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Colonel H. A. Carrington, C. S. Army. [from the times-dispatch, Feb. 28, 1904.]

A sketch of his life and services.

By Colonel Geo. C. Cabell, late Lieutenant-Colonel 18th Virginia Infantry.
Henry Alexander Carrington, son of Henry and Louisa Cabell Carrington, was born at ‘Ingleside,’ Charlotte county, Va., on the 13th day of September, 1832. His ancestors on both sides had been distinguished in the annals of Virginia history. He was educated at the Virginia Military Institute and the University of Virginia, at which last institution he commenced the study of law, intending to make that his profession. His plans, however, were changed by the death of his brother, the lamented William Cabell Carrington. Yielding to the entreaties of his parents, who were deeply distressed by their loss, Colonel Carrington relinquished the practice of law, and devoted himself to agricultural pursuits upon his patrimonial estate, ‘Retirement,’ a mile from his father's residence. He was married on January 29, 1856, to Charlotte Elizabeth Cullen, daughter of Dr. John Cullen, of Richmond, one of the most brilliant women of her day. He continued farming until the alarms of war fired his patriotism, in the spring of 1861.

Colonel Carrington was opposed to secession, but when the die was cast, when Virginia decided to withdraw from the Union, like a true son, he determined to follow the fortunes of his mother State and was the first to volunteer his services from his native county.

The Charlotte Rifles, a company of the 18th Virginia Infantry, was the first organized body to enlist from Charlotte county. In May, 1861, Colonel Carrington was commissioned by Governor Letcher lieutenant-colonel of the 18th Virginia. On the night before his departure for the fields of battle, in the parlor of ‘Ingleside,’ his parental home, a scene which yet lingers in the memories of those who witnessed it, and marked the character of the man and patriot.

Before taking leave of parents and friends, the church rector, an inmate of the house, was requested to appear before the assembled family and friends, and there and then this commissioned colonel, [217] clad in his regimentals, with his infant child in his arms, dedicated his own life and the life of his child to God and his country. The next day he left for the scene of action, and the army then gathering around Manassas. Being a thorough soldier and accomplished tactician, Colonel Carrington aided most efficiently in drilling and disciplining the 18th Virginia regiment—one of the finest bodies of men that ever marched to battle on any field, or in any country—until July 21, 1861, when the first great battle, there upon the plain of Manassas, where the South ‘triumphed gloriously,’ Colonel Carrington received the first ‘baptism of fire,’ and bore himself as become a Virginia soldier and a Southern patriot.

Afterwards Colonel Carrington served with gallantry in every campaign, and was in most of the battles fought by the Army of Northern Virginia. He bore a conspicuous part at Williamsburg. At Seven Pines, one of the hottest battles of the war, and where the regiment lost heavily, Colonel Carrington was badly wounded, which disabled him for two months or more. At Gaines' Mill the gallant R. E. Withers was dreadfully wounded, and ever afterward unfitted for field service, when the command of the regiment devolved upon the major, who led it until just before the battle of Second Manassas, when Colonel Carrington, his wound not yet healed, rejoined his regiment and led it bravely and successfully through that great battle. Here, again, Colonel Carrington was severely wounded, and the command of the regiment devolved upon Major Cabell, who carried it through the Maryland campaign and back into Virginia, where, in the early winter of 1862-3, Colonel Carrington returned and resumed his command. Colonel Carrington was in command at Fredericksburg, and there, as he had ever done, acted well his part in the great fight in which General Burnside met disastrous defeat.

Colonel Carrington commanded the 18th Virginia Regiment in the celebrated charge of Pickett's Division at Gettysburg, where he was reported killed; instead, however, he was wounded at the stone wall, on Seminary Ridge, captured and taken as a prisoner to Johnson's Island, where he endured a wretched captivity, contracting the disease which finally culminated in his death. Two of the 18th Regiment's color-bearers were shot down in the charge made by Pickett, when the Colonel seized the colors and bore them at the head of his regiment until he fell at the wall. At Gettysburg the 18th Regiment occupied a most prominent position in the charge, and the official report records that the regiment went into the battle [218] with 325 men, and of this number 265 were killed, wounded and missing.

Colonel Carrington was a number of times by his superior officers recommended for promotion. A recommendation from General Pickett, in possession of his family, is here given:

Division headquarters, Camp near Guinea's, February 11, 1863.
It affords me much gratification to testify to the distinguished services of Lieutenant-Colonel Henry A. Carrington, of the 18th Virginia Volunteers, during our present war of independence.

