Isaac Ridgeway Trimble
Regarded as the most prominent soldier contributed by Maryland to the Southern Cause, Isaac Ridgeway Trimble was born May 15, 1802, in Culpeper, Virginia.
He graduated from West Point in 1822 and spent ten years as an artillery
officer. Trimble then left the army and devoted almost three decades to
railroad construction, much of it in his adopted state of Maryland, becoming a distinguished superintendent.|
In April 1861, as commander of Baltimore defenses, Trimble burned a number of bridges north of the city to impede passage of Federal troops en route to Washington. The next month he accepted a colonelcy of engineers in Virginia forces and helped in the construction of Norfolk's defensive works and battery emplacements. Following his appointment on August 9, 1861, as a Confederate brigadier general, Trimble took command of a brigade in Richard S. Ewell's division. He was, a fellow officer stated, "a veteran in years but with the fire and aggressiveness of youth." He and his brigade waited through the winter on the Rappahannock line.
Trimble's first chance to show what he could do came the next spring in "Stonewall" Jackson's Shenandoah Campaign. He "saw the elephant" in the climax of the campaign at Cross Keys on June 8, 1862. There, out in front on the right side of Ewell's line, he drew an attack by Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont's Federals. Trimble ordered his men to wait until the last possible second to fire. The entire brigade then blasted a volley into the faces of the Yankees, who staggered, then turned and ran. When they didn't return, Trimble was irked. He went after them, and advanced until he was a mile ahead of the other Confederate brigades. Not yet content, he insisted heatedly on a further attack. Ewell refused his request but remembered his ardor: "Trimble won the fight," he would confide later, "and I believe now if I had followed his views we would have destroyed Fremont's army."
To the men Trimble appeared old and cranky, with an eccentricity of dress which made him right at home in the command of the spectacularly eccentric Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and Richard S. Ewell. Once, when someone mentioned the subject of "fancy soldiers," Jackson pointed to Trimble, "sitting on the fence, with black army hat, cord and feathers, [and said] 'There is the only fancy soldier in my command.'" Another distinguishing feature was his bull voice. One of his men remembered, "Trimble gave the loudest command I ever heard, to 'Forward, guide center, march!' I could hear the echo . . . for miles."
At Gaines' Mill, Trimble's next battle, he showed more of the same spirit in attack as Cross Keys. At Malvern Hill, he vainly begged asked Jackson to let him make a night assault, unwilling to give up without one more effort where 5,000 Confederates already lay crumpled on the ground.
Trimble's dependable service in Jackson's Shenandoah Valley and the Seven Days' campaigns ended momentarily at Second Manassas when a federal bullet shattered his left knee. Jackson remembered, and wrote:
"I respectfully recommend that Brig. Gen. I. R. Trimble be appointed a Maj. Gen. It is proper, in this connection, to state that I do not regard him as a good disciplinarian, but his success in battle has induced me to recommend his promotion. I will mention but one instance, though several might be named, in which he rendered distinguished service. After a day's march of over 30 miles he ordered his command . . . to charge the enemy's position at Manassas Junction. This charge resulted in the capture of a number of prisoners and 8 pieces of Artillery. I regard that day's achievement as the most brilliant that has come under my observation during the present war."
On January 17, 1863, while still recuperating from his wound, Trimble received advancement to major general. He returned to duty, but on July 3, 1863, while leading two North Carolina brigades in the Pickett-Pettigrew charge (he had been given Pender's place), Trimble again was shot in the left leg. Dr. Hunter McGuire amputated the limb the next day. Unable to travel, Trimble surrendered to Union authorities. He endured imprisonment at Johnson's Island and Fort Warren before his February 1865 release.
After the War, and equipped with an artificial leg, Trimble resumed his engineering work. He resided in Baltimore, where he died January 2, 1888. He is one of five Confederate generals, buried in that city's Green Mount Cemetery.