US GenWeb

This biography is from HEROES OF ALBANY, by Rufus W. Clark, D. D.

Lieut. James Williamson

Lieutenant James Williamson was born in the town of Kilmarnock, in Ayrshire, Scotlad, N. B., on the 2d of October, 1829. His parents were Andrew and Margaret Williamson. He was a very affectionate son and brother. At the age of twelve years, he was religiously impressed, and he always said that it was then that he received "the truth as it is in Jesus," although he did not make a public profession until he was in his nineteenth year. Then he united with the State Street Baptist Church, but afterwards associated himself with the State Street Presbyterian Church, when it was first organized. He was elected as one of the first trustees of the church, and was intimately identified with all its interests. He was ready to do anything for its welfare, and for the cause of Christ, that he ever ardently loved. When upon the battle field his thoughts ever reverted to the spot he so dearly loved.

His integrity and truthfulness, his open and manly adherence to principles, the large and generous sympathies of his heart for the suffering and the oppressed, won for him a large circle of friends. Although a native of a foreign land, which he always cherished with a loving heart, yet he was ever true to the government and institutions of the land of his adoption. These he ever upheld when assailed, and he threw himjelf at last, with enthusiasm, into the contest when they were in danger. It was this devotion to his country that induced him to sacrifice all the pleasures and comforts of his loved home and the gains of a lucrative profession, in the hour of its peril.

He was chosen First Lieutenant in the Tenth Regiment of the New York State Militia, in the city of Albany, on the 8th day of July, 1861. Preparatory to the leaving of the regiment for the seat of war, it was changed to the One Hundred and Seventy-seventh Regiment New York State Volunteers. He then enlisted as First Lieutenant of company D, on the 14th of October, 1862. The regiment left Albany on the 16th of December, and arrived at their headquarters, at Bonnet Carre, on or about the 21st of January, 1863.

The first battle in which he was engaged was at Ponchatoula, on the 24th of March, 1863. The second and last battle in which he was engaged, was that at Port Hudson, on the 27th of May, 1863. Company D went in with fifty privates, one Corporal, two Sergeants and Lieutenant Williamson. There he was shot through the brain, while gallantly leading his men to the charge, and he died instantly. He was buried under the shade of an old tree. Two weeks afterwards his remains were taken up and conveyed to New Orleans. There they remained until the autumn of the same year, when they were brought home to the city of Albany, and arrived on the 15th of December. The funeral ceremonies were observed on the 16th of December, at the Albany Rural Cemetery, where his remains now rest.

Besides a numerous circle of warm friends, Lieutenant Williamson leaves an afflicted widow, who mourns the loss of a most devoted husband; but, as she trusts in the same Saviour who sustained him in the last hour, we believe they will yet meet to part no more.

To this brief record we gladly add the tributes to the departed from the State Street Presbyterian Church and the St. Andrew's Society of Albany, and an interesting letter from Colonel Ainaworth.

At a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the State Street Presbyterian Church, held June 11th, 1863, the following memorial was ordered entered upon the minutes:

"Killed in battle before Port Hudson, May 27th, 1863, Lieut. James Williamson, Co. D, One Hundred and Seventy-seventh New York State Volunteers (formerly Tenth Regiment, National Guards.)

1. The associates of Lieut. Williamson, of the Board of Trustees of the State Street Presbyterian Church, have met this day to give expression to their sense of sorrow at the death of another of their number. Within two weeks of the time that Adjutant Strong died in camp, Lieut. Williamson, his friend and companion in arms, has perished on the field of battle; and although we would bow in humble submission to these successive bereavements, yet we are filled with the deepest grief and solicitude.
2. James Williamson was elected a trustee of this church at its organization—he was intimately identified with all its interests, and deeply concerned in its prosperity—with a clear head and a ready hand he thought and labored for its welfare. He loved it with a strong and pervading love; and he looked back towards it from his distant field of labors with longing and regret. Knowing all this, and knowing that no church ever had a more faithful and vigilant trustee, we are deeply sensible of the loss we have sustained in his death.
3. Because he had become endeared to us all by personal friendship; because we appreciated his kind and hearty and unselfish nature; because we knew his uprightness in business, his benevolent disposition, and his pure and faithful Christian character; we loved him while living, and we mourn for him now that he is dead.
4. We rejoice that Lieut, Williamson possessed that patriotism which led him to volunteer for the defence of his country; that he was willing to devote a life so precious to a cause so holy, and that in the performance of his duties as an officer, he was enabled to render such noble service; and although the performance of these duties cost him his life, yet we cannot regret, as he did not withhold the sacrifice.
"To the wife, who has been left a stricken widow, by this bereavement; to all the relatives and friends of our deceased associate, and to the soldiers whom he led in battle, and who are now deprived of his faithful and capable oversight, we extend our heartfelt sympathies; and we pray God to give them that consolation which they need, but which the ministry of man is powerless to bestow.
6. [sic] We direct that a copy of these minutes be transmitted to the family of the deceased and published in the papers."

R. L. JOHNSON, President.
John C. McClure, Secretary.


At a special meeting of the members of the St. Andrew's Society of the city of Albany, held on the evening of June 15, 1863, the following preamble and resolutions were unanimouslyadopted, viz:
Whereas, We have learned with sincere regret that Lieut. James Williamson, one of our members, fell in battle before Port Hudson on the 27th of May, 1863, and being desirous that some memorial, expressive of our deep and lasting regard for him be entered on our minutes, therefore,
Resolved, That we bear our cordial testimony to the numerous excellencies of our deceased brother in public and private life; his integrity; his truthfulness; his open and manly adherence to principle; the large and generous sympathies of his heart for the wants of the suffering and the wrongs of the oppressed; the purity of his character; the suavity of his manners and that fine combination of moral and Christian qualities which endeared him to those by whom he was intimately known.
Resolved, That we desire to express with feelings of admiration his ardent devotion to his country, which induced him, in the hour of its peril, to renounce the gains of a lucrative profession, and the comforts of a loved home, at the call of patriotism; and feel that in the death of this gallant officer, whose career has been thus briefly, though honorably closed, the nation has lost an ardent and devoted friend.
Resolved, That we record it with satisfaction that, though of foreign extraction, and always cherishing with a loving heart the land of his birth, he was, in the truest sense of the word, "an American;" affiliating himself in heart and soul with the Government and institutions of the land of his adoption, upholding them in the exercise of their functions, vindicating them when assailed, and throwing himself at last with his characteristic enthusiasm into the contest when these were imperiled; and we hallow his memory, and will resolutely defend that paternal government under which it is our privilege to live, and to which we owe the enjoyment of all our social and civil immunities.
Resolved, That we tender our affectionate sympathy to the bereaved wife, and supplicate in her behalf the support of religious consolation; to the numerous relatives and friends of the deceased; and desire also that his early and lamented death may be blessed to the members of our Society, in gathering up those solemn lessons of duty which it is designed and fitted to convey.
Resolved, That a copy of the resolutions be transmitted to the widow of the deceased, and that they be inserted in the daily papers of the city.
JAMES DUNCAN, President.
Peter Smith, Secretary.

Letter from Col. Ainsworth:

Mrs. Williamson:
Respected Madam—I beg you will pardon me for addressing you at this late hour a few lines respecting my friend and companion in arms, your dear lost husband. I feel it is due to community to perpetuate the memory of those who well perform their part in life, as an example to others that may come after them.

It was not my good fortune long to enjoy an intimate acquaintance with Lieut. Williamson. It commenced with his military life, a life brief and simple, not marked by uncommon incidents which attract the attention of the great world. He did not live long enough to achieve the high honors of rank to which his soldierly bearing, his talents, his industry, his manly and modest deportment, his spotless character, his love of truth and justice entitled him.

It seems as but yesterday I beheld him in the morning of life, surrounded by every comfort which means and affection can give; stimulated by every motive of honorable ambition, as he saw the future bright before him, and, with a just reliance upon himself, looked forward to a useful and honorable career. But an imperiled country called him to other duties. He was among the first, when the sound of conflict reached us, to assume the profession of arms in defence of the Nation's flag; and with the brave men who went forth to the field of strife, he sought danger as a duty, and proved himself brave in battle as he was patient and submissive.

He was a Christian gentleman, a Christian soldier. He followed, with unfaltering trust, the path of duty to his God, and to his country, and leaves no enemy behind him. All who knew him, loved him, for his nature was gentle and genial. He was firm in honest purpose, quick to discover and defend the right, and incapable of wrong; and while it was no part of his ambition to win applause, he was entitled to and received the universal respect of his brethren in arms. When such men die, there is a melancholy pleasure in bearing testimony to what they were, and to do so is a sacred duty to the living and the dead.

His Captain being one of those who were left in New York on our sailing with the Banks' expedition for New Orleans, and subsequently wounded in battle, when he was sent to the hospital in New Orleans, gave Lieut. Williamson command of the company, most of the time, up to his death. On our arriving at New Orleans, we were ordered to march up the coast to Bonnet Carre, La., an important post on the Mississippi river, being one of the main defences of New Orleans. Large numbers of our men were soon prostrated with disease peculiar to that country and to camp life, and Lieut. Williamson, besides being the acknowledged friend of the individual members of the regiment, became an unwearied attendant upon the wants of the sick. His assistance was freely bestowed on all sides, regardless of danger from infection. With a rare skill, and a joyous and genial manner, peculiar to himself, he watched with and assisted in the care of the sick, and administered to the dying the consolation of that religion he had himself experienced.

The circumstances under which Lieut. Williamson closed his brief but honorable military career, were peculiarly painful and impressive to me, and his loss to the regiment deeply felt by all. He fell on that fearful day, the 27th of May, 1863, while leading his company amid a shower of iron hail, as the regiment charged upon the works of Port Hudson, being struck in the temple by a grape shot. He died as a soldier would prefer to die, on the field of battle, amid the smoke and flashes of artillery, the shouts of contending armies, and the roar of musketry, listening, as death steals over him, for the glorious shouts of victory. I doubt whether a braver or more heroic spirit has perished in our country's conflict. "Peace to his ashes." Albany may well feel proud of such a patriotic hero, yielding up his life for their country. May He, who has promised to be the widow's God, be your consolation and abiding reward.

I have the honor to be,
Yours, very respectfully,
Late Colonel 177th Regiment, N. Y. S. V.
Albany, July 4, 1866.

Send comments or suggestions to:
Debby Masterson

Go Back to Albany County Biographies
Go Back to Home Page