Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Robert Doak Lilley: The only Confederate General I ever cursed

Brigadier General Robert Doak Lilley

       For anyone that has any doubt, my personal hero's are Confederate Generals, Colonels, and Soldiers, not necessarily in that order. I would never speak evil of any of these guys, but a man has his limits, so to speak. I was pushed beyond my feeble limit with my red haired temper and poor General Lilley paid the price. 
       Robert Doak Lilley was born in Greenville, Virginia in 1836. He graduated from what is today Washington and Lee University. He then became a salesman of surveying instruments of his father's design. He just happened to be in Charleston, South Carolina when the Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter in 1861. He returned to Virginia where he recruited a company in the 25th Virginia Infantry and became its captain.
       The above photograph was once considered the only wartime photographed image of General Lilley, like his grave, this too is now false. Part of his regiment was captured in the battle's in the Rich Mountain Campaign. Lilley managed to escape with part of his company. They would be a part of Stonewall Jackson's 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign. At the Battle of Cedar Mountain on August 9, 1862, Lilley saw the regiment break from a Federal assault. He personally took the regimental colors and helped solidify the Confederate line. He was commended for bravery at Second Manassas. He also led his troops, exhibiting great courage at Sharpsburg (Antietam) and Fredericksburg.
       He was promoted to Major just after new years of 1863. His regiment was sent back to the Shenandoah Valley during the Chancellorsville Campaign. They would rejoin Lee's Army for the invasion of Pennsylvania. He would fight under John Marshall "Rum" Jones at Gettysburg and be promoted to lieutenant colonel following that battle. 
       His next major battle would be at the Wilderness in the spring of 1864. He would fight at Spotsylvania and be promoted to colonel of the 25th Virginia Infantry. He was promoted to brigadier general following Spotsylvania. They joined Early in the invasion of Maryland and the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864. 
       On July 20, 1864, while attempting to rally his broken lines at Stephenson's Depot, Lilley was hit three times and captured. Federal surgeons removed one of his arms that day. When the Federal army retreated from Winchester, they left the wounded brigadier behind. He was soon recovered by Confederate forces in the area. Once he was ready to take the field again, he commanded forces in the Shenandoah Valley. He held this command until the end of the war.

Another photograph of Lilley

       He spent his years after the war devoted to Washington and Lee College and his church. He would die in Richmond, Virginia in 1886 and be buried in Thornrose Cemetery, Staunton, Virginia or so they say. This is where we come to the part about me cursing a Confederate General for the first time in my life. My buddy Jerry Smith and our wives entered this cemetery in search of General Lilley and General Echols. General Echols was quickly found. General Lilley as my buddy Jerry likes to say (not so much). 

Robert Doak Lilley is fourth from left, standing just over Robert E. Lee's left shoulder

       We spread out and combed this cemetery for about two hours. There was not a sign of the tombstone you see below. I asked the locals and they claimed to have seen it before, but they couldn't locate the marker. My buddy Jerry found something on his phone that said that Lilley was buried near Jedediah Hotchkiss who was a map maker on Stonewall Jackson's staff. We found Jedediah's grave, and combed the area around it up to 100 yards, still no General Lilley. We left a message with a lady that oversee's the cemetery. She returned our call and told us that she could take us right to his grave, but we were almost to Richmond, Virginia by this time. 
       It was a hot afternoon (I don't do heat, it gives me a migraine, and this day was no exception), we had searched the cemetery several times, I was frustrated, had little sleep the night before and I may have cursed General Lilley under my breath a time or two that afternoon. I truly wasn't cursing him, but the fact that there was no way to find such a great man's grave. It only means I will have to return to the cemetery when I visit Gettysburg later this year. 

Robert Doak Lilley

The possible resting place of General Robert D. Lilley, but I'm not betting my paycheck on him being there

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