He has served continuously from its commencement to this time except when absent, disabled by wounds received in battle, and although truly deserving of promotion, as is also the Colonel (Withers) of his gallant regiment, still has not by the accidents of the service nor by the promotion of his colonel, received it. I had the honor to command the brigade to which his regiment belongs a year past, and have had frequent opportunities of knowing his efficiency as an officer and in the control and government of his regiment. His coolness and activity at the battle of Williamsburg was worthy of great praise, and I especially mentioned him in my report. At the battle of Seven Pines he was very painfully wounded while with his regiment under one of the hottest fires and dangerously exposed positions during the war. He joined immediately after his convalescence, and was again wounded quite severely at the battle of Second Manassas. He has stuck to his regiment religiously, although he has suffered much from sickness. He is an officer of much modesty and merit. I think he is very deserving of promotion, and conscientiously recommend him.

G. E. Pickett, Major-General Commanding Division.

After a captivity of nearly ten months, Colonel Carrington rejoined his command on the morning of the 19th day of May, 1864, just after the regiment had entered upon Beauregard's celebrated charge upon Butler's Federal forces, and just as the major commanding had fallen, desperately wounded. At once assuming command, Colonel Carrington continued in brilliant style one of the most successful charges made during that bloody campaign, for the battle of Drewry's Bluff was, indeed, one of the most hotly contested [219] battles of the war, and resulted in a glorious victory for the Confederacy.

Soon after the fight at Drewry's Bluff, Colonel Carrington was sent with his regiment to rejoin its own (Hunton's) brigade, then north of James river. It had for several months served with Corse's Brigade in North Carolina and around Petersburg. Under Hunton it had fought at second Cold Harbor and around Richmond, until late in June, when Pickett's Division (to which Hunton's Brigade belonged), was sent to the trenches around Petersburg, and fronting General Grant's army.

For months after, although in feeble health, Colonel Carrington, with his regiment, stuck nobly to his duty, sometimes repelling assaults upon Lee's lines; at all times under fire and exposed to deadly peril.

In August, 1864, Colonel Withers, in consequence of the wounds received at Gaines' Mill two years before, was retired, and Colonel Carrington was promoted full colonel of the 18th Virginia regiment, General Hunton saying in his order enclosing the promotion to Colonel Carrington, that ‘it was as well deserved as it had been long delayed.’ While fronting the enemy about Petersburg, and notwithstanding the difficulties and perils to which it was subjected, the 18th Virginia, under the efficient management of Colonel Carrington, was largely recruited, and became again one of the finest in the service.

In the early spring of 1865, Grant's ever-increasing army broke the lines of Lee's ever-decreasing army, and then commenced that disastrous retreat which presaged the downfall of the Confederacy. At Five Forks, at Dinwiddie, at Farmville, at Sailor's Creek and to the end at fateful Appomattox, where the star of the Confederacy went down in darkness and blood, Colonel Carrington with his 18th Regiment proudly sustained the splendid reputation, which for four years they had won through trial, privation and bloody carnage.

Colonel Carrington fought in twenty-nine pitched battles and in numberless lesser fights, and was never absent from his post of duty except when disabled by wounds or a prisoner of war. He was greatly beloved by his associates in arms, especially by the men under his command.

After the surrender, Colonel Carrington returned to his once beautiful, but now desolated, home and to those who were left of those so dear to him. Many fearful changes had taken place in and around his native place. Broken in fortune, but not in spirit, he [220] commenced again the successful practice of law at Charlotte Courthouse, Va., greatly aiding his people by his wise and conservative course and advice as they struggled through the horrors of the so-called ‘days of reconstruction.’

In 1870 Colonel Carrington was made clerk of the courts of Charlotte county and so remained an invaluable official to the day of his death. The disease contracted while a prisoner at Johnson's Island made such inroads upon his health that he became an invalid for four years before he succumbed. During this period he would often discourse upon the war and the events which came under his observation. His descriptions of campaigns and battles were particularly interesting. His great conception of military affairs and his engagement in so many campaigns and battles gave him a rich experience, and these, reinforced by remarkable descriptive powers and fine command of language, made him a most charming authority upon all such subjects.

Colonel Carrington was very handsome and commanding in appearance, and his conduct and bearing impressed all who came in contact with him that he was ‘every inch the soldier.’ He exercised a superb control over his men, who were greatly devoted to him, not so much through stern military discipline as through the confidence and love inspired by just actions and brave deeds.

He died on the 22d day of January, 1885. His body rests in Richmond, near the honored dead of his family—his spirit survives in the vale of Valhalla, the home of redeemed heroes. At Charlotte Courthouse a camp of Confederate veterans was formed some years ago, and called ‘H. A. Carrington Camp, C. V.,’ in honor of Colonel Carrington, and a monument erected there since will aid to keep in grateful remembrance the life, service and character of a noble patriot, who was in every relation of life true to his family, his country and his God.

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