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G.W. Whitman

G.W. Whitman

Federal (USV)


George Washington Whitman

(1829 - 1901)

Home State: New York

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 51st New York Infantry

Before Antietam

Raised on Long Island, he learned carpentry from his father and worked with his brothers Andrew and Walt in the family house building business. He enlisted in the 13th New York Militia for 3 month service in the Spring of 1861. He enrolled in the 51st New York Infantry 13 September 1861 and was mustered as Sergeant-Major. He was appointed 2nd Lieutenant, Company D to date from 14 March 1862.

On the Campaign

He was in command of his Company on South Mountain on 14 September "as the Captain was not well although he was on the field". A few days after the battle he wrote his mother of his experience at Antietam:

. . . Early on the morning of the 17th the first and second Brigades of our Division was ordered down to take the bridge. The first Brigade was ordered to take a position, at our end of the bridge and try and drive the enemy from behind his shelter while our Brigade which is the 2nd was to be held in reserve. The 1st did not seem inclined to advance to the position assigned them, but rather held back, so Burnside who was looking on ordered Sturgis to send our Brigade there saying, (so the story goes) that he knew we would take it. As soon as we were ordered to forward we started on a double quick and gained the position, although we lost quite a number of men in doing it. We were then ordered to halt and commence fireing, and the way we showered the lead across that creek was noboddys buisness. I had command of our Company again and as soon as the men got steadily settled down to their work I took a rifle from one of the wounded men and went in, loading and fireing as fast as any one. After about half an hour the enemys fire began to slacken a little, and soon the order was given for our Brigade to charge. The 51st Pennsylvania had the right of our Brigade, and should have crossed first, but our boys could not wait, and with the cry of remember Reno, we started for the Bridge the 51st Penn and our Regt crossing together. As soon as the rebels saw us start on a charge they broke and run and the fight at the bridge was ended. After we crossed we found the enemy had fell back about ½ or ¾ of a mile to another range of hills where they were protected by stone fences, and the 3d Brigade of our Division and a part of the Division of General Cox were ordered to advance and engage them. They moved up and charged, driving the rebel Infantry in fine style when the enemy brought up a battery of Artillery which poured the grape and cannister into our boys so that they were forced to fall back to our Brigade who was then acting as a reserve.

Things began to look rather squally and although our Brigade, was nearly out of ammunition we were ordered to the front again. We formed line of battle and advanced over the hill untill we met the enemy who was moveing down towards us, when both parties took a position, and we went at it again for the 2d time in one day.

Our Regt fired every round of ammunition we had, and took from all the dead and wounded on the field and then we lay down as we would not leave the field untill we were ordered. We lay there about half an hour without fireing a shot which seemed to puzzle the rebels very much as they did not come any closer to us, but kept up a pretty brisk fire from where they were.

After a while another regiment was sent in to relieve us ...

The rest of the War

He was promoted First Lieutenant, Company E, in October 1862, then Captain, Company K on December 12 - both to date from 1 November 1862. He was wounded in action in the jaw at Fredericksburg, VA on 13 December 1862. He was hospitalized in Washington, DC, and visited and cared for by his poet brother Walt. He was captured in action on 30 September 1864 at Poplar Grove Church, VA, held in Libby Prison, Richmond, and exchanged in February 1865. He was appointed Major on 13 May 1865, but did not muster at that rank. He mustered out of the service with his Regiment on 25 July 1865 near Alexandria, VA.

After the War

He was a pipe inspector for the city of Camden and the New York Metropolitan Water Board and later lived on a farm in Burlington, outside Camden, NJ.

References & notes

Basic service data from the Adjutant-General1. Life details from his gravesite on Findagrave. His presence at Antietam and quotes above from a letter of 21/24 September 1862 posted online by Elyce Feliz; a full transcription of the letter is in the Whitman Archive. His photo from one posted in an American Experience (WGBH/PBS) feature on Walt; original at the Library of Congress. He and his wife Louise are buried in his brother Walt's tomb.

More on the Web

See an excellent piece about George's service by Gordon Berg on Historynet.


11/28/1829; West Hills, Long Island, NY


12/20/1901; Burlington, NJ; burial in Harleigh Cemetery, Camden, NJ


1   State of New York, Adjutant-General, Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of New York [year]: Registers of the [units], 43 Volumes, Albany: James B. Lyon, State Printer, 1893-1905, Issue 25 (for the year 1900), pg. 237  [AotW citation 14430]