287,292 Pages

William Rufus Terrill
Born (1834-04-21)April 21, 1834
Died October 8, 1862(1862-10-08) (aged 28)
Place of birth Covington, Virginia
Place of death Boyle County, Kentucky
Place of burial West Point National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army Union Army
Years of service 1853–1862
Rank Union army brig gen rank insignia.jpg Brigadier General
Battles/wars Bleeding Kansas
American Civil War
* Battle of Shiloh
* Battle of Perryville

William Rufus Terrill (April 21, 1834 – October 8, 1862) was a United States Army soldier and general who was killed in action at the Battle of Perryville during the American Civil War. His Confederate brother was also killed during the same war, making the Terrills one of the few sets of American brothers killed in action while commanding brigades.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Terrill was born in Covington, Virginia, and grew up at Warm Springs, in Bath County, Virginia. His father, Colonel William Henry Terrill, was a Virginia lawyer and congressman. He became a cadet at U.S. Military Academy in 1849 and graduated in 1853. While a cadet, he was involved in a fist-fight with classmate Philip H. Sheridan. The encounter caused a one-year suspension for Sheridan from the academy. Terrill graduated 16th in his class of 1853. After graduation, he was assigned to the 3rd U.S. Artillery and served on various garrisons. He then fought the Seminole Indians in Florida until being reassigned as a recruiter. He returned to West Point as an assistant professor of mathematics during 1853–54, before being assigned to duty in "Bleeding Kansas" during 1854–55. Terrill became an assistant in the United States coast survey from 1855 until 1861. In 1856 he was promoted to first lieutenant.[1] On May 14, 1861, he was appointed captain of the 5th Regular Artillery in Washington, D.C.

Civil War[edit | edit source]

Confederate attack on Fort Sumter and Lincoln's subsequent call for volunteers caused many southern-born officers to resign their commissions, but Terrill left no doubt about where his loyalties lay telegraphing the War Department and General Winfield Scott from Poughkeepsie, New York, on April 29, 1861, that “I am now and ever will be true to my oath and my country. No one has any authority to tender my resignation. I will be in Washington as soon as possible.” [2] Terrill was commissioned a captain in the 5th Regiment of Artillery in August 1861. His younger brother James B. Terrill was commissioned a major of Virginia Infantry and served in the Confederate States Army. Their father served the Confederate States as the provost marshal of Bath County, Virginia.

William Terrill served as assistant inspector general in Washington, D.C., and then commanded a brigade of artillery in the Army of the Ohio at the Battle of Shiloh. On September 9, 1862, he was appointed as a brigadier general of U.S. volunteers and took command of the 33rd Brigade in the Army of the Ohio. He led his inexperienced fresh troops into their first combat action at the Battle of Perryville. There, he was mortally wounded by a shell fragment while trying to rally his brigade in the face of a Confederate attack, and died later that day. The previous night, Generals Terrill and James S. Jackson and Colonel George Webster were discussing the improbability of being killed in action. All three would be killed in the following battle.

In 1864 during the Overland Campaign, Terrill's brother James, by then commanding a brigade, was killed in action at the Battle of Bethesda Church and buried on the battlefield. He was posthumously promoted to brigadier general. Another younger brother, Philip Mallory Terrill of the 12th Virginia Cavalry, was killed near Winchester, Virginia, in November 1864. The fourth brother, Dr. George P. Terrill, a Confederate militia commander, survived the Civil War. An unscrupulous war correspondent from Harper's Weekly manufactured a fitting legend that their grieving father later erected a memorial stone for both brothers, which reads "This monument erected by their father. God alone knows which was right."

William R. Terrill was interred at West Point National Cemetery.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Appletons' annual cyclopaedia and register of important events of the year: 1862. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1863. p. 677. http://archive.org/stream/1862appletonsan02newyuoft#page/n684/mode/1up. 
  2. William R. Terrill to Headquarters of the Army, April 29, 1861, National Archives, RG 108, E22, M1635

Further reading[edit | edit source]

"God Alone Knows Which Was Right": The Blue and Gray Terrill Family of Virginia in the Civil War

External links[edit | edit source]

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.