Name: Henry D. Price
Highest Rank: Brevet major
Unit: Company B, 116th Pennsylvania Volunteers
Service Record: Mustered into service on July 5, 1862. Promoted to second lieutenant the following September. Promoted to captain on April 8, 1864. Killed on October 26, 1864, in the course of an assault during the siege of Petersburg.
On July 5, 1862, at age 21, Henry D Price mustered into Company B, 116th Pennsylvania Volunteers. He came up through the ranks during the following weeks of training, and on September 2, 1862, received a promotion to second lieutenant. Ironically, as the son of a Church of the Brethren minister, he had been brought up as a pacifist. Two of his brothers, Abraham and Joseph, also fought in the Union Army.
Union Surgeon P. Ashcom reported on February 22, 1863: “Lieut. Henry D. Price of the 116th Reg’t. P.V. having applied…for leave of absence, I do hereby certify that I have carefully examined this offer and find that he is suffering from “Scrofulous Ulcers” of the leg, which have existed for some months…he is in my opinion, unfit for duty. I furthermore declare my belief, that he will not be able to resume his duties in a less period than twenty (20) days and that a great change is necessary to save [his] life, or prevent further disability.” Price forwarded the certificate to Captain John McNamara in Falmouth, Va., adding, “Upon the enclosed certificate I respectfully solicit twenty (20) days leave of absence to my house, that I may receive the care and nursing which I cannot here receive, requisite to enable me to resume my duties.” McNamara approved the request, and Price apparently recovered his health during the leave, soon returning to his regiment.
Price was promoted to first lieutenant on March 1, 1863, and to captain on April 8, 1864. In June 1864, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant came to the conclusion that if Petersburg, Va., could be captured, the Confederate capital of Richmond, just to the north, would also fall. By that October, however, Union troops were still entrenched in front of Petersburg— with winter on the horizon. Grant wanted to capture Petersburg before the bad weather began, or at least capture the Boydton Plank Road and South Side Railroad, which were vital to the Confederate supply lines.
On the night of October 26, 1864, Captain Price’s regiment was part of a large force that struck at the right of the Confederate lines at Petersburg. Price had insisted on participating in the assault, telling Brig. Gen. St. Clair Mulholland: “You may courtmartial me, general, but I’m going to go. You can see to that after the fight.” According to the regimental history, Price then took off his sword and said to a brother officer, “If anything happens to me, give this to mother.” Price was killed in the attack.
Mulholland later wrote about an occasion just before that assault when he and Price had passed by a rose bush growing on a rise that was exposed to sharpshooter fire. Mulholland admired the roses, and within an hour Price came to the general’s tent with an armful of flowers. He had picked every blossom from the bush, daring the snipers to respond, and then laughingly gave them to the general. Mulholland admired the captain’s audacity but condemned the risk he had taken. He then tied up some of the roses and told another soldier, who was headed for furlough near Price’s home, to take them to Henry’s mother, Catherine.
Some months later, Mulholland visited the Price home, where he saw a garland of roses under glass. Henry’s sister told him that Price had sent them to their mother a few days before being killed. Mulholland could not bring himself to tell Mrs. Price that her son had actually picked the roses as a gift for him and as a joke against the snipers. It is not clear if Henry’s mother ever learned the true story. Mulholland’s first regimental history, which included the anecdote, appeared in 1899 and Mrs. Price died in 1900.
Chester County’s The Village Record newspaper published an obituary of Henry Price on November 5, 1864, headed “Death of a Brave Officer.” It read, “Captain Henry D. Price, of the 116th Pa. Volunteers, and son of Rev. John R. Price, of North Coventry township, Chester County, was killed in front of Petersburg, on Thursday last, during the reconnaissance made by Gen. Grant’s army. He had volunteered to lead a force of one hundred picked men against a rebel position, and had already mounted the work, and was cheering on his command, when he was shot down. Captain Price was a gallant young officer, and he had greatly distinguished himself at Fredericksburg and in other battles.” He was posthumously promoted to brevet major.
Originally published in the July 2007 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.