February 18, 1817 – July 5, 1863
Lewis Addison Armistead was a Confederate general during the American Civil War. He was mortally wounded during Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Lewis Addison Armistead was born on February 18, 1817, in New Bern, North Carolina. His parents were Walker Keith Armistead and Elizabeth Stanly Armistead. Armistead's father and his father's five brothers served in the War of 1812. His uncle, George, commanded Fort McHenry during the British attack that inspired The Star Spangled Banner during the War of 1812. Armistead entered the United States Military Academy in 1833, but resigned in 1836 due to academic deficiencies and poor conduct following an incident in which he broke a plate over the head of fellow cadet Jubal Early.
After being dismissed from West Point, Armistead's father was able to obtain a second lieutenant's commission in the United States Army for his son on July 10, 1839. Armistead served three years in Florida during the Second Seminole War before transferring to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri in 1842. Armistead was promoted to first lieutenant on March 30, 1844. The same year, he married Cecelia Lee Love, a distant cousin of Robert E. Lee. The marriage produced one son and one daughter.
Armistead served in the Mexican-American War (April 25, 1846–February 2, 1848), during which he received two brevet promotions to captain and then to major for valor. He was wounded at the Battle of Chapultepec (September 1847).
Between the Mexican-American War and the onset of the American Civil War, Armistead served at numerous posts in the American West. During this time, he suffered several personal misfortunes. While serving in Kentucky, Armistead contracted a severe bacterial skin infection from which he eventually recovered. In 1850, his daughter died while he was stationed at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. Later that year, his wife died while they were visiting Mobile, Alabama. Two years later, the Armistead family home in Virginia burned, destroying nearly all of Armistead’s possessions. On March 17, 1853, Armistead married Cornelia Taliaferro Jamison, in Alexandria, Virginia. His new wife accompanied Armistead when he returned to duty in the West. The next year, the couple had a son who died on December 6, 1854. The next year, Armistead's wife died on August 3 at Fort Riley, Kansas, during a cholera epidemic. For the next six years, Armistead served at various outposts in Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, Arizona, and California.
When the American Civil War began, Armistead resigned his commission on May 26, 1861, left his post in San Diego, California, and joined the Confederate Army. His decision to resign led to a sad farewell with his closest friend, Winfield Scott Hancock, against whom he would later fight at the Battle of Gettysburg. Armistead received a commission in the Confederate Army as a major on September 15, 1861 and quickly rose to the rank of colonel on September 23, 1861. Six months later, on April 1, 1862, he attained the rank of; brigadier-general.
Armistead served with Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Seven Pines (May 31-June 1, 1862), the Seven Days Battles (June 25-July 1, 1862), the Battle of Bull Run II (August 28-30, 1862), the Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862), and the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11-15, 1862).
At the Battle of Gettysburg, Armistead was shot three times while leading his brigade during Pickett's Charge on July 3, 1863. During the charge, Armistead's brigade got further than any other Confederate unit, reaching its objective of the stone wall on Cemetery Ridge before a Union counterattack drove the brigade backwards. Some historians refer to Armistead's advance as the High Water Mark of the Confederacy. At the conclusion of the battle, Armistead asked to see his adversary and old friend Winfield Scott Hancock. The reunion did not take place however, as Hancock had also been injured.
Although doctors did not believe Armistead's Gettysburg wounds to be serious at first, he died in a Union field hospital two days after the battle, on July 5, 1863. Armistead was initially buried near the field hospital. Later, his remains were reinterred at his family's plot in Old Saint Paul's Cemetery, at Baltimore, Maryland.