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Object Name COMMISSION
Catalog Number 1911.008.00006
Date May 4, 1861
Scope & Content Official Letter of Commission for Walter Gwynn as Brigadier General of Virginia Forces by John Letcher, May 4 1861

Physical Appearance: May 4, 1861 - [Header] (handwritten) The Commonwealth of Virginia - handwritten commission of Walter Gwynn as Brigadier General of active forces within the state, to rank from April 26, 1861. Signed "John Letcher" (Governor). A green Virginia State Seal is embossed to the left of the signature. Marks: "Metal Case 3 G 68" on reverse.
Dimensions: [H]7.625" __[W]9.75"
Archival History Gwynn's papes and commissions were formerly located in the MC 3 G-453 files. Oversize commissions were transferred to the Certificate Collection in December 1997. An oil painting of Gwynn (0985.14.78) is stored in the Museum's portrait collection. Walter Gwynn was born on February 22, 1802 in Jefferson County, Virginia. He was appointed to West Point in 1818 and graduated 8th in his class in 1822. He served ten years in the U. S. army as lieutenant of artillery as well as working for private railroads as a civil engineer. He resigned in 1832 to work for the Portsmouth & Roanoke Railroad. From 1836 to 1840, Gwynn served as chief engineer for the Wilmington & Raleigh Railroad. During the 1840s, he worked for various Virginia railroads and as president of the James River & Kanawha Canal Company. By 1857, he was Chief Engineer of the North Carolina Railroad and had earned the reputation of "the founder of the southeastern railway system." He retired and moved to South Carolina, where the governor appointed him to "reconnoiter the approaches to Fort Sumter in December 1860." He was commissioned a Major in P. A. C. S. in March 1861 and assigned to take charge of construction of batteries at strategic locations in Charleston Harbor. He was nominated a Major General of Virginia volunteers on April 12, 1861 and given command of state forces defending Norfolk. He was confirmed as a Brigadier General and performed his duties at Norfolk until relieved by regular Confederate troops on May 23. His Virginia commission expired due to the dissolution of Virginia's volunteer army and North Carolina Governor John Ellis commissioned Gwynn a Brigadier General of of NC volunteer troops. This commission was expired as well on August 20 when NC volunteer forces were disbanded. On October 9, 1862, he was appointed a Colonel in P. A. C. S. and ordered by the Secretary of War to survey NC coastal defenses. Gwynn performed those duties until he resigned in 1863. He then took no further active part in the war. Postwar, he moved back to NC and served the state in minor surveying and archival projects. Gwynn died on February 6, 1882 in Baltimore, Maryland and was buried in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia.
People Gwynn, Walter
Letcher, John
Subjects Command of troops
Commemoration
Governors
Military decorations
Military leadership
Military officers
Military personnel
Leaders, Military
Leadership
Commission