Ultimate Sacrifice at the Battle of Kernstown: William Gray Murray, First Pennsylvania Colonel to Die in the American Civil War

Roderick Rodgers Gainer Jr.

  • Ultimate Sacrifice at the Battle of Kernstown: William Gray Murray, First Pennsylvania Colonel to Die in the American Civil War

William Gray Murray was the first Pennsylvania colonel to die in the Civil War, and the highest-ranking officer to fall at the savage battle of Kernstown. Prior to the Civil War, Murray led a distinguished life. Murray served first as a young officer in the 11th U.S. Infantry--attached to Winfield Scott’s army in the Mexican War-and saw action at numerous battles during the famed drive on Mexico City. Returning to civilian life after the Mexican War, Murray worked as postmaster of Blair County, Pennsylvania.

Born in Ireland, Murray personified the American Dream, rising to positions of great importance despite his humble beginnings. When war came in 1861, Murray answered his adopted country’s call and accepted a commission as colonel of the 84th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Soon, Murray and his men found themselves thrust into the opening stages of the famed Shenandoah Valley Campaign, a situation for which the regiment was scarcely prepared. Murray ably led his regiment at Hancock, and played a leading role in foiling the plans of no less a general than Stonewall Jackson. Three months later, William Gray Murray paid the ultimate price of war, falling at the head of his regiment at the First Battle of Kernstown. Ultimate Sacrifice at the Battle of Kernstown relies heavily on unpublished and obscure sources, including newspaper articles and soldiers’ diaries and pension files. The book offers a fascinating glimpse not only of a largely forgotten life but also into the internal politics and feuds of an early war Pennsylvania regiment.

“A revealing portrait of a patriot and long-forgotten war hero. At last, Colonel Murray has received the attention he so richly deserves. Mr. Gainer is to be commended for his effort, which is factually correct and well written. Recommended.”

David L. Richards, Licensed Battlefield Guide, Gettysburg National Military Park, Historian, Eighty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry

“Vividly details not only the military actions on the battlefield, but offers readers an insightful look into the life of the Irish colonel, including an excellent rendering of his experience in the War with Mexico and his personal life as well....opens the door for the reader to catch a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes struggles of training and disciplining a raw Civil War regiment, as experienced by both officers and enlisted men. Gainer has expanded our knowledge of the lives and motivations of the men who fought at Kernstown.”

Scott C. Patchan, Board of Directors, Kernstown Battlefield Association

“Congratulations to military historian Roderick Gainer for his crisp and engaging biography of the long-forgotten Murray, the only Pennsylvania colonel killed in the first year of the Civil War. Mr. Gainer’s well- trained research skills, combined with his natural talent as a nonfiction storyteller, have produced a solid work to help bolster an under-represented category of Civil War literature-the life stories of those officers who formed the fabric of the earliest Union armies.”

Gary Ecelbarger, author of "We Are In For It! The First Battle of Kernstown"

“Well-researched and written, this booklet humanizes and illuminates the life of an early-war Union hero.”

Dr. Tom Clemens, Hagerstown Community College

Author Roderick Rodgers Gainer Jr.
Pages 100
Images 4
Maps 5
Bibliography Yes
Index Yes
  • $12.95

Tags: 9781572493919, Roderick Rodgers Gainer Jr.