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James Dearing

James Dearing (April 25, 1840 – April 22, 1865) was a Confederate States Army officer during the American Civil War. He was mortally wounded at the Battle of High Bridge during the Appomattox Campaign, making him one of the last officers to die in the war; there are claims that he was the last general officer to die in the war.

Early life

Dearing was born in Campbell County, Virginia. He attended Hanover Academy, but received an appointment to the United States Military Academy in 1858. He was first in his class and nearing the completion of his West Point education when his home state seceded. He resigned on April 22, 1861, and was commissioned a lieutenant of artillery in the Virginia Militia.

Civil War

Dearing fought in at the First Battle of Bull Run in the Washington Artillery out of New Orleans. He and his guns served with George E. Pickett's Brigade at Yorktown, Williamsburg, Seven Pines, and with Pickett's Division at Fredericksburg. He was promoted to captain during this time.

At the Battle of Gettysburg Dearing commanded a battalion of artillery in Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, as a major. He actively participated in the second and third days of battle including the massive artillery bombardment prior to Pickett's Charge. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on February 27, 1864. He took command of the horse artillery for Robert E. Lee's army and then commanded various cavalry brigades through the end of the war.

Dearing was appointed a brigadier general of "volunteer troops" on April 29, 1864, but this appointment was never confirmed by the Confederate Congress.[1] He served through the Siege of Petersburg with Lee's cavalry, under Maj. Gen. W.H.F. "Rooney" Lee. During the retreat to Appomattox, Dearing fought a close range pistol duel with Union Col. Theodore Read at the Battle of High Bridge on April 6, 1865. Read was killed by Dearing; then, Dearing was mortally wounded by a Union soldier as he (Dearing) fought with Union colonel Francis Washburn. Dearing died in Lynchburg, Virginia, and is buried there in Spring Hill Cemetery. Just prior to his death at the Ladies' Relief Hospital, he was visited and paroled by his old West Point classmate, Brig. Gen. Ranald S. Mackenzie, then commanding in Lynchburg.[2] There are claims that he was the last general to die in the Civil War,[3] although his lack of congressional approval for that rank means that he formally was serving in his previous rank of lieutenant colonel at the time of his death.


  1. Eicher, p. 593. Krick, p. 56, claims that he was promoted to brigadier general, "though no official record of his promotion survives."
  2. Warner, p. 70.
  3. Warner, p. 69. Krick, p. 56, claims that "he was the last [general] to die as a direct result of battle wounds."


  • Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Krick, Robert K. "James Dearing." In The Confederate General, vol. 2, edited by William C. Davis and Julie Hoffman. Harrisburg, PA: National Historical Society, 1991. ISBN 0-918678-64-1.
  • Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959. ISBN 0-8071-0823-5.

External links

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