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Biographical Sketch of Lieutenant-Colonel William Frederick Niemeyer,

Sixty-first Virginia Infantry Regiment.

By Colonel William H. Stewart, Portsmouth, Va.
William Frederick Niemeyer was born in the county of Norfolk and State of Virginia, on the 12th day of May, 1840, and heroically met his death at the head of his regiment in the battle of Spotsylvania Court House, on the 12th day of May, 1864, his twenty-fourth birthday.

His great grandfather, Hans Heinrich Neimeyer, was born at Hoya, Germany, in 1734, and died in 1806.

His grandfather, John Christian Niemeyer, was born in 1776, at Verden, near Bremen, and came to America at the age of 18 years, and in 1813 he married Ann McLean, his second wife, the grandmother of the subject of this sketch, at Moyock, in Currituck county, North Carolina. His father, William Angus Neimeyer, died February 3d, 1900; was born April 28th, 1816, and married Sarah Howard Chandler (now living) on the 31st day of July, 1839. She is the daughter of John A. Chandler, who was one of the foremost citizens and most distinguished lawyers in Tidewater Virginia of his day.

Colonel Niemeyer was the eldest of twelve children, three sisters and nine brothers. His brother, John Chandler Niemeyer, First Lieutenant of Company ‘I,’ Ninth Virginia Infantry Regiment, was killed in the famous charge of Pickett's Virginians at Gettysburg on the 3d day of July, 1863.

William Frederick Niemeyer was a promising child with the noblest predilections. On the death of his grandfather Chandler, when not quite eight years old, he wrote the following tender and touching letter of condolence to his grandmother:

April 16, 1848.
,My Dear Grandma:
I am very sorry that grandpa died, but the Lord will take care of you; do not weep, he is in the arms of the Lord Jesus Christ; he has got a crown of glory upon his head; he has an arm-chair, and he is singing and is shouting in glory. We must try to be good [85] and when we die we may meet him there; he cannot come to us, but we can go to him if we are good.

Your loving grandson,

He received the rudiments of his education in the schools of Portsmouth and at the Academy, in Norfolk; and upon the recommendation of Surgeon-General Lawson, United States Army, was appointed a cadet at large at West Point by President James Buchanan. His conditional appointment over the hand of Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War, was made on the 19th day of February, 1857, which directed that he should repair to West Point, in the State of New York, between the 1st and 20th of June, to be examined, and that under certain conditions in January next his warrant as a cadet, to be dated the 30th day of June, 1857, would be made. The conditions were fulfilled by creditable examinations and excellent deportment which secured the warrant as a cadet in the service of the United States, dated as promised over the hand of John B. Floyd, Secretary of War, January 22d, 1858. His course at the Academy was marked with creditable distinction; but the tocsin of war having sounded, and although within a month of graduation, he, with the heroic General James Dearing, the dashing General Thomas L. Rosser, and other noble spirits, left the Academy to give their services to their native States.

On May 1st, 1861, John Letcher, Governor of Virginia, commissioned W. F. Niemeyer Second Lieutenant in the Provisional Army of the State of Virginia, and on May 9th he was ordered by the Adjutant-General of Virginia to report to Major-General Walter Gwynn, commanding Virginia Forces at Norfolk; thereupon General Gwynn, on the 10th of May, ordered him to report to Colonel R. E. Colston, under whom he served as drill master at the entrenched camp, near Norfolk. On the 19th day of July, 1861, the President appointed him Second Lieutenant, Corps of Artillery, in the Army of the Confederate States over the hand of L. P. Walker, Secretary of War, C. S.; and his resignation as Second Lieutenant of Provisional Army of Virginia was accepted, to take effect on the 25th of July.

Samuel M. Wilson, a prominent citizen of Portsmouth, having been authorized by the Secretary of War to organize a battalion or regiment for the service of the Confederate States, called to his assistance the promising young lieutenant, whose military training was essential to Colonel Wilson's success. [86]

Sir: I hereby certify that at election held for the office of Major of the Battalion or Regiment being raised by me for the service of the Confederate States, under authority of the War Department through letter of the Adjutant-General of the 6th of July, 1861, you have this day been duly elected Major of said Battalion or Regiment, and notice of your election has been sent to Major-General B. Huger, commanding Department of Norfolk, to whom you will report for duty.

I am very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

headquarters Department Norfolk, May 6th, 1862.
Report to General Blanchard for duty with Wilson's Battalion.

By order of General Huger.

S. S. Anderson, Assistant Adjutant-General.

Special orders, no. 83.

