Charles Sidney Winder

Confederate General Charles Sidney Winder        Member of a prominent Maryland family, Charles Sidney Winder was born October 7, 1829, in Talbot County. His older brother had been killed in the Mexican War, and his uncle, John H. Winder, had taught at West Point before becoming a Confederate general. Other relatives included Confederate Admiral Franklin Buchanan and Francis Scott Key, author of  "The Star-Spangled Banner." His uncle (and later his father-in-law), Colonel Edward Lloyd, owned thousands of choice acres in Maryland, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Twenty-second in the West Point class of 1850, Charles S. Winder was assigned to the artillery, the branch of service he most preferred. Four years later, his courageous actions during a hurricane in Panama had led to his promotion as the youngest captain in the entire Army. Reassigned to the 6th US Infantry, he added to his reputation in campaigns against the Yakima and Spokane Indians in Washington Territory before resigning his commission two weeks before the firing at Fort Sumter. 

        Winder traveled to Montgomery, Alabama, and received appointment as a major of artillery. On July 8, 1861, following participation in the Fort Sumter bombardment, he became colonel of the Sixth South Carolina. Winder saw no battle action before his March 1, 1862, promotion to brigadier (though some sources state that Winder served as an aide to General P.G.T. Beauregard during the Fort Sumter bombardment). When Thomas J. Jackson abruptly removed Brigadier General Richard B. Garnett from command of the Stonewall Brigade on April Fool's Day, 1862, Winder  was assigned to command of  this unit. In so doing, Jackson pointedly passed over the brigade's five existing regimental colonels, all of whom had sided with the highly popular but ousted Garnett in his controversial decision to retreat at the Battle of Kernstown. The appointment of an outsider had a predictable effect on the brigade. Winder was openly hissed at as he rode into camp, and more than one soldier threatened to shoot the newly arrived general.

        Tall and lean with a long, sharp nose and a bushy beard, Winder bore a passing resemblance to Stonewall Jackson. He also shared Jackson's inflexible approach to soldiering. Upon assuming his post as head of the Stonewall Brigade, Winder told his officers that he expected the discipline within the command to improve. To underscore his point, he had 30 straggling soldiers bucked and gagged, leading a number of men to desert and causing Jackson to personally prohibit such harsh punishment in the future.

        It was the first of a series of clashes between Winder and his new commander. A member of Jackson's staff, Major Henry Kyd Douglas, attributed this to the fact that the generals "were too much alike." Winder quickly requested a transfer to another command and then threatened to resign when Jackson curtly refused him a brief furlough. Cooler heads prevailed, and Winder remained with Jackson's army, although he never warmed to his brusque commander.

        Personal differences aside, Winder impressed Jackson with his valorous behavior during combat. Unlike Garnett, he showed a taste for aggressive fighting. At Port Republic, he was at the forefront of the fighting - his horse was hit three times by enemy bullets - and Jackson made it a point to personally shake Winder's hand before the Battle of Cedar Mountain, when the obviously ill Winder refused to stay in the rear, away from the fighting. A less impressed member of the brigade, Private John Cusler of the 33rd Virginia, found Winder "very tyrannical, so much so that he was "spotted" by some of the brigade; and we could hear it remarked by some nearly every day that the next fight we got into would be the last for Winder."

Cedar Mountain        In spite of the hostility, Winder led his men well in Jackson's Shenandoah Valley campaign and through the Seven Days' battles. On August 9, 1862, while personally and needlessly directing the gunners in the Rockbridge Artillery at Cedar Mountain, Winder was struck by a shell that tore through his side and nearly severed his left arm. Carried to the rear on a stretcher, he worried aloud about his family: "My poor darling wife and little pets," he gasped. "What will become of them?" He died an hour later. 

        Informed of Winder's death, Jackson raised his right hand and bowed his head in silent prayer. After the battle, Jackson delivered an uncharacteristically heartfelt bit of praise: "Richly endowed with those qualities of mind and person which fit an officer for command and which attract the admiration and excite the enthusiasm of the troops, he was rapidly raising to the front rank of the profession... His loss has been sorely felt." Jackson wrote  his wife: "I can hardly think of the fall of Brigadier-General C. S. Winder without tearful eyes." As for the rest of the Stonewall Brigade, Winder's death evoked little mourning. He may have succeeded Richard Garnett, but in the men's minds, at least, he had never replaced him. Charles S. Winder was buried near Easton, Maryland.

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"In appearance and personality Winder was the type of officer not easily forgotten. Tall, thin, and graceful, he had a face that reflected both assurance and sensitiveness. A precisely trimmed mustache and beard, an extraordinarily high forehead, dark, curly hair combed straight back, large brown eyes that flitted restlessly in quest of minute weakness or errors, all stamped this officer as an unusual man of exceptional talents. He was an immaculate dresser - not a dandy, just a perfectionist in his apparel - and he insisted upon having the finest steed available. No one called Winder "Charlie." To even his closest associates he was "General" or "Sir." He was a "Regular", imbued with the high standards and severe discipline of the old army. Whatever unit he commanded was noted for precision, order, and efficiency." - from The Stonewall Brigade by James I. Robertson, Jr.

              

 

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