General Joseph A. Lightburn
General Joseph Andrew Jackson Lightburn
Brigadier General, United States Army 1861-1865
"the fighting parson"
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Brigadier General, Joseph Lightburn is perhaps the least known of the Union Civil War Generals who commanded soldiers and fought diligently and successfully on the front line in so many important battles of the Union's efforts in the South. The following outline is designed to inform the reader of his major contributions. To learn more, click on Home or Smith Publishing of Lonesome Ride and contact us for a copy ($15.00) of Frances Lightburn Cressman' s book, Joseph Andrew Jackson Lightburn, Union Brigadier General and Baptist Pastor.
Joseph Andrew Jackson Lightburn was born Sept. 21,1824 to Benjamin and Rebecca Fell Lightburn in Westmoreland County Pa. He was the oldest of 5 brothers.
In 1838 the Lightburn family moved to Lewis County, Virginia, later to become West Virginia. Along the West Fork River in northern Lewis County, they built Lightburn Mill and farmed 600 acres Benjamin had purchased.
Joseph immediately became friends with Thomas Jackson of Jackson's Mill. They became the closest of friends that lasted until death.
Joseph A. J. Lightburn served the United States Army from 1846- 1851 during the Mexican war.
In 1855 he married Harriet Whittlesey. They had four children, Joanna, 1856, Horace,1858, Benjamin, 1860, and Mary, 1872.
He was licensed to preach in 1859.
In May 1861 He was selected as representative to the Restored Government of Virginia Constitutional Convention following a persuasive speech against succession.
In June 1861, the newly elected Governor, Francis H. Pierpont commissioned Joseph Lightburn a Colonel in the United States Army. Colonel "Joe" then formed the 4th Virginia Infantry later to become the 4th West Virginia Infantry. He trained these troops during the winter of 1861-62. Two of his brothers, Captain Martin Van Buren Lightburn and 1st Lieutenant Calvin Luther Lightburn joined the 4th Virginia and served throughout the war. One Brother, John Fell Lightburn Joined the Confederate Army, fought at Gettysburg, was wounded and spent much time in prison at Camp Chase. Another brother, Benjamin Franklin Lightburn was too young to join the army and remained at home.
Colonel Lightburn and the 4th Virginia were assigned duty in Charleston, VA in the Summer of 1862.
In August 1862 Colonel Lightburn was placed in charge of approx. 5000 men with orders to defend the Kanawha Valley against Confederate General W. W. Loring with about 10,000 men until all men and citizens and supplies could be evacuated to Point Pleasant. He successfully evacuated troops and citizens and over 700 wagons of supplies worth over a million dollars.
In October 1862 Colonel Lightburn returned with General Cox and drove the confederates out of the Kanawha Valley.
On 3/14/1863, Colonel Lightburn was commissioned a Brigadier General by President Abraham Lincoln and ordered to Vicksburg, Miss. and arrived there in January 1863.
General Lightburn took a leave of absence in April of 1863 due to illness, and returned home. While at home, Confederates Jones and Imboden were conducting raids in the area and General Lightburn was ordered to organize troops to combat them. Upon the successful organization of sufficient troops to combat the confederates and upon the leaving of Jones and Imboden from the area, General Lightburn returned to join General Grant's troops in May 1863.
Throughout the remainder of the battle for Vicksburg, General Lightburn commanded the 2nd Brigade of Blair's 2nd Division of Sherman's XVth Corps of General Grants Army of the Tennessee and was involved in much of the fighting for that city. Vicksburg Surrendered July 4, 1863. It was here that the General was struck by a bullet in the Scabbard in the upper leg/hip area. The bullet was deflected. Had the bullet entered his body in this area, it would have probably meant death. His two brothers, Martin and Luther were also slightly wounded.
July 10-17 1863 General Lightburn and the 2nd Brigade participated in the siege of Jackson Mississippi.
On July 26,General Lightburn was placed in command of the 2nd Division of Sherman's XV corps of General Grants Army of the Tennessee replacing General Blair who was appointed Military Governor of Mississippi.
General Lightburn resigned his command of the 2nd Division in September, 1863 when General Grant was moved to Washington, DC and General Sherman took over the Army of Tennessee.
General Lightburn led the 2nd Brigade which included the 4th WV, the Ohio 37th and 47th, all companies that had fought with him in the early years of the war. The 2nd Brigade played an important role in the success of the unforgettable battle of Missionary Ridge.
On November, 1863, General Lightburn and the 2nd Brigade assisted in destroying the Confederate railroad supply line that ran between Grayson, Tennessee and Ringgold, Georgia.
On December 3, 1863, General Lightburn and the 2nd Brigade made a grueling march to Knoxville to support General Burnside. As a result of over exposure General Lightburn contracted asthma and was forced to take a short leave from his duties to recuperate. He returned in the Spring of 1864 and was placed in charge of the 2nd Brigade of General Smith's 2nd Division and on May 1, began their march for Atlanta With General William T. Sherman's Army.
In the 100 days of the Atlanta campaign General Lightburn conducted operations in Resaca, Georgia, on 5/15/64 Supported General Smiths efforts to secure the railroad, fought a hard fought battle in Dallas GA, fought battles at the New Hope Church, and skirmishers enroute to Kennesaw Mountain, and took part in the battle of Kennesaw Mountain from 6/19-6/27/1864.
Beginning on 7/22/64 the 7 day battle for Atlanta begun. General Lightburn was in charge of his 2nd Brigade for the first 2 days and a Division for the remaining 5 days. During this battle General Lightburn and his men were engaged in very difficult battles against General Hoods Confederates.
