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L.S. Willson

L.S. Willson

Federal (USV)


Lester Sebastian Willson

(1839 - 1919)

Home State: New York

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 60th New York Infantry

Before Antietam

In 1860 he was a 20 year old store clerk living with his parents and 6 younger siblings in Canton, NY. He enlisted on 9 September (or 29 August) 1861 at Canton and mustered in as 2nd Sergeant of Company A, 60th New York Infantry on 30 October. By mid-August 1862 he was acting Sergeant-Major of the regiment.

On the Campaign

Still acting Sergeant-Major, he was on the campaign with his regiment and was with Colonel Goodrich at Antietam when he was mortally wounded on 17 September 1862:

Willson went immediately to him, and assisted in raising him from the ground ... [Goodrich] was taken to a barn at the rear of the field, where he soon revived. Seeing Willson near him, he smiled, and seemed greatly comforted. As strength would, from time to time, permit, he spoke of his family in most endearing terms, calling them by name, and desiring Willson to take his remains to them. Earnest inquiries were made for the boys in the field, and great anxiety was manifest that they should do their duty. Exclaiming, " I have always tried to do my duty I" he gently, and without pain, passed from life.

The rest of the War

He did accompany Colonel Goodrich's body home to New York and was back with the regiment about 8 October. He was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant on 3 October 1862 (to rank from 4 August) and First Lieutenant and Adjutant on 17 November (dated 8 October). He was seriously wounded at Chancellorsville, VA on 3 May 1863 and reenlisted for the war in November. He was promoted to Captain on 2 August 1864 and Lieutenant Colonel on 1 October 1864. Finally, he was appointed Colonel on 17 May 1865. He mustered out with his regiment at Alexandria, VA on 17 July 1865.

He was honored by brevet to Brigadier General of Volunteers for his service on the Atlanta Campaign.

After the War

He was briefly employed in the office of the NY State Militia's Quartermaster General in Albany, then administrator of the Soldier's Home there, where he met his future wife. In 1867 he went west to Bozeman, MT to join his brother Davis, who had preceded him in 1866. He was a partner in the mercantile firm Willson & Rich (formerly Tuller & Rich) in Bozeman, later sole proprietor, as L.S. Willson Company. He was in business, lastly as the Willson Company, until selling the firm in 1914.

References & notes

His service from the NY Adjutant General.1 Further details and the quote above from Eddy's History.2 Personal details from family genealogists, the US Census of 1860, and bio sketches accompanying his 1863-65 diaries and the Willson Company Collection, both at Montana State University. His gravesite is on Findagrave. His picture from a c. 1864 photograph of him wearing Captain's bars, now in the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs, Library of Congress.

He married Emeline Dorcas "Emma" Weeks (1841-1923) in March 1869 in Albany and they had 3 sons in Bozeman, the first did not survive infancy, the third died at age 14; survivor Fred Fielding Willson (1877-1956) was a prominent architect.

More on the Web

For much more detail, see Kim Allen Scott's exhaustive essay The Willson Brothers Come to Montana in the The Magazine of Western History (Spring 1999), available online from Montana State.


06/16/1839; Canton, NY


01/26/1919; Bozeman, MT; burial in Sunset Hills Cemetery, Bozeman, MT


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, For the Year 1900, Ser. No. 26, p. 826  [AotW citation 30561]

2   Eddy, Richard, History of the Sixtieth Regiment New York State Volunteers, Philadelphia: Richard Eddy, 1864, pp. 163, 177, 180-81  [AotW citation 30562]