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Civil War Soldiers - Wessells

Wessells, Henry W., brigadier-general, U.S. Army, was born in Litchfield, Conn., Feb. 20, 1809. After he was graduated at West Point in 1833 he took part in the Seminole war of 1837-40, first as a second lieutenant of infantry and then as first lieutenant, being promoted on July 7, 1838. In Gen. Scott's Mexican campaign he was promoted captain and received the brevet of major for gallantry at Contreras and Churubusco. In the former contest Capt. Wessells, though wounded, seized the regimental flag on the death of the color-sergeant and put himself at the head of his men. On his return from the war the state of Connecticut voted him a jeweled sword, which was presented to him with military ceremonies. Capt. Wessells was on the Pacific coast in 1849-54, and was in the Sioux expedition of 1855, after which he served in the Northwest till the Civil war. On June 6, 1861, he was promoted major, and on Aug. 22 of that year he received the colonelcy of the 8th Kan. infantry. After serving on the Missouri border he resumed his commission in the regular army Feb. 15, 1862, and in March was transferred to the Army of the Potomac. He was made a brigadier-general of volunteers April 25 and served in the Peninsula, receiving the regular army brevet of lieutenant-colonel for gallantry at Fair Oaks, where he was wounded. In McClellan's change of base he commanded the rear-guard, and then engaged in the defense of Suffolk, Va., afterward serving in North Carolina. After serving at Kinston, Goldsboro, and New Berne, he was placed over the sub-district of the Albemarle, taking command May 3, 1863. On April 17, 1864, he was attacked at Plymouth, N. C., where he had a garrison of about 3,000 men, by Gen. Robert F. Hoke with about 15,000 Confederate troops and the iron-clad "Albemarle." After a gallant defense which lasted three days Gen. Wessells surrendered the town. He was taken to Libby prison, whence he was transferred successively to Danville, Macon and Charleston. At the last-named place he was one of the officers that were placed under the fire of the Union batteries on Morris island. On Aug. 3, 1864, he was exchanged, and on Nov. 11 he became commissary of prisoners, which post he held until the close of the war. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel Feb. 16, 1865, and brevetted colonel to date from April 20, 1864, "for gallant and meritorious services during the rebel attack on Plymouth, N. C." On March 13 he was given the regular army brevet of brigadier- general. He then served on the northwestern frontier till Jan. 1, 1871, when he was retired. After that time he resided in his native place, but at the time of his death he was on a visit to Delaware. Gen. Wessells died in Dover, Del., Jan. 12, 1889.

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

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