Stephen D. Ramseur, Confederate general, was born May 13, 1837 in Lincolnton, the son of Jacob A. and Lucy Wilfong Ramseur. After attending school in Lincoln County, Ramseur attended Davidson College, where he studied mathematics under D. H. Hill briefly before entering the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1856. He graduated fourteenth out of forty-three in the class of 1860 where he became close friends with several future Union generals including George Armstrong Custer.
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After graduation Ramseur served with the 3rd United States Artillery stationed in Washington, D.C. In February 1861 he was promoted to first lieutenant and assigned to the 4th U.S. Artillery. However, he never reported to his new command. Instead he resigned his commission, and offered his services to the Confederacy. Appointed captain of the Ellis Light Artillery, Battery A, 1st North Carolina Artillery, Ramseur was elected major of the regiment a month later.
Ramseur’s initial exposure to combat came in the spring of 1862 skirmishing near Yorktown, Virginia. In April 1862, Ramseur left the artillery upon his appointment as colonel of the 49th North Carolina, a regiment he led with distinction at Malvern Hill where he was severely wounded. On November 1, 1862, Ramseur was promoted to brigadier general and assigned a brigade in the Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. He led his brigade at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor.
After Cold Harbor, Ramseur was promoted to major general and given a division. The promotion, which came one day after his twenty-seventh birthday, made him the youngest West Pointer to attain that rank in the Confederate army. In the fall of 1864, Ramseur led his division in General Jubal Early’s Shenandoah Campaign. On October 19, 1864, he was mortally wounded at Cedar Creek, Virginia. Taken prisoner, he died the next day at Sheridan’s headquarters surrounded by many of his former friends and West Point classmates including General Custer. The town of Ramseur, founded by veterans of his brigade, was named for him.
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, V, 170—sketch by John G. Barrett
Gary Gallagher, Stephen Dodson Ramseur (1985)
Alex Warner, Generals in Gray (1959)
Walter Clark, ed., Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina (1901)
Louis Manarin and Weymouth T. Jordan Jr., North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865: A Roster (1963), I, VIII