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F. W. McMaster

F. W. McMaster

Confederate (CSA)

Colonel

Fitz William McMaster

(1826 - 1899)

Home State: South Carolina

Education: South Carolina College, Class of 1847

Command Billet: Commanding Regiment

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 17th South Carolina Infantry

 

see his Battle Report

Before Sharpsburg

Before the War he was Treasurer and Librarian of South Carolina College (1848-1856) and then practiced the law. He was a Private (unit?) in action at First Bull Run in July 1861. He was commissioned Lieutenant Colonel of the 17th South Carolina Infantry about 1 December 1861 and was promoted to Colonel after Colonel John H. Means' death on 1 September 1862.

On the Campaign

He commanded the regiment in action at Turner's Gap on South Mountain on 14 September and at Sharpsburg on 17 September 1862.

The rest of the War

He was tried by a Court Martial in April 1863, charged (by General Nathan Evans) with cowardice in action at South Mountain - that he "did shamefully leave his regiment whilst engaged with the enemy and ran until out of danger", for failing to maintain good order and discipline, and for various acts stemming from his complaints about General Evans and wishing to be transferred from his command. The only witness who testified to the Colonel's cowardice was General Evans - refuted in detail by all the other witnesses, including McMaster's Brigade commander at Turner's Gap, Colonel Peter F. Stevens (Holcombe Legion).

He was found not guilty on the cowardice and all other charges except for 2 specifications on the second charge (i.e., inducing others to sign a petition and using inappropriate language with 2 of his soldiers). No punishment was awarded and he was ordered returned to duty. The court also carefully acknowledged that General Evans probably lied and should not have brought the charges:

The Court is pained to declare that, in its opinion, this prosecution was not undertaken with the spirit and for the purpose of promoting the good of the service. A due consideration for the distinguished services of Brig. Gen. Evans to the Confederacy in this war, restrains the Court from any further expression of its opinion as to the motives that prompted the prosecution.
He commanded the Brigade at the Crater in Petersburg, VA on 30 July 1864, and was captured in action at Fort Steadman near Petersburg on 25 March 1865. He was then a prisoner in Elmira, NY to the end of the War.

After the War

He returned to his law practice in Columbia, retiring in 1898. He had served a term each in the state House and Senate, and was Mayor of Columbia, SC 1890-92. He was Chairman of the Columbia Canal Commission and also of the first School Board in Columbia. He was an active alumnus of the University of South Carolina; the Art School building may have been named for him or his family. He died at his daughter's home in Mars Hill, NC in 1899 at age 73, not quite a year after his wife.

References & notes

His service from his Compiled Service Records via the Historical Data Systems database. Personal details from a bio sketch by Helen Kohn Hennig in the State (newspaper) of 24 November 1835, online from the York County (SC) Library, and Confederate Veteran (Vol. 9, 1901). Court Martial details from Proceedings of a General Court Martial, in the trial of Col. F. W. McMaster (1863), which is also online. His gravesite is on Findagrave. His picture from a full-length portrait in George S. Bernard's War Talks of Confederate Veterans (1892).

He married Mary Jane Macfie (1832-1898) in 1852 and they had 14 children together. His youngest was Edward Porter Alexander McMasters (1875-1930), named for the Colonel's good friend and "distinguished engineer" [his page].

More on the Web

A fine 1890 portrait of him as Mayor is online from the Walker Local and Family History Center at Richland Library, Columbia. A pre-war photo of him is on Flickr thanks to GGGGranddaughter Amber Rhea. His folding camp fork and spoon are in the collection of the American Civil War Museum, Richmond, VA.

His family's papers, including many letters home while he was a student and a soldier, are in the collection of the South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina [finding aid]. His own business papers are also in the South Caroliniana Library [finding aid]. Interestingly, Nathan Evans' papers are in the same repository, and they include a November 1863 letter from General Evans to Governor John L. Manning about his run-in with McMasters [finding aid].

Birth

3/26/1826; Winnsboro, SC

Death

09/10/1899 Mars Hill, NC; burial in First Presbyterian Churchyard Columbia, SC