Brigadier-General William Henry Fitzhugh Payne, a distinguished cavalry commander of the army of Northern Virginia, was born at Clifton, the homestead of his family in Virginia, January 27, 1830. His family, prominently associated with the history of the Old Dominion, was founded in America by John Payne, who with his brother William came to the colony in 1620. Fourth in descent from John Payne was Capt. William Payne, who was born in 1755 at Wakefield, Westmoreland county, the birthplace of George Washington. He did an extensive business as a merchant at Falmouth and Fredericksburg, served three years in the Continental army, including the battles of Guilford Court House and Yorktown, and died at Clifton in 1837. By his second marriage, to Marian Morson, of Scottish descent, he had one son, Arthur A. M. Payne, born at Clifton in 1804, who was a prominent man, and widely known as a breeder of fine horses, among them Passenger. He married Mary Conway Mason Fitzhugh, daughter of judge Nicholas Fitz- hugh, of the District of Columbia, and granddaughter of Augustine Washington. The eldest of their six children is General Payne, who has well sustained the ancestral reputation of worthy citizenship, and faithful service, both in civil and military life, in the best interests of the community and the commonwealth. After completing his education in the university of Virginia and preparing himself for the practice of law, he formed a partnership for professional work with Samuel Chilton, at Warrenton. In 1856, at the age of twenty-six years, the ability he had demonstrated warranted his election to the office of commonwealth's attorney, which he continued to fill with satisfaction to the public until 1869, except during the period he passed in the military service. He was among the first to answer the call of the State immediately after the passage of the ordinance of secession, and as a private participated in the occupation of Harper's Ferry. Soon after his arrival there he was promoted to a captaincy in the Black Horse cavalry, a rank which he held from April 26th to September 17, 1861, when he was promoted major and assikned to the Fourth Virginia cavalry. With this command he participated in the early operations of the Peninsular campaign. In the battle of May 5th at Willamsburg, Colonel Robertson being sick and Lieutenant-Colonel Wickham having been wounded on the previous day, he commanded the regiment in a fierce fight on the Telegraph road, and received, as stated in General Stuart's report, " a very severe, and I fear, mortal wound in theface." His capture followed and he was held as a prisoner of war two or three months. As soon as exchanged, though not yet fully recovered, he returned to duty early in September, 1862, and being promoted lieutenant-colonel, was assigned to the temporary command of the Second North Carolina regiment of cavalry, with which he held Warrenton, Va., with about 3,000 wounded Confederate soldiers, also capturing a number of Federal prisoners. In November he was ordered into hospital at Lynchburg, but on his application was given command of the troops at that post. In February, 1863, he was able to rejoin the Fourth regiment, and held command, in the absence of Colonel Wickham, until March 20th, when he was again given command of the Second North Carolina. The gallant Col. Sol Williams, the regular commander, returned to his men on June 8th, but on the next day, in the battle of Brandy Station, lost his life, and Payne continued to lead the regiment, and in that capacity took part in Stuart's Pennsylvania raid. When Stuart was confronted by Kilpatrick, Payne with his regiment was thrown against the rear of Farnsworth's brigade at Hanover, Pa. So gallant was the charge that one Federal regiment was scattered, and Kilpatrick's command might have been routed had adequate support been at hand. But here Colonel Payne's horse was killed under him, and he himself, with a severe saber cut in the side, again fell into the hands of the enemy. After a long imprisonment at Johnson's Island, Ohio, he was exchanged, and being promoted brigadier-general, commanded a brigade of three cavalry regiments, the Fifth, Sixth and Fifteenth Virginia, in Early's campaign in the Shenandoah valley, including the battles of Winchester, Fisher's Hill and Cedar Creek. He was next transferred to Richmond and remained there during the siege, in the final operations commanding a brigade composed of the Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Virginia cavalry and Thirty-sixth Virginia battalion, in Munford's division. At the battle of Five Forks, April 1st, he was again badly wounded, and was sent to Richmond to rejoin the army. During the evacuation he failed to reach his corps and took refuge near his old home, where he was captured on the night of Lincoln's assassination. Carried into Washington the next day, he narrowly escaped violence at the hands of the populace, blindly enraged by the terrible crime of the night before. He again suffered prison life at Johnson's Island, after the actual close of the war. Since the return of peace he has devoted himself to the practice of law, also serving in the legislature of Virginia in the session of 1879-80. He was married in May, 1852, to Mary Elizabeth Winston Payne, daughter of Col. W. Winter Payne, who represented the Sumter district of Alabama in Congress in 1841-48. Ten children were born to this union, of whom eight survive.
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