Confederate veteran kept past alive through stories

By David Maurer
Published: January 31, 2011

During the first few decades of the 20th century, Civil War veterans started dying in ever increasing numbers.

By the end of the 1930s the bulk of them were gone. The last authenticated Confederate veteran, Pleasant Crump, was 104 when he died on Dec. 31, 1951.

The last living Union veteran, Albert Woolson, hung on until Aug. 2, 1956. He was 109 when he died of lung congestion at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minn.

As Civil War veterans reached the end of their march, invaluable eyewitness accounts died with them. Asbury Coke Wingfield seemed to realize the importance of passing on to others what he had seen, felt and done during the conflict.

Up until his death on Feb. 24, 1926, he never tired of talking about his wartime experiences. He was born July 16, 1833, at the family’s home on Scottsville Road, about seven miles southeast of Charlottesville.

When the Civil War broke out in the spring of 1861, Wingfield and his four brothers already were members of the Monticello Guard. He and his brother Walker went off to war with Co. A, 19th Virginia Regiment.

The two brothers participated in the fierce fighting at First Manassas on July 21, 1861, and got through it without a scratch. They weren’t as fortunate on June 1, 1862, during the second day of the Battle of Seven Pines.

That Sunday morning, during an assault on a strong Federal position, a bullet went through Wingfield’s right hand and then hit his brother in the right shoulder.

It’s not clear if Walker died on the battlefield or survived. But Wingfield’s hand was shattered, and although he didn’t lose it, it would trouble him for the rest of his life.

Wingfield bandaged the wound as best he could, and then started walking to the hospital in nearby Richmond. He didn’t get far before loss of blood brought him to the point of losing consciousness.

The wounded soldier sat down, leaned back against a fence post and awaited his fate. It arrived in the form of two young ladies riding by in a carriage.

Almost certainly Wingfield was far from being the only walking wounded on the road to Richmond that day. But for whatever reason the ladies took pity on him, helped him into the carriage, and carried him off to the hospital cradled in their arms.

Wingfield often talked about the incident in the years that followed. During one telling he said, “I was in glory, and I was so glad I was wounded.”

After the wound healed, Wingfield was assigned special duty in Charlottesville. With the fighting over, it was time to start telling the war stories.

One account had to do with the stealing and butchering of a pig from the farm of a Northern sympathizer. When Wingfield’s commanding officer asked him why he did such a terrible thing he answered, “The pig tried to bite me.”

Wingfield lived to be 92. Although he was paralyzed for the last four years of his life, he never lost his sense of humor.

When telling about the day he joined the church, along with another man and a woman, he put it this way.

“We were the hardest-looking crowd ever to strike out together for the kingdom of heaven,” said the old Rebel.

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