General William Wing Loring, C.S.A. (1818-1886)
Born to Reuben Loring and Hannah Kenan Loring in Wilmington, North Carolina, William Wing Loring moved with his family to St. Augustine, Florida, when he was a small child. As a teenager he fought in the Second Seminole War and rose to the rank of second lieutenant. His parents then sent him to the District of Columbia to attend Georgetown College. After leaving that institution, he studied law and was admitted to the Florida bar. He was also interested in the new state of Florida’s political situation and was elected to the state legislature in the early 1840s.
At the outbreak of the Mexican-American War, Loring received a captain’s commission and commanded a company of mounted rifles. He was promoted to major shortly before Winfield Scott’s Mexico City campaign. On the march to Mexico City, Loring participated in all of the major engagements. He received two brevet promotions and lost his arm in the battle of Chapultepec. At the end of the war, he remained in te regular army and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in March 1848. With his regiment he made a heroic march from Texas to Oregon and assumed command of the Department of Oregon in 1849. He remained there for two years before being transferred to Texas in 1851. He was promoted to colonel in 1858.
At the end of 1860, Loring assumed command of the Department of New Mexico, headquartered at Santa Fe. During March 1861, after the secession of Texas, he grew increasingly concerned for the security of his department. At the same time, he was wrestling with his own decision about whether to follow Florida out of the Union. He expressed views against the doctrine of secession, but apparently the impending secession of his native state of North Carolina decided him on the issue. He resigned his commission on 13 May 1861 and offered is services to the Confederacy. He was commissioned a brigadier general in the Confederate army on 20 May 1861.
In July 1861, Loring was given command of the Army of the Northwest in western Virginia. Throughout the remainder of the summer and fall of 1861, Loring led his men in a futile attempt to prevent Union forces from gaining a foothold in that area. In early August, General Robert E. Lee, who had been sent to western Virginia to advise the commanders there, urged Loring to attack the Federal position at Cheat Mountain. Loring resisted. Finally, because of the discovery of a route that would allow a secret approach overlooking the Federal position, Loring, with Lee present as an advisor, advanced on the position. The attack, planned for 12 September 1861, was never completed because of faulty intelligence.
At the end of the year, his Army of the Northwest was brought under the overall command of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. From the very beginning, Loring chafed under this arrangement, and when the ensuing campaign produced few results and it appeared his disgruntled army would be spending the remainder of the winter in comfortless Romney, Loring and his officers requested that they be removed from Jackson’s command. To Jackson, such action smacked of insubordination and threatened to tear his entire army apart. It was truly a thorny situation for the War Department. In February 1862, Loring was promoted to major general and shortly afterward was summoned east so that a more suitable command could be found for him. Temporarily placed in command of the Confederate defenses at Suffolk, Virginia, on 8 May 1862 Loring was given command of the Department of Southwestern Virginia.
Through the summer of 1862, Loring defended his department against Union invasion from the Kanawha Valley. In August 1862 he defeated a Union Force at Pack’s Ferry on the New River, and in September he launched a short, though relatively successful, invasion into the Kanawha Valley. On 27 November 1862 he was transferred to the command of Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton at Jackson, Mississippi.
During the next six months Loring commanded a division under Pemberton in defense of Vicksburg. In March 1863, Pemberton sent Loring north of the city to stop the Federal movement against Yazoo Pass. Loring built Fort Pemberton and repelled the Union offensive. In April 1863, Loring used his division to combat Union colonel Benjamin Grierson’s raid into Tennessee, and on 25 April he prevented the town of Enterprise, Mississippi, from falling to Grierson.
By May 1863, relations between Loring and Pemberton were somewhat strained. Loring disagreed with many of Pemberton’s decisions regarding the defense of Vicksburg, and during the battle of Champion’s Hill on 16 May, he failed to carry out Pemberton’s orders to attack the Union left flank. Loring, charged with guarding the subsequent Confederate retreat back to Vicksburg, managed to separate his division from the remainder of the army and was forced to join General Joseph Johnston’s force outside of Jackson, Mississippi. As a result, Loring missed the siege of Vicksburg and the surrender of the remainder of Pemberton’s army.
Loring served under Johnston for the remainder of the summer, fighting at Jackson after the surrender of Vicksburg. For the remainder of the year into early 1864, Loring and his division were headquartered at Canton, Mississippi. In early 1864, serving under Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, Loring commanded his division in the attempt to stop William T. Sherman’s Meridian campaign. Failing to stop Sherman, Loring moved his division to Montevallo, Alabama.
As part of Polk’s Army of Mississippi, Loring moved into north Georgia in May 1864 to join Joseph Johnston’s efforts to stop Sherman’s move toward Atlanta. He commanded his division in the early phases of that campaign, and when Polk was killed on 14 June, Loring assumed command of the Army of Mississippi, effectively a corps in Johnston’s army.
Loring led his corps through the remaining engagements of the campaign and moved north with General John Bell Hood after the fall of Atlanta. He fought under Hood in the disastrous battles of Franklin and Nashville. In early 1865 he took what was left of his army to join Joseph Johnston in the attempt to slow Sherman’s march through the Carolinas. In April 1865 he surrendered with Johnston in North Carolina.
After the war, Loring engaged in various business activities in New York City, but, missing the military life, in 1869 he accepted a brigadier general’s commission in the Egyptian army. For ten years he fought with distinction in several Egyptian campaigns. He returned to the United States in 1879. In retirement in New York City, Loring wrote extensively about his varied military career. He died of a heart attack in New York City on 30 December 1886.
– David & Jeanne Heidler
For further reading:
Raab, James. W.W.W.Loring – A Biography (1997).
For further reading: