(1820 - 1891)
Home State: Virginia
Education: UVa (Law), Class of 1842
Command Billet: Chaplain/Company Officer
Branch of Service: Chaplain
Unit: 15th Virginia Infantry
see his Battle Report
He began the practice of law in Charlottesville.
In 1849 he went to California, walking from Independence, MO, a distance of 2200 miles. He began the practice of the law in Sacramento and, in April, 1850, he was elected County Judge.
In 1854 he was licensed to preach; resigned his judgeship, and in October of the same year was ordained a minister. The Oakland and Sacramento churches were each organized at his residence. His first pastorate was with the Oakland church, which continued till 1856. He then returned to Virginia to raise money for his work in California, but remained due to "family illness". By 1860 he was pastor of the Leigh Street church in Richmond.
(from the Baptist Encyclopedia)
He was a Regimental Staff officer. He was initially appointed Chaplain on 5/15/62, but was also listed as Captain, Company A.
On the Campaign
He was in command of the Regiment at Sharpsburg after Capt Morrison was wounded early in the combat. He wrote the Regiment's after-battle report.
The rest of the War
He requested relief from command of his Company in February 1864 to help tend to the needs of his very extended family, but this was not granted. He requested transfer out of the Regiment on 9/30/64 for medical reasons, and was detached to Confederate States Barracks (Hospital), Richmond on 10/21/64. Transferred permanently to the C. S. Barracks on 1/11/65.
After the War
For two years, 1865-67, he was pastor at Gordonsville and Orange Court-House [Va]. From 1867 to 1869 he was pastor of the church in Alexandria [Va]; thence he went as missionary pastor to Winchester [Va], and in 1872 took charge of the Winchester Female Institute, later Broaddus Female College, in 1876 (now Alderson-Broaddus College, Philippi, WV).
References & notes
Wallace, Lee A. Jr., A Guide to Virginia Military Organizations 1861 - 1865, 2nd revision, 1986, H. E. Howard, Inc., Lynchburg, VA.; and
Manarin, Louis H., 15th Virginia Infantry, 1990, H. E. Howard, Inc., Lynchburg, VA. as extracted at the 15th Virginia site online.
There is also a short biograhical sketch from the the 1883 Baptist Encyclopedia available online. His photograph from the 100th Anniversary Book, First Baptist Church, Oakland, CA (1954).
More on the Web
See a Feature about Capt WIllis here on AotW.
12/19/1820; Culpeper County, VA
2/26/1891 in VA; burial in Lael Cemetery, Lignum, VA