“Give me liberty, or give me death!” Nearly two hundred and fifty years ago, in 1775, Patrick Henry spoke these words in a speech to the Second Virginia Convention in Richmond. His speech helped galvanize the colony and commit Virginians to the course of independence.
While we were pondering the anniversary of Henry’s speech today, we started thinking about the connections between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. We don’t mean connections of events or politics or ideologies, but of people. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that the Revolution was no farther away in time to the people of the Civil War than the Great Depression is to us—only a few generations, in fact. And how much history occurred during those few generations! The War of 1812, the Mexican War… Korea, Vietnam. Just as we remember our grandfather who fought in the Battle of the Bulge during WWII, so a Civil War soldier might remember his grandfather who fought alongside George Washington. Just as we meet Vietnam veterans today, so people of the Civil War would know uncles or fathers who fought in 1812.
In today’s Mewsing we are taking a look at some of the soldiers involved in Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. It is a small example, but they are representative of the armies on the whole, and of the nation.
On the Confederate side, Gen. Lewis Armistead commanded one of the brigades in Gen. Pickett’s division. His uncle, Maj. George Armistead, had defended Ft. McHenry against the British in the War of 1812. Maj. Armistead’s defense inspired Francis Scott Key to pen “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
In Armistead’s brigade, Pvt. Robert Tyler Jones was the grandson of President John Tyler. Commanding the 53rd Virginia Infantry, Col. William Aylett was the grandson of none other than Patrick Henry.
On the Union side, the colonel of the 20th Massachusetts, Paul Revere, was a descendent of the Paul Revere of the American Revolution. Col. Revere fell mortally wounded in the bombardment before Pickett’s Charge.
Gen. Alexander Webb commanded the Philadelphia Brigade at the Angle, where Pickett’s Division would strike the Union line. His grandfather, Samuel B. Webb, was a minuteman at Lexington in 1775, where the American Revolution began with “the shot heard round the world.”