Department of Norfolk, headquarters Third Brigade, Portsmouth, Va., May 6th, 1862.
I. Major Wm. F. Neimeyer, Wilson's Battalion, having reported for duty to Brigade Headquarters by order of Major General Huger, is assigned to the command of the troops at Forrest Entrenchment.

By command of Brigadier-General Blanchard, Commanding Third Brigade.

W. L. Riddick, Assistant Adjutant-General.

Special orders, no. 84.

Department of Norfolk, headquarters Third Brigade, Portsmouth, Va., May 7th, 1862.
II. Major Wm. F. Niemeyer, Wilson's Battalion, will proceed to Pig Point and superintend the election of company officers for Company ‘H,’ Ninth Virginia, Captain Neblett and Sussex Defenders, Wilson's Battalion, Captain Mason, to be held to-morrow, 8th instant, in accordance with provision of Conscript Act.

Major Niemeyer will furnish each officer then elected with a certificate [87] of election, and duplicates must be sent to Adjutant and Inspector General's office, Richmond, through Brigade Headquarters.

By command Brigadier-General Blanchard, Commanding Third Brigade.

W. L. Riddick, Assistant Adjutant-General. To Major W. F. Niemeyer, commanding Forrest Entrenchment.

Major Niemeyer, with his command, retreated from Forrest Entrenchment, near Hall's Corner, in Western Branch, Norfolk county, on the 10th of May, 1862, the day Norfolk and Portsmouth were evacuated, which he noted in his diary, ‘The saddest day of my life,’ and marched to Suffolk. On the 11th day of May he left for Petersburg via Weldon, where he arrived on the 13th, and assumed command of the city and the Department of Appomattox for a short while. On the 22d day of May, 1862, the officers of the line assembled at Jarrett's Hotel, in Petersburg, under supervision of Major George W. Grice, Assistant Quartermaster, and elected field officers of the Sixty-first Virginia Regiment Infantry, as follows:

Colonel Samuel M. Wilson.

Lieutenant-Colonel William F. Niemeyer.

Major William H. Stewart.

And their commissions were issued on the 15th of July, 1862, by George W. Randolph, Secretary of War, to date from the 22d day of May, 1862.

headquarters, Petersburg, Va., August 23d, 1862.
Pursuant to Special Order, Headquarters Petersburg, August 22d, the members of Board of Survey met this day at 12 M., and valued and mustered into Confederate service the following horses:

One roan mare, belonging to Lieutenant-Colonel Wm. F. Niemeyer, valued at $175.

One bay horse, belonging to Major William H. Stewart, valued at $225.


Detachments of the Sixty-first Virginia Regiment were sent from Petersburg to City Point, Port Walthall, and Point of Rocks, on the Appomattox river below the city of Petersburg. [88]

On the 3d of September the Regiment was ordered to Richmond, and from thence to Brook Church, where it encamped until the 5th, when it was ordered to Rapidan Station to rebuild the railroad bridge. The Army of Northern Virginia was then in Maryland, and on its return to Virginia the Sixty-first Virginia Regiment was assigned to Mahone's Brigade by order of General Lee.

Lieutenant-Colonel Niemeyer was in active command of the Sixty-first Virginia Regiment from its organization until October, 1862, when its command devolved upon Colonel V. D. Groner, selected to succeed Colonel Wilson, who had resigned.

Colonel Niemeyer was engaged in the battles of Fredericksburg, Zoar Church, McCarty's Farm, Chancellorsville, Salem Church, Gettysburg, Hagerstown, Bristoe Station, Mine Run, Wilderness, Shady Grove, and Spotsylvania Court House. He was severely wounded in the ankle at Bristoe Station; and after having commanded his regiment in two brilliant and successful charges of the memorable 12th day of May, 1864, was killed by a sharpshooter in the shadow of that bloody day at Spotsylvania Court House. So fell a noble man, a brave soldier, a true citizen, who loved his country better than his life, and who was loved by his soldiers with brotherly devotion. His remains were sent to Richmond and buried in Hollywood Cemetery, where they now rest.

He married in Portsmouth on the 2d day of January, 1862, Sarah Campbell Smith, who has, since the death of her husband, devoted her life to aiding the widows and orphans of Confederate soldiers, and in perpetuating memories of the lost cause, with ardor and devotion, unflagging and fearless, as a true and faithful daughter of the Confederacy.

Stonewall Camp, Confederate Volunteers, Portsmouth, Va., has on more than one occasion tendered to her unanimous vote of thanks in appreciation and gratitude for her invaluable services in its behalf, and she shall have the thanks and esteem of every individual member as long as life lasts.

Colonel Niemeyer left one child—John Frederick Niemeyer.

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