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Gholson, William Yates
WILLIAM YATES GHOLSON. First Lieutenant 106th Ohio Vols. (Infantry), July 16, 1862; Captain, July 24, 1862; killed at Hartsville, Tenn., December 7, 1862. WILLIAM YATES GHOLSON, JR., was born, March 11, 1842, in Pontotoc, a small town in the northern part of Mississippi. His father was a native of Virginia and a graduate of Princeton, whose first wife, a daughter of Chancellor Taylor of Virginia, had left him two children, - Samuel Creed Gholson, subsequently a physician in Mississippi, and Ann Jane Gholson, who married Mr. Glasgow, one of the proprietors of the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond. Removing to Mississippi in 1835, Mr. Gholson there married Miss Elvira Wright, the mother of the subject of this biography. In 1845, for private reasons, he relinquished his flourishing law practice and removed to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he became at one time city solicitor, and in 1855 was elected Judge of the Superior Court. This office he held till 1860, when he was elected Judge of the Supreme Court of Ohio, on the Republican ticket. Since that date he has resigned his seat on the bench, and resumed the profession of an advocate. "The Gholsons," wrote William, in 186i, "were originally of Saxon descent..... The name is a very rare one, borne, I think, only by our own family. My father has examined a great many lists of English names, and found in one gazetteer the name Gholston. The Pretender at one time assumed the name of Gholston. " Before the Revolutionary War the Gholsons were settled in Orange County, Virginia, at.the residence lately occupied by Philip P. Barbour. One of the sons, Thomas, my great grandfather, moved to Brunswick County, near the Meherrin River, and gave the name to a town there, Gholsonville. His third son, Thomas Gholson, Jr., my immediate ancestor, was born in 1780, married Miss Ann Yates, was a member of Congress from 1807 until his death, July 4, 1816, leaving three children, of whom my father was the eldest. Daniel Wright, my great-grandfather, on the mother's side, lived in Virginia. His son, Daniel Wright, my grandfather, moved to Mississippi, and married Miss Martha Patrick, a celebrated beauty and most estimable lady. He was Judge of the Supreme Court of Mississippi. He left but one child, Miss Elvira Wright, who married my father in 1839. One of my ancestors, William Yates, was President of William and Mary's College. His son, William Yates, Jr., was a colonel of the Revolution." These genealogical details have a peculiar interest in the case of one who was to take up arms against his own blqod, as it were, and to fall in the second American revolution. Gholson's schooling began in 185o, and was confined to private institutions. He fitted for college in three years, and entered Harvard in March, 1858, at the commencement of the second term of the Freshman year of his Class. " I cannot," he wrote, " exaggerate the importance of my college experience. Although my Sophomore and Junior years afford me cause for poignant regret, yet even their influence has been beneficial. I have never during my college course received any species of punishment from my superiors; and although I cannot say I deserve my fortune, I have had neither "private,'' public,' nor '4 parietal' admonition. I have been a member of the Oneida Boat-Club, the Institute of 1770, the Hasty-Pudding Club, and two secret societies. I am also a member of the College choir..... Expect to study law, although there is a chance of my entering the army." That the latter career was uppermost in his mind is shown by the fact that, in the summer of 1861, he went to Washington to seek an entrance into West Point, but was prevented by the failure of Congress to pass a bill enlarging that academy. Deeming the measure postponed merely, he returned to his father's country residence at Avondale, three miles from Cincinnati. Here, caring little for society, he became a diligent student. In September he writes to a classmate that he is well and happy, enjoying his home and the delightful scenery about him. Thirsting for the languages, he takes lessons in French three times a week, and withal bends vigorously to the law. His belief in the ultimate triumph of the national cause is strong; and his mind, assured by the reading of Buckle, watches with tranquillity, though with deep interest, the march of fate. He sees that the negro must fight, and that the peace traitors of the North are the most dangerous foes of liberty. In October he was obliged to abandon the thought of West Point, and Senator Sherman advised him to enter into active service. To this he was also urged by a vague sense of duty and the example of his mates, but reason and conscience forbade; and hence arose "the greatest struggle of his life." While the policy of the government appeared to him disgraceful and the war not yet wholly for the right, his heart could not participate in the conflict. He turned for advice to his father, who counselled (not bade) him to remain quiet for the present. He so decided, but with this reservation: "If ever the war becomes one of right and justice, I will engage in it, even as a private "; and he went back to law, French, German, and Latin, music, philosophy, and general science. The year elapsed while he was thus employed. The contest, meanwhile, was never absent from Gholson's thoughts. In February, 1862, he wrote: "I confess I do not much like the law, and study it only because it seems for my advantage." In May, however, " I now find it very interesting." This spring, the first he had ever passed in the country, was highly enjoyed by him, and in place of his former walks he rode much on a horse which was the gift of his father. " I am happier than I have ever been," he writes. In July came the President's call for three hundred thousand volunteers, but the West showed no response. The hour had struck for Gholson. He obtained permission of the Governor of Ohio to raise a regiment of