William Smith Hanger Baylor

William Smith Hanger Baylor        William Smith Hanger Baylor was born in Augusta County, deep in the Valley of Virginia, on April 7, 1831, the only son of Jacob and Eveline Hanger. His father was an ex-judge who owned a prospering farm near Staunton. Even in his early youth Baylor displayed an unusually pleasing personality. He received his local schooling at the Staunton Academy and, in 1850, graduated from Washington College in Lexington. He showed outstanding skill in debate. Baylor earned his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1853 and returned home to hang out his shingle. In 1857 he was elected commonwealth's attorney for Staunton and held the post through successive elections until his death. When a local militia company was organized in the late 1850s, Baylor also was elected captain of the West Augusta Guards, and quickly elevated it to one of the finest militia companies in the state. This unit was one of the first called out to repel John Browns raid in October, 1859. But Baylor was not there to lead it. He had gone to New York on his honeymoon, where he was stricken with typhoid fever. 

        When several volunteer companies from Augusta County were organized at the outset of the War in the spring of 1861, Baylor was chosen their colonel. In April the units were ordered to Harpers Ferry and mustered into Confederate service as the 5th Infantry Regiment, Virginia Volunteers; in the reorganization Baylor was appointed major. Thomas J. Jackson wrote at least one letter to Richmond in which he upheld Baylor as his most dependable and deserving subordinate during the critical weeks of organization at Harpers Ferry. 

        Baylor served with distinction in a skirmish at Falling Waters and again, three weeks later, in a sprawling battle on the plains of Manassas. With the reorganization of the Stonewall Brigade in mid-April, 1862, Baylor was named to the command of his old Fifth Regiment. From that moment on, in a unit distinguished for its valor, he set an example. The young colonel from Staunton fought with distinction in Jackson's Valley Campaign, once having his horse shot from under him while leading a charge at Winchester, so he led the final assault on foot. During the Seven Days he was cited several times for conspicuous bravery. After the battle of Cedar Run in August 1862, Baylor was given command of the Stonewall Brigade. But because his undaunted courage and complete disregard of personal safety made him an easy target in battle, Baylors first campaign at the head of the Stonewall Brigade was his last. Barely ten days after assuming command even before his promotion to brigadier could be confirmed he was killed in the closing moments of Second Manassas, carrying the flag of the 33rd Virginia. Baylor's body was tenderly borne from the battlefield and returned to Augusta County where he was buried in the Hebron Presbyterian churchyard. 

The Stonewall Brigade

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