William Henry Forney
I wrote a blog over a year ago about the Confederacy's Roll Tide General. The story was about Brigadier General John Caldwell Calhoun Sanders who was attending the University of Alabama when the Civil War began. He fought in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and was killed at the Battle of the Weldon Railroad south of Petersburg.
For some reason I had forgotten about William Henry Forney, who also attended the University of Alabama and graduated there in 1844. Since we are just days away from my favorite team kicking off the football season against the Michigan Wolverines, I thought this would be the perfect time to write a blog about this Crimson Tide Confederate General.
Forney was born in North Carolina in 1823, but moved to Alabama with his family at the ripe old age of eight. He fought in the Mexican War and then returned to Alabama where he practiced law. He also served as a Trustee of the University of Alabama from 1851 until 1860. In 1859 he was elected to the state legislature.
When the war began, he became captain of Company G, 10th Alabama Infantry. His brother John Horace Forney commanded the regiment. William would be shot in the shin at his first engagement at Dranesville. He was wounded and captured at the Battle of Williamsburg, being shot in the right arm near the shoulder, his arm was broken. Following his exchange, he was promoted to colonel of the 10th. His brother Henry had been promoted to brigadier general.
He commanded the regiment at Salem Church, one of the battles in the Chancellorsville Campaign. Again, he was wounded, but only slightly in the leg. At Gettysburg, he led the regiment in the assault on Sickles's line near the Peach Orchard. He was wounded twice, but continued to remain with his men when a third bullet broke his right arm again. Still, he pressed on with his men until a bullet took away his left heel. The wound was severely painful and again, he was left behind and captured by the Federals.
The only know photographs are post-war sittings.
Upon exchange, Forney was promoted to brigadier general and took command of Wilcox's brigade. Wilcox had been promoted to major general and given command of a division. He joined his brigade in the trenches at Petersburg. He served in command of the brigade during the Petersburg campaign and surrendered with his men at Appomattox.
Following the war he returned to practicing law and eventually served in the United States Congress. He died in 1894 and was buried in the City Cemetery, Jacksonville, Alabama. His brother Major General John Forney and Major John Pelham are both buried in this cemetery.
Major General Cadmus Wilcox said Forney was "intelligent, energetic, and gallant in commanding, directing, and leading his men."
General Robert E. Lee said of Forney, "An excellent officer and worthy of promotion," and he is "an officer of intelligence, energy and bravery and of long and faithful service."
Forney's Grave Site
William's brother John was not a Roll Tide General because John who was six years younger than William obtained an appointment to West Point. This also explains why his younger brother was ranked above William throughout the war. I was having a conversation the other day with the Tuscumbia City Historian John McWilliams. He asked me if I knew why southerners loved football so much. I knew he was about to drop something good on me, so I took the bait and asked why. He said "It's because those damned Yankee's can only put eleven men on the field unlike the Civil War. So just five days from kickoff, all I have to say is "Roll Tide" General Forney!