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Richard Stoddert Ewell

By John T. Marck

Richard Ewell was born in Washington, D.C. (District of Columbia) on February 8, 1817, where he lived until the age of nine when his family moved to Prince William County, Virginia. He attended the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, where he graduated in 1840, thirteenth in his class.

Ewell then received a commission in the 1st U.S. Dragoons at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania for training. Following this, he reported to Fort Wayne, in what is now Oklahoma. Serving in the Mexican War, he was promoted to brevet captain for his outstanding conduct. Ewell then went and served in Baltimore, Maryland before returning to the Southwest. After the Civil War began, Ewell happened to be in Virginia on sick leave, where he resigned his commission as captain in the United States Army on May 7, 1861.

Ewell then joined the Confederacy, originally serving as a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia forces before becoming a colonel in the Confederate army. As a cavalry instructor, he was promoted to brigadier general on June 17, 1861, and more than one year later on January 24, 1862, attained the rank of major general.

General Ewell served with distinction at the First Battle of Bull Run, Cedar Mountain, as well as in the Shenandoah Valley and the Seven Days' Battles. At Groveton in August 1862, Ewell lost his leg in battle, however, was soon equipped with a wooded one and returned to active duty on May 23, 1863.

Upon returning to duty, Ewell, now a lieutenant general, was chosen to replace General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson as commander of the II Corps. Although riding a horse was difficult, Ewell served well in the campaigns from Gettysburg to Spotsylvania Court House; being wounded twice.

At the Battle of the "Bloody Angle," Ewell fell from his horse, causing an injury that disabled him from further active field service. From this point forward, he commanded the Department of Henrico as well as the defenses of Richmond.

On April 6, 1865, Ewell was captured at Sayler's Creek and was placed in prison at Fort Warren, Massachusetts until his release on August 19, 1865.

After his release, Ewell retired to his farm outside Spring Hill, Tennessee. For the remainder of his life he was at times criticized for his actions at the Battle of Gettysburg, whereby on the first day of the battle, July 1, 1863, he refused to capture Cemetery Hill. Many believed this failure to do so was the main reason the Confederacy lost the battle. However, even if he had taken Cemetery Hill, this in of itself could never have secured a victory.

Richard S. Ewell died on his farm in Tennessee on January 25, 1872.

Copyright 1993-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.