William Henry Powell MOH

b. 25/05/1825 Pontypool, Wales. d. 26/12/1904 Belleville, Illinois.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 26/11/1862 Sinking Creek, Virginia.

William H Powell MOH

William Henry Powell was born on May 10, 1825, in Pontypool, South Wales. At the time, the community was part of Monmouthshire, an iron-making region. Both of his parents, William and Sarah Griffith Powell, were Welsh. His father immigrated to the United States in 1827, and his mother followed in 1830 with the rest of the family. Originally, they lived in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but they moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1833. Powell’s father was an ironworker, and was employed by the Gennessee Iron Works. Powell began to learn his father’s profession while still a boy, working in a rolling mill and nail factory in Nashville. In 1840, the Gennessee Iron Works closed because of a recession. The family moved north to Wheeling, Virginia, in 1843. Powell’s father began employment at Wheeling’s Rolling Mill Nail Factory.

Powell continued learning his father’s profession in Wheeling. Four years after the move to Wheeling, he built the Benwood Nail Works while only 22 years old, and became its superintendent. In 1846, he was involved in an accident at the nail iron works and lost vision of his right eye. Powell married Sarah Gilchrist in 1847, and they eventually had six children. Two children died in infancy, and one died at age 20. In 1853, the family moved to Ironton, Ohio, which is located southwest of Wheeling along the Ohio River. In Ironton, Powell built the Bellfonte Nail Works. When the American Civil War began in 1861, Powell was general superintendent and financial agent of this large iron works.[6] He left the business in August to begin service as a cavalry captain.

Civil War Union Brigadier General, Medal of Honor Recipient. At the start of the Civil War, he was commissioned Captain in command of a company in the 2nd Regiment, West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry. With the West Virginia Cavalry, he rose to the rank of Colonel in command of operations against the Confederates in West Virginia and Virginia. Promoted Brigadier General in 1864, in a skirmish at Wytheville, Virginia, he was badly wounded, captured and taken prisoner to Libby Prison, Richmond. Toward the end of the war, he was prisoner exchanged for a son of General Robert E. Lee and released. For his service to the Union, he was brevetted Major General of US Volunteers. After the war, he was elected commander of the Society of the Army of West Virginia. He was awarded the CMOH for his bravery at Sinking Creek, Virginia on November 26, 1862.



Distinguished services in raid, where with 20 men, he charged and captured the enemy’s camp, 500 strong, without the loss of a man or gun.