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Charles Ashley Willis

Charles Ashley Willis was the Great Grand Uncle of Susan Kay Snedeker Trunzo


Charles Ashley Willis was born around 1842 in Barnwell District, SC, the oldest of 5 children of William Allen and Mary Annis Ashley Willis.  William and Mary had received a plantation form her father when they married.  William died around Christmas 1851 leaving Mary with 4 children and one expected any day.  Because he died so young, there was no will, so the plantation was sold – to Mary’s parents.  Mary and the children then lived in a tenant house on the plantation and went from overseeing to working.  Charles went to live with his grandparents and became the overseer of the plantation. It is known that one child had blue-grey eyes like his father, and Charles and the other 3 had brown eyes like their mother. Charles was apparently smart and played the violin very well, both by ear and by note, and had been accepted into the South Carolina College, now the State University in Columbia.


As so many young men across the country, he got caught up in the discussion of war, and soon volunteered his services. He enlisted into Company A, 1st SC Infantry (McCreary). On 13 July 1861 at Barnwell, SC.  This regiment is also known as the 1st Provisional Army, Gregg’s regiment, and McGowan’s Regiment.  A lot of the young men enlisting with him were ones he knew and had grown up with, so a loss was felt deeply.  Reorganization occurred in Richmond in August 1861, and the Regiment became part of McGowan’s Brigade, Wilcox’s Division, and Hill’s 3rd Corps, CSA.


Major battles his unit was involved with include Seven Days (June 25-July 1, 1861), Second Manassas (August 29-30, 1861), Harpers Ferry (Sep 15, 1862), Antietam (Sep 16-18, 1862), Fredericksburg (Dec 13,1862), Chancellorsville (May 1-4, 1863), Gettysburg (Jul 1-3, 1863), Wilderness (May 5-6, 1864), Siege of Petersburg (June 1864). And Appomattox (Apr 1865).  Sometime between Feb and Oct 1862, he was either wounded or sick, for, in Oct 1862, he was on furlough from Richmond Hospital and was with his unit until 30 June 1863, although muster records indicate he was wounded in the arm May 6, 1863 and was first sent to Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond and then to Lynchburg May 9.  During the Gettysburg Campaign, he was captured on July 3.   He was taken to a Union hospital in Chester, PA for treatment, and rejoined his unit after a prisoner exchange 28 Feb 1864 at City Point, VA. 


On 5 May 1864, he was wounded in the leg during the Battle of the Wilderness during the intense fighting along Orange Plank and Brock Roads.  Family lore is that he dug the bullet out with his knife, as so many men did, and continued fighting.  The wound became infected, and he was transferred to the hospital in Lynchburg, VA on 9 May. Somehow his mother got word of this, and travelled by train to Lynchburg.  She was by his side when he died 2 June 1864 of blood poisoning.  This is documented in an “In Memoriam” in the Barnwell paper in August 1864.


Soon after the close of the war, on a late summer afternoon, a Negro man came to Mary’s house, driving an old horse or mule, pulling a wagon with a coffin on it.  It was the servant that had been sent by Mary’s father as Charles’ bodyguard.  The family was overcome with grief but joy at the same time, they had lost the son, but now had his body.  Grandma went to get some food for the servant, but when she returned, he was gone.  Charles is buried in the Williston Cemetery with his family.


 Engraving:  Sacred to the memory of C A Willis

Volunteer Co A 1st SC Regt

Wounded in the Battle of the Wilderness May 5, 1864 (dated wrong)

Died at Lynchburg, VA June 2, 1864 from effects of wound

Charles Ashley Willis
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