Summary

Conflict Period:
Civil War (Confederate) 1
Branch:
Confederate Army 1
Rank:
Major General 2
Birth:
December 16, 1825 2
Black Heath VA 2
Death:
September 27, 1899 2
Washington DC 2
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Personal Details

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Full Name:
Henry Heth 1
Also known as:
Harry Heth 2
Birth:
December 16, 1825 2
Black Heath VA 2
Death:
September 27, 1899 2
Washington DC 2
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Civil War (Confederate) 1

Branch:
Confederate Army 1
Rank:
Major General 2
Enlistment Date:
1863 1

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  1. Civil War Soldiers - Confederate - Officers [See image]
  2. Contributed by bruceyrock632
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Stories

Henry Heth

Henry Heth was born in Black Heath, Virginia, in 1825, to a family known for military service.  He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1847 at the bottom of his class, and spent most of his pre-war years serving in posts on the western frontier.  His most notable actions included a role in the Battle of Ash Hallow in 1855 against the Sioux.

Once the American Civil War broke out, Heth resigned from the US army and was made the colonel of the 45th Virginia.  After serving in Western Virginia, he was promoted and sent to serve under General Kirby Smithduring his campaign in Kentucky.  In February of 1863, he was moved back east and promoted to command a brigade in A.P. Hill’s division of the Army of Northern Virginia.  He fought in the Battle of Chancellorsville, though without major distinction. 

Heth is most famous for his actions at the Battle of Gettysburg. He had sent elements of his division ahead of the main body of his troops in order to provide reconnaissance.  When these forces reached Gettysburg, fighting broke out when they encountered lead elements of the Union army.  On the morning of July 1, 1863, Heth advanced his brigades to attack Union General John Buford’s cavalry, which had taken up defensive positions.  Although Confederate General Robert E. Lee had ordered that any unnecessary contact with the enemy was to be avoided, Heth’s actions made the order useless, thus beginning the Battle of Gettysburg.  During the battle, General Heth received a severe wound to the head, but he was still able to participate in all aspects of the battle and recovered.

After the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, Heth and his men fought in the Overland Campaign of 1864, during the Siege of Petersburg, and they fought until the retreat to Appomattox Court House, where he surrendered along with Lee.

Heth's Division Third Army Corps

The monument to Heth's Division of the Third Corps is southwst of Gettysburg on West Confederate Avenue. It was commanded at Gettysburg by Major General Henry Heth (USMC '47), a career army officer from Virginia.

 

Heth's Division started the Battle of Gettysburg when it marched from Cashtown in the morning on July 1st. Its run-in with Union cavalry outside of town did not technically count as a general engagement, which Lee had ordered Heth to avoid.

 

But suddenly infantry from the Army of the Potomac was tearing into Heth's two lead brigades. James Archer was captured, as was part of Davis' Brigade. Lee gave his blessing to the developing battle when Confederate reinforcements appeared on the Union flank and rear, and Heth's Division found itself in the forefront of the first day's fighting.

 

The division's casualties were heavy and it was held in reserve on July 2nd. Heth himself narrowly escaped a serious head wound. Paper padding an aide had placed in his new hat to help its fit probably saved Heth's life, but he was out of the battle. Brigadier General J. J. Pettigrew took over the division.

 

On July 3rd the rested division took part in the attack that would be known as Pickett's Charge. Led by Pettigrew, it again took heavy casualties, giving the division the highest losses of any at Gettysburg.

Heth's Division had one last bit of bad luck in the campaign. Pettigrew and the division were the rear guard as Lee's Army made its way to safety across the swollen Potomac. Before they could cross, Union cavalry made a wild attack. It had little result other than mortally wounding Pettigrew, one of the most promising younger officers in the army.

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