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Gilliam Walker Ward

Sergeant Wyllie W. Ward's Gallantry At Chancellorsville.
By James T. Gilliam, Richmond, Va.

No country on earth has ever produced so brave, so gallant, and so heroic soldiers as our grand old Mother Virginia, and in the dark days of the sixties, when her sons poured out their blood in rivers, heoric deeds became to frequent to be recounted. One of these untold stories of the War between the States, about a sergeant and a flag, far surpasses for bravery that of Jasper ar Sullivan's Island.

Our great leader, Stonewall Jackson, received his death wound while placing some battery in position on a ridge just in front of the last line of works that we had captured about nine o'clock that night, from the fire of some fresh troops (a North Carolina brigade) that had just come in charge of the captured works. The enemy was busy fortifying in our front all night, and the next morning, May 3, we charged them in their new position and were repulsed four times, leaving the ground covered with our dead and wounded. Here the brave and gallant commanders of Company E, G, and I, Lieutenant Noah Walker, of Richmond, Captain Walker, of Farmville, and Capt. William A. Gilliam, of Massingord, were either killed or received their death wounds, and many of the best and bravest officers and men of the regiment met the same fate. The color bearer and the entire guard were either killed or wounded, and but few of the color company (E) escaped uninjured. Lieutenant Walker was shot dead as he caught the colors from the habd of the falling and dying bearer, and as he fell Sergt. Wyllie W. Ward, of Company I, caught and bore the colors back with the regiment, which was then falling back, receiving at the same instant a painful wound in the leg. The regiment retired only about one hundred yards, where it was protected from the terrible fire of the enemy by a slight rise of the ground, Here Sergeant Ward gave the colors to the colonel, informing him that the wound in his leg had become so painful that he could not carry them. The colonel bore the colors to the front and called for volunteers to carry them. There was not a soldier in the regiment but knew that the colors had been fatal to every man who had borne or touched them that morning, and to volunteer to carry them appeared as if volunteering for a sure and speedy death, as we were then preparing for another assault. Can we wonder that the men were slow to respond? At this time Gen. J. E. B. Stuart rode up and said simply: "Advance your colors." Sergeant Ward arose from the ground and said: "Give them back to me, Colonel. Though wounded, lame, and in pain, I will carry them." And he did carry them nobly, bravely, and proudly; and the colors of the 44th were the first to float over the abandoned works of the enemy, for this assault was successful and they led in the pursuit across the open field toward the Chancellor house. Sergeant Ward was promoted to a lieutenancy soon after the battle.

This account of the 44th at Chancellorsville is substantially as related to me by my brother, the late R. H. Gilliam, Captain of Company I, 44th Virginia Regiment, 2d Brigade, 1st Division, 2d Corps, A. N. V.

I am glad to say that Lieutenant Ward is still living and is so young, active, and highly esteemed that, notwithstanding the age limit of sixty-five years within which the present post office administration considers applicants for the post offices eligible, the congressman from his district and the United States senators, in response to a general demand from them people of South Boston and Halifax County, secured for him the appointement as postmaster of the thriving little city of South Boston, Va. He hopes to be at the Reunion in Richmond next June and to greet his old comrades.

SOURCE: Confederate Veteran Magazine, June, 1915.

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