort Fisher near Wilmington. Whiting from his prison cell requested investigation of his superior, General Braxton Bragg's actions. Whiting was angry that Bragg failed to use a division under Maj. Gen. Robert Hoke to attack the Federal rear while the fort was under assault.

Taken prisoner with the rest of fort's defenders, and weakened by war service and the leg injury suffered at Fort Fisher, Whiting died of dysentery at the Union military hospital at Fort Columbus on Governors Island in New York City on March 10, 1865. He was buried a few miles distant at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. His widow, Kate, had his body exhumed in 1900 and moved to Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Whiting's brother Jasper died of illness in Confederate service. Another brother, Robert, was in charge of Green-Wood Cemetery, where Whiting was originally interred.

On July 23, 2012, the Cape Fear Museum in Wilmington unveiled Whiting's uniform for exhibition.[2]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. William H. C. Whiting to General J. G. Totten, 7 January 1861, The War of the Rebellion: A Compliation of the Official Records, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1883, Vol. 1, p. 318; [1]
  2. "Cape Fear Museum unveils Confederate general's uniform, July 23, 2012". wwaytv3.com. http://www.wwaytv3.com/2012/07/23/cape-fear-museum-unveils-confederate-generals-uniform. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 

References[edit | edit source]

  • Boatner, Mark Mayo III, The Civil War Dictionary.
  • Cullum File #1231, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.
  • Biography at Handbook of Texas Online
  • William Henry Chase Whiting Family Dallas, Texas
  • Memoir of W.H.C. Whiting by C.B. Denson. (Available at lulu.com)
  • Exploring the Southwestern Trails, 1846 - 1854 [2]

Historic Sites[edit | edit source]

  • Fort Fisher National Historic Landmark [3]
  • Fort Davis National Historic Site [4]
  • Fort McKavett State Historic Site [5]
  • Big Bend National Park [6]
  • Governors Island National Monument, New York [7]
  • Greenwood Cemetery National Historic Landmark, Brooklyn [8]
  • William Henry Chase Whiting Grave Site [9]
  • Katherine Davis Whiting Grave Site (Spouse) [10]

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