Thomas Maley Harris

Parkersburg Dispatch
October 1, 1906

Gen. Harris Is Claimed By Death

Passes Away At Harrisville At Age Of 93 - One Of Commonwealth's Most Remarkable Figures

Silenced Last Battery Of Gen. Robt. E. Lee

Soldier of the Union in the Republic's Rebellion He Fought Valiantly for His Country's Honor - In the Time of Peace, a Statesman - He Was One of the Last Survivors of the Commission Which Tried Conspirators in Assassination of Lincoln - Served in West Virginia Legislature, and Was a Practicing Physician - Retained His Strong Faculties Until the End.

General Thomas Maley Harris, aged 93 years and 3 months, died yesterday morning at eleven o'clock at his home at Harrisville, where he was born and reared, and where he spent the most of the years of a most remarkable career. He had been ill about a month. His illness and death were due to a general breakdown, incident to old age. The end came peacefully in the midst of a deep sleep into which he had fallen a few hours earlier.

General Harris was one of the commonwealth's foremost citizens and in many respects its most remarkable character. To his lot it fell as an officer of the Union in the late rebellion to silence the last battery of General Lee at Appomattox; to him it fell in the peace of the nation, and after that tragedy which cost the nation its president, to sit as one of the commission to try the conspirators in the assassination of Lincoln. These two notable acts stand out most conspicuously in his career which was so full of incidents that it would require volumes to record his biography.

During his last illness, and in spite of the fact that he had attained the remarkable age of 93 years, he retained his faculties until the last. He frequently discussed his own physical condition with his son, John T. Harris, or with other relatives, and talked about the matters that interested him by the hour.

His mind never failed and he never wavered. He was the same staunch patriot when he died who fought for the Union in the sixties; the body had weakened but the same powerful spirit still prevailed.

Saturday he seemed to have improved though last week he seemed wavering between life and death. On Saturday night John T. Harris returned to Parkersburg to spend Sunday.

Yesterday afternoon at three o'clock he received a message announcing his father's death. Death had occurred just shortly before noon. In the morning the aged general had taken nourishment for the first time in a week. He feel [sic] into a deep sleep from which he never awakened.

The funeral will be held from the home on Wednesday afternoon at one o'clock. The announcement of his death caused deep regret in this city where General Harris was well-known, and respected and loved by all who enjoyed the honor of his acquaintance.

General Thomas Maley Harris was born June 17, 1813, near what is now Harrisville, Ritchie county. He received a limited education in the subscription schools of that day and spent one term at Marietta College. He taught school afterwards, pursuing the study of medicine at the same time. He was assistant principal in the boys' department in the old Hanks Academy in Parkersburg, in the early forties. While holding that position he married Sophia Taylor Hall, principal of the girls' department, who had come from Massachusetts to teach in the school. Afterwards he attended Louisville Medical College, and in about 1843 he was practicing medicine in his old home neighborhood in Ritchie county. He continued in that practice from 1843 until 1856, when he removed to Glenville, Gilmer county, where he practiced until 1861.

Politically he was an old line Whig and was opposed to the ordinance of secession. When the war broke out he was authorized by Governor Pierpont, upon the recommendation of General Rosecrantz, to whom he had rendered valuable service, to raise a regiment of troops. After the regiment had been partially recruited he received a commission as lieutenant colonel, and when the full quota of men had been enlisted he was commissioned colonel. The regiment was the Tenth Virginia, afterwards known as the Tenth West Virginia. He served with his regiment in West Virginia until the summer of 1864, except for a short time, when he was with General Milroy at Winchester in the winter of 1862.

At the time of the Hunter raid he was ordered with his regiment from Beverly to the valley of Virginia, where he served under General Franz Seigel [sic] and afterwards under General Sheridan, being attached to the Eighth corps, or what was known as the Army of West Virginia, commanded by General George Crooks [sic]. He participated in all the heavy fighting in the valley in the summer and fall of 1864, as brigade and division commander. For gallant conduct at the battle of Cedar Creek he was breveted a brigadier general.

At the close of the valley campaign he was in command of a division which was afterwards transferred to Grant's army in front of Richmond, and was known as the independent division of the Twenty-fourth army corps, army of the James, at which time he received a commission as brigadier general. He was in the heavy fighting in front of Petersburg in the spring of 1865, at Hatcher's Run and other points long the line, and his command stormed Fort Whitworth and captured it after a desperate fight. At Appomattox he was immediately in front of Lee's advance line and he sent out a company of sharp shooters under command of the late Capt. Kirkpatrick, of Wetzel county, that silencer [sic] the last battery that Lee every put in position.

After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln he was ordered to Washington and detailed as a member of the military commission that tried the conspirators under arrest there. This commission was composed of Generals David H. Hunter, Lew Wallace, August V. Kautz, Albion P. Howe, Robert S. Foster, James A. Elkin, T. M. Harris, Brevet Colonel C. H. Tompkins and Lieutenant Colonel David R. Clendening. All are now dead, with the possible exception of General Foster and Colonel Tompkins. In 1892 he wrote a book giving an account of the conspiracy and a history of the trial of those engaged in it.

After the work of the commission was over General Harris was placed in command of the department of Northern Virginia with headquarters at Fredericksburg, where he remained until early in 1866, having been commissioned a major general by brevet in the meantime.

Upon being mustered out of service General Harris returned to his old home in Ritchie county.

Edwin M. Stanton, secretary of war, in recognition of his services in the field tendered General Harris the lieutenant colon[el]cy of the Thirty-seventh regulars, but the appointment was declined on account of age.

He was elected from Ritchie county to the legislature in 1867. He was appointed adjutant general of the state under Governor Stevenson, and afterwards was commissioned by President Grant as United States pension agent at Wheeling, which place he held a number of years, and until the agency was abolished, after which he returned to Ritchie county, and resumed the practice of medicine, which he followed until about 1885, since which time he has lived a quiet life at his home near Harrisville. His wife died in September, 1885. He was married again in 1888 to Miss Clara Maley of Iowa. Four children were born to the first marriage - Martha A., who married Rev. J. R. Johnston, pastor of the United Presbyterian church at Washington, Pa.; Mary Virginia, who died in early womanhood; Agnes, who died in infancy, and John T. Harris, who now resides in Parkersburg.

From early manhood General Harris was a devoted and consistent member of the United Presbyterian church. He was the oldest citizen of Ritchie county, born in the county. He was a man of strong mind, deep convictions, great will power, kindly in his disposition, charitable and generous beyond measure and full of love for his fellowman.

Last winter an effort was made to place all volunteer officers who had become brigade or division commanders during the war on a volunteer retired list. General Green B. Raum, commissioner of Internal revenue under President Grant, was in charge of the measure, and in making up his list of those who would become beneficiaries it was developed that General Harris was the oldest surviving brigade and division commander of the volunteer service, and the only one living in West Virginia, Generals Kelley, Lightburn, Duval, Lockwood, Snider and other having all passed away.

Civil War

West Virginia Archives and History