On 8/24/1864, while leading his troops against skirmishers General Lightburn was shot in the head. The bullet grazed his skull, knocked him from his horse and would end his journey to the sea with William T. Sherman. His brother, First Lieutenant Luther Lightburn caught the General when he fell from his horse, Major, and prevented further injury. He would be sent home to recuperate. The head wound left a furrow in his scalp and would cause him blurred vision and headaches for the remainder of his life.
Following his recuperation, General Lightburn was assigned command of federal troops at Martinsburg from 11/13/64 - 12/7/64.
In early January 1865, He was assigned commander of the 1st and 2nd Brigades, a Division of the Department of West Virginia Under General Winfield S. Hancock.
In May of 1865 General Lightburn was sent to Charleston, WV to serve as president of the Board of Officers to examine and evaluate soldiers at their release from the army.
General Lightburn was discharged from the Army on 6/22/1865.
General Lightburn received many accolades for his accomplishments during the Civil War. Upon his return home, there was a large celebration July 4, 1865, at which he was given a beautifully engraved Sword and Scabbard that he is holding in the above picture. This picture is hanging in the Lewis County Court House in Weston, WV.
At the Vicksburg National Military Park, there is a monument with a bronze relief of him along Graveyard Road. Also his beloved WV 4th had erected a monument to this important WV company.
Vicksburg National Park Monument
In Grant Park, Atlanta located in the Cyclorama Building is the Largest three dimensional painting in the world depicting the 7 days battle for Atlanta. In this picture is a life size painting of General Lightburn astride his horse Major that he rode throughout the war.
Historian, Robert Bird Cook published a book about General Lightburn. His Great Granddaughter, Frances Lightburn Cressman has published a very nice book entitled, Joseph Andrew Jackson Lightburn, Union General and Baptist Preacher.
General Lightburn came home from the war and spent the remainder of his life serving as a minister in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, much of this service at the WV Broad Run Baptist Church.
Broad Run Baptist Church Constructed in 1873
He died May 17, 1901 from complications of asthma, pneumonia and heart trouble. He is buried in the Broad Run Baptist Church Cemetery. His grave marker follows.
General Joseph Andrew Jackson Lightburn's Grave Monument
September 21, 1824 - May 17, 1901
Roy Bird Cook in his article about General Lightburn for the West Virginia History Magazine, wrote the following words in his closing statement of his 50 page article.
"As late as August, 1900, this fine old "Fighting Parson"mounted his horse and rode to Bridgeport (Harrison County) to attend a meeting of the Union Baptist Association. The years were creeping up, but the Soldier of the Cross was still marching on. As his physical strength decreased, his mind became more concentrated on spiritual matters. But certainly memories of those long marches in the Kanawha Valley in 1862, or the fatigue suffered during the siege of Vicksburg in 1863, the storming of Missionary Ridge and the fall of Atlanta in 1864 must have occupied his mind at times, even though they came and went with the vague disconnected qualities of dreams.
The years were winning the race and the General's strength was ebbing. The spring of 1901 came and he surrendered. He was tired and he deserved the eternal rest which came on
May 17th. But he had fought a good fight, both as a soldier for his country and for his God, in both of whom he had a sublime faith."
Copy of a Letter written by General Lightburn to a Surgeon friend during the Civil war
Head Quarters 2 Brigade
Walnut Hills in rear of Vicksburg
June 17, 1863
My Dear George
Yours of the 2 Inst. has this moment been recieved to which I hasten a reply, first in relation to a position in the Virginia regimets. I know nothing about any of them except the 4th which is here and in the 4th the position of surgeon is filled I also desire to say that anything I can do that would obtain you a position I will gladly do, first on account of you competency to discharge the duties of surgeon and the efficient manner in which you discharged those duties while under my Command, and secondly, our social relations have been of that character that I can recommend you as a gentleman, and if your health should continue as good as you say it has been I hope you will succeed in getting that position as I believe it would benefit the service, as to news here I suppose you have probably more particulars than actually exist. we have the city so invested that not even a single individual can escape we have occupied this position for some time our troops are in some place within 75 yards of the enemies works which are said to be as strong as the works around Sebastopol, we have had almost an incessant fire for 25 days. and will take Vicksburg but how would not be prudent for me now to say. My old regiment suffered terribly in the charge made on the enemies works her loss on the first- day was 147. including 11 officers amongst the reported killed was Major Goodspeed. who we have since learned by rumor was wounded and a prisoner the old 4th had gained rather an enviable reputation for discipline and has fully sustained herself in battle. I am doubly paid for what labor I had bestowed on it as a regiment.
I thank you for your congratulations, and for the interest that you and your people exhibit for my success, and I shall ever make it my duty to so demean myself that it can never be said I have betrayed the confidence of my people and government. my best respect to your father your lady and family, and particularly to the young J.A. J. of which you speak. you must excuse this hasty scrip as my Brigade is in front and I write under fire. we have been carrying on war on a large scale and the firing at times is terrific so much so that it would try the nerves of an old soldier I will give you particulars when we get into Vicksburg provided you will grant me the favor not to have any of my letters published as I am down on Newspaper puffing.
The Boys in the 4" that are left are all well Capt Lightburn was struck three times one shot struck his watch which saved his life his wound was very slight Luther was shot through the clothing. I recieved two shots one striking my sword and another through my coat, they all send their respects
I Must close write frequently
J. A. J. Lightburn
Comg 2 Brigade
2 - Division 15 Army Corps
Army of the Tennessee
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