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Williams & the Civil War: The Wrong Side, Part Two

One of a series of posts, as explained in “Williams & the Civil War: The Wrong Side – Introduction“:

At long last, 150 years after the Union prevailed “with a brave army, and a just cause” in the American Civil War, one of the most visible remaining markers of that conflict is on everyone’s lips and coming down…

Williams College, and most Ephs, reflect on the Civil War through a Union lens — correctly so, from both a moral and historical perspective… [s]o let’s use this occasion to learn more from and about Ephs on the subject of the Civil War and especially on the other side: the Confederacy.

Williams College produced three Ephs who ascended to the rank of General for the United States during the Civil War. James Garfield became President of the United States. But Williams also produced high-ranking officers who fought for the Confederacy. Two brothers, Joseph Lovell, Jr., and William F.S. Lovell, may be the most interesting of these men.

William and Joseph Lovell were two of the sons of Joseph Lovell, the 8th Surgeon General of the United States Army, and the first with the “Surgeon General” title:

Lovell was appointed Surgeon General to date from April 18, 1818, with Hospital Surgeons Tobias Watkins and James C. Bronaugh, assistants, one for each of the two divisions of the army. Apothecary General Le Barron was retained in his old position. Though only in his thirtieth year, his services in the hospitals on the northern frontier during the war and his appreciation of the needs of the service as evidenced by his reports made Lovell the logical choice for head of the service. Thus was established for the first time a permanent medical department organization. For the first time a career medical officer was made chief of the service. All of the former chiefs had been appointed to meet the emergency of war, real or expected, with an organization to serve the forces in the field. Again, for the first time was bestowed upon the service chief the title of surgeon general, which has survived to the present day.

Serving in the post for 18 years, Lovell founded its library, which today is the National Library of Medicine.

Son Joseph, Jr., entered Williams in 1840, where he spent only his freshman year. He moved on to Yale, graduating in 1844, then became a lawyer in New York State.

William entered Williams in 1845. He too lasted only one year at Williams, and soon thereafter entered the United States Navy as a midshipman, graduating from the Naval Academy in 1855.

In the 1850s, the brothers’ gazes turned south, towards Natchez, Mississippi. Through a third brother, Mansfield, a West Point graduate and the Streets Commissioner in New York City, the Lovells’ lives became entwined with that of General John Quitman, two-time governor of Mississippi. As a second lieutenant in the Mexican-American War, Mansfield served as an adjutant to Quitman, and they became close. This eventually brought Joseph, Jr. and William together with the Lovell family, and when General Quitman died in 1858, Joseph and William F.S. Lovell married two of his daughters. William resigned his commission in the Navy, and the brothers became cotton plantation-holders as partners.

Monmouth Plantation, Natchez, Mississippi - onetime home of Gen. John Quitman

Monmouth Plantation, Natchez, Mississippi – onetime home of Gen. John Quitman

Not surprisingly, when the Civil War broke out, both brothers entered Confederate service — as did Mansfield, who was named the Confederate general in command of New Orleans. Joseph, Jr. joined his staff as a General. William F.S. Lovell became a lower-ranking officer in the Confederate Army, where he rose from Captain of Artillery to Lieutenant Colonel of Ordnance, and ultimately to Assistant Inspector-General.

As an ordnance colonel, William put his naval training to use, taking command of a 200-foot sidewheel river liner, the William H. Webb, and two smaller vessels, and fought them in naval action on the Red River. William was later captured at the battle of Vicksburg, paroled, and then dispatched by the Confederacy on a mission to England, where he remained from 1864 until the end of the war.

The Lovell brothers were not forgotten to Eph history. They merited a footnote in it, or, more precisely, in. Leverett Wilson Spring’s “A History of Williams College,” which notes that “eight non-graduates entered the Confederate army.” And they appear in the Catalogue of Non-Graduates. But otherwise, they have been forgotten. And perhaps that is as it should be, except as an instructional to heed David’s advice: “Marry an Eph.” If the Williams of the 1840s had been coed, and the Lovell brothers had done so, maybe they wouldn’t have ended up on the wrong side of the Civil War.