Germans, inasmuch as the religious views of that class were consonant with his own, and because he desired to learn their language better. He opened the first recruitingoffice in Cincinnati under the new call, and in the six weeks necessary to the completion of the regiment, -the One Hundred and Sixth Ohio, - he frequently visited the capital, Columbus, on business. To Gholson was promised the Adjutancy; but yielding it to a German, he was made Lieutenant, July I6th, and, on the 24th, senior Captain. The rendezvous was Camp Dennison. While he was here drilling the Rebels made their feint on Cincinnati, and suddenly, on the night of September 3d, the One Hundred and Sixth was ordered into Kentucky, badly armed and imperfectly equipped and disciplined. Company A, however, as being the best drilled, was actively employed in scouting and picketing. On the 13th of September their station was Tunnel Batteries, Kentucky, near Cincinnati. On the 23d they went from Covington to Louisville, which they found in chaos, owing to the disorderly arrival of Buell's retreating army. In four days the regiment was placed in as many different brigades, and with poor tents, no overcoats, and Austrian rifles, the One Hundred and Sixth fared hardly. On the 1st of October Gholson left Louisville for Columbus on business, and wrote from the latter place on the 3d, having just heard by letter of the death of his classmates Doolittle and Almy. From Columbus he returned immediately to Louisville, but found the pursuit of Bragg begun and the regiment flown. At short notice he took the cars to Frankfort, and was obliged to make the last twenty miles of the journey on horseback, and the same day marched ("I was too proud to ride," he says) twenty-five miles with his regiment. He was detailed Captain of Provost Guard in South Frankfort, and his first act was to arrest his brigade commander, Colonel G. F. Linberg, One Hundred and Eighth Ohio, on a charge of horse-stealing. This officer's successor, Colonel Moore, One Hundred and Fourth Illinois, promised Gholson the place of Brigade Adjutant, and the latter so acted on the ten days' forced march to Bowling Green. But here Colonel J. K. Scott, Nineteenth Illinois, replaced Colonel Moore, bringing his own Adjutant; yet Gholson was made Aid-de-Camp and Chief of Staff, October 26th. This change was most grateful, for Gholson had been sadly disappointed in the officers of his regiment (all Germans excepthis First Lieutenant, Julius Dexter, Class of i860). In the five days spent at Bowling Green, Buell was relieved by Rosecrans. On the 9th of November the Thirty-Ninth Brigade was ordered alone to Glasgow, Kentucky. From this place Gholson wrote on the 14th, being then the Acting Assistant Adjutant-General to Colonel Scott, Acting Brigadier-General. Thence the brigade advanced to Hartsville, Tennessee; Colonel Scott departed and Colonel Moore resumed command. Owing to some lack of capacity or precaution, the brigade was surprised by a slightly superior force of cavalry and infantry under John Morgan at daylight, Sunday morning, December 7th. Captain Gholson was first on the left, where the One Hundred and Sixth was posted. When it broke he hurried over to the One Hundred and Fourth Illinois on the right, where, gallantly leading this regiment, which alone seems to have fought bravely, he fell from his horse, killed instantly, bearing three wounds, -one, a graze on the left side of the head, concealed by his hair; a second, made by a buck-shot over his left eye, at the extreme upper edge of the forehead (also concealed); and the third, from a minie-bullet, entering just above the heart, and glancing downward directly through it, swift and fatal. His body was stripped of cap, boots, and overcoat, sword and revolver, but was sent home safely, arriving December I Ith. A strictly private funeral took place the next day, when the remains were committed to the family lot in Spring Grove Cemetery, near Cincinnati. The deceased was but twenty years and nine months old. The grief of the family was proportionate to the loss of such a son. His mother had a presentiment of his death on the very morning of the battle, though the news did not reach her till the following Tuesday. Thus lived and perished a heroic young man. He was tall for his years, of handsome figure and finely cut features, and the beauty of his clear complexion, blue eyes, and Saxon hair will not quickly fade from the memory of friend or classmate. It remains to speak of the character and principles which were the foundation of a life and death so fair. The writer of this sketch, happy in an intimacy derived from immediate contact for four years on the college benches, and confirmed by the mutual attraction of natures, has elsewhere expressed some measure of his respect and love for William Gholson. His morals were pure and his language chaste. Free from vice, he was wont to confront himself daily in the diary which he kept, and in which he recorded his careful criticism of himself, his plans, his hopes, his successes, and his disappointments. And this fact, coupled with his youth, sufficiently indicates his thoughtfulness, as another fact illustrates his unshrinking independence of thought. He came to college an Episcopalian by faith, or at least by training. Diligent reading, before and after graduation, induced him to adopt materialistic views of the universe, - of creation, the nature of man, and the existence of a Deity; and it was his boast that his merit as a soldier was due to these his latest convictions. One cannot but pay cheerful homage to the strength of mind which is able to forsake the idols of tradition and custom to satisfy the longings of the soul for truth. But looking at the lofty aims and fearless self-devotion of him who reasoned thus, we may feel sure that because he died he lives, and is not lost to parents, classmates, country, or the holy cause of the down-trodden, for which he gladly bled. His mind, it is grateful to believe, has aided, and his soul rejoiced, in the overthrow of American slavery.