Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Faces of the Civil War: George Lawrence

George Lawrence, a private in the 2nd New Hampshire Infantry, was
wounded at the first Battle of Bull Run but survived the war.

George Lawrence felt the effects of Civil War long after the rebellion was over. A 21-year-old private in the 2nd New Hampshire, Lawrence was injured at the first Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, when he was hit near the temple by a piece of artillery shell. But it was marching in the hot Virginia sun that apparently had an especially lasting effect on Lawrence.

In an application for a pension in 1886, he complained that he could not hold a job as a carpenter since he was discharged from the army because he could not stay in the sun long. "I was sun stroke August 27, 1862, between Catlett's Station and Bristoe Station in the pursuit of Jackson," he wrote in reference to the famous Rebel general, Stonewall Jackson. "I was sun stroke a second time June 20, 1863, or about that date near Manassas Junction while following the army to Centerville and was taken to Seminary Hospital in Alexandria." (1)

Stonewall Jackson
One of his comrades backed up Lawrence's claim. On Aug. 28, 1862, Lawrence "was overcome with the heat to the extent that he was unconscious and breathed heavily from that time into the night," Stephen Smiley wrote in 1887. "I was with him from that time until far into the night ... When there was no change for the better in his condition, I concluded that it was the last time I would see him alive." (2)

Another soldier who served with Lawrence recalled somewhat humorously the injury his pal suffered at Bull Run. "He was and is somewhat flighty in his talk," J.M. House wrote in 1887. "Used to say to him ... that if he ever had much sense, guessed that piece of shell knocked it out of him." (3)

There's no record in his file at the National Archives whether Lawrence was granted his pension long after the war was over. The photograph above is a 6th plate tintype of Lawrence from my collection.

(1) June 15, 1886, affidavit in pension application at National Archives.
(2) May 9, 1887 letter in George Lawrence's pension application at National Archives
(3) May 6, 1887 letter to commissioner of pensions in pension application at National Archives

Ruins of Henry House on Bull Run battlefield, 1861
(Library of Congress collection)

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