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Civil War Soldiers - Nelson

Nelson, William, major-general, U.S. Army, was born near Maysville, Ky., in 1825. He entered the United States navy as midshipman, Jan. 28, 1840, commanded a battery at the siege of Vera Cruz in the Mexican war, and afterwards served in the Mediterranean. He was promoted master in 1854, lieutenant in 1855, and in 1858 commanded the "Niagara," in which he carried back to Africa the negroes that had been taken from the slaver "Echo." Early in 1861 he was serving in Washington, and on July 16 he was promoted lieutenant-commander and had charge of the gunboats on the Ohio river. He was instrumental in raising recruits for the Union army in Kentucky and Tennessee, and on Sept. 16, he was appointed brigadier-general of volunteers. On Nov. 8, he engaged with two Ohio regiments, reinforced by detachments from several Kentucky regiments, in checking the advance of Col. John S. Williams on Prestonburg, and was successful in forcing the Confederate leader back into Virginia. He was then ordered to join the column in front of Louisville in command of a division under Gen. Buell, and he took a conspicuous part as commander of his division at the battle of Shiloh, where Buell's army was the first to join Gen. Grant. He was defeated at Richmond, Ky., and wounded in the engagement, commanded Louisville when that city was threatened by Bragg, and on July 17, 1862, was promoted major-general of volunteers. In an altercation which arose at the Galt House in Louisville between Gen. Nelson and Gen. Jefferson C. Davis, Davis shot Nelson, and the latter died at the Galt House, Louisville, Ky., Sept. 29, 1862. Davis was arrested but was never brought to trial.

Source: The Union Army: A History of Military Affairs in the Loyal States 1861-1865, Volume 8 Biographical, 1908

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