Shrouded Veterans: Bvt. Brig. Gen. William H. Blair

Bvt. Brig. Gen. William H. Blair

A veteran headstone has been placed for Brevet Brigadier General William H. Blair.

In October 1861, Blair was appointed a first lieutenant in the 51st Pennsylvania Infantry and promoted to captain in February 1862.

Blair distinguished himself at the battle of Antietam, where the 51st stormed Burnside’s Bridge. In the History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, Samuel Penniman Bates provided an account of this action:

“General Ferrero dashing up to the regiment, said, ‘General Burnside orders the 51st Pennsylvania to storm the bridge.’ [Colonel] Hartranft, avoiding the road by the river bank, led his men in rear of the heights overlooking the river until he arrived opposite the bridge, when he moved boldly down the slope for the crossing. The instant his men came into the open ground in the valley they received a withering fire from the enemy’s well-posted infantry, and many fell. A fence skirting the road proved a serious impediment, and in crossing it the men were particularly exposed. Here fell Captains Bolton and Hart, severely wounded, a serious loss at this juncture.

“Unheeding the enemy’s bullets or the obstruction by the way, the column moved forward with a determined front, and made straight for the bridge. As they entered, a storm of missiles swept it, but no danger could stay that tide of living valor. Hartranft, who led the way, paused in the midst, and was hastening on the rear of his column when he was joined by Colonel Potter, with the gallant 51st New York. With a shout that rang out above the noise of the battle the two columns rushed forward, and were soon firmly established on the thither bank. The bridge was carried!”

In December, Blair was appointed colonel of the 179th Pennsylvania Infantry, which he commanded until the regiment was mustered out in July 1863.

On March 13, 1865, he was breveted brigadier general “for great gallantry in storming and taking Antietam Bridge, on September 17, 1862, under Major General Burnside.”

Blair returned to practicing law after his military service. In 1885, President Grover Cleveland appointed him to the Board of Visitors to West Point. He died suddenly of heart failure on December 7, 1888, and was buried at Union Cemetery in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

A special thanks to Union Cemetery and Snyder & Co. Monuments for helping to honor General Blair.

3 Responses to Shrouded Veterans: Bvt. Brig. Gen. William H. Blair

  1. Question: what is the meaning of what appears to be “Co. F&S” on his tombstone?

  2. Brevet Brigadier General Blair is my 3times great grandfather…great to see him remembered and honored…thanks for your good works!

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