|Brig. Gen. Lewis ("Lo") Armistead
Lewis Addison Armistead was born on February 18, 1817 in New Bern, North Carolina to Walker
Keith Armistead and Elizabeth Stanly. Lewis grew up near the mountains of Virginia on the family
farm, Ben Lomond, near the town of Upperville, Virginia. He was accepted to West Point on March
21, 1833 but tendered his resignation to the school (for the second time, the first time, because of
an illness that left him behind in his studies his first year at West Point and he was certain to fail
his annual exam) on January 29, 1836 for the incident of "cracking a mess hall plate over the
head of fellow classmate, Jubal Early." Lewis still was able to serve his country and was appointed
to the 6th U.S. Infantry Regiment as a Second Lieutenant in 1839. This was due in part because
of the Seminole Indian uprisings in Florida, and largely because of the influence of both his
father, General Walker Keith Armistead and also that of Edward Stanly, his uncle who was a
Congressman from North Carolina. He served three years in Florida and was transferred to
Jefferson Barracks, just south of St. Louis, Missouri in 1842.
Lewis married for the first time in 1844 to Cecilia Lee Love. It was also in this year that Lewis met
someone who would be a life-long friend, fellow Army officer Winfield Scott Hancock. To Lewis and
Cecilia, a son was born, Walker Keith Armistead, on December 11, 1844 at Saint David's Parish,
Alabama. Their second child, a daughter, Flora Lee, was born on June 26, 1846.
Lewis served in the Mexican War, and was brevetted to the honorary rank of Captain for his
actions in battle. After the Mexican War in 1849, Armistead was assigned to recruiting duty in
Kentucky, where he was diagnosed with a severe case of Erysipelas, a degenerative skin disease
that destroys tissue. The diseased tissue was removed and he later recovered. This was the first
of many misfortunes that would befall the Captain.
In April, 1850, Lewis and Cecilia, lost their little girl, Flora Lee. She is buried at Jefferson
Barracks. Later that same year, Cecilia also passed away, on December 12, 1850 from an
unknown cause. Also during this period of time, the Armistead family home in Virginia, Ben
Lomond, burned, destroying practically everything. Armistead took leave in October of 1852 to go
home and help his family. While home on leave, he married for the second time. His bride was
Cornelia L.T. Jamesson, the widow of a naval midshipman who had died in 1845. Lewis and
Cornelia were married in Christ Church in Alexandria, Va., on March 17, 1853. They both went
west when Armistead returned to duty shortly thereafter. The newlyweds apparently had, and lost
a child. Also buried at Jefferson Barracks is another grave, that of an infant, Lewis B. Armistead,
who died on Dec 6, 1854. The infant is buried next to Flora Lee Armistead. Tragedy again struck
Armistead, the next year, his second wife, Cornelia, passed away during a cholera epidemic, on
August 2, 1855 at Fort Riley, Kansas.
Tragedy seems to have followed Lewis; he had lost two children, his two wives, his family's home,
and suffered a severe illness, all in a period of about 6 years. But more turmoil was not far away.
There was soon the hint of secession by the Southern States, bringing with it the threat of War.
With the attack on Fort Sumter, South Carolina in April of 1861, many Southern men were faced
with the difficult decision of remaining with the Army they had served loyally for most of their lives,
or leaving to fight for their home states. Most would resign their commissions, for to fight against
their respective states would mean fighting their own families; this was something that many could
and would not do. So, like many of his Southern comrades, Lewis A. Armistead resigned from the
U.S. Army on May 26, 1861 to serve his beloved Virginia.
It was shortly after this, in an incident popularized in Michael Shaara's "Killer Angels," that
Armistead attended a tearful farewell party. Held for the departing Southerners by their brother
officers and wives at the home of Winfield and Almira Hancock in Los Angeles, California. Lewis
gave to Hancock's wife, Almira, his prayer book, inscribed with "Trust in God and Fear Nothing."
Other possessions he also gave the Hancock's, to be forwarded to his family in the event of his
death. To his friend Winfield, he gave a new Major's uniform and goodbyes were said, in what was
to be a final farewell between dear and trusted friends.
Traveling east, Lewis arrived in Richmond, Va., around mid September of 1861, and was
appointed to the rank of Major in the Confederate Army on September 14, 1861. Within less than
two weeks, he was appointed full Colonel and given command of the 57th Virginia Infantry
Regiment which was in training just north of Richmond, VA. On April 1, 1862 he was promoted to
Brigadier General and was given the command of a brigade of Infantry. The brigade was made up
of five Virginia regiments, the 9th, 14th, 38th, 53rd, and his old regiment, the 57th.
His service is document in accounts of the battles in which he fought. Armistead served in the
battles of Seven Pines, the Seven Days (including a significant, but tragic, attack at Malvern Hill),
Sharpsburg, and the Suffolk Campaign. But his most famous service came at his last fight, the
Battle of Gettysburg, in July, 1863. In the lead when the remnants of Pickett's Division and other
units pierced the Union Line on July 3, he crossed the wall at the Angle, his hat upon his sword,
and he was then shot down. The badly wounded Armistead, by then captured by Federal soldiers,
was immediately attended by Union Captain Henry H. Bingham, a Masonic Brother and member of
Major General Winfield Hancock's staff. To Captain Bingham, Armistead pleaded "Tell General
Hancock from me, that I have done him and you all a grave injustice." Later it was learned that
General Hancock, his long time friend, was wounded almost at the same time as had Armistead.