November 6, 1862
For the Patriot
Captain William Adams
give up the ship,” has long been a motto for the brave. These noble words were spoken by a dying
hero, while his shattered ship was staggering before the tempest of
battle. They have added glory to a
nation’s history, and rendered the name of Lawrence immortal.
noble words were spoken by a dying young Captain on the bloody field of
Sharpsburg. When the conflict was
raging, and the issue was doubtful, an order was given to charge the lines and
batteries of the enemy. Promptly and
nobly was the order executed. Capt.
William Adams and his Guilford Grays were in that terrific charge, when he
received his death-wound. When he fell,
some of his gallant comrades wished to bear him from the field. The last utterance of his noble spirit was, “Leave me and fight on.” A nation’s fame and a people’s gratitude
should not allow the names, the words and the deeds of our heroes to die.
is no greater evidence of the intelligence, sensibility, and high civilization
of the ancient Greeks than the respect they paid to the memory of those who
died for their country. They seemed to
think that the blood of the brave made their land more holy, and they rekindled
the fires of their patriotism at the funeral-pyres of their heroes. Their valour,
patriotism and genius has made immortal in history and song the ancient land of
Freedom, and left us many examples worthy of imitation, and many lessons of the
revolution has produced numberless examples of a devotion to country, and a
sublime moral and physical courage, which have never been equalled
in the annals of history, and our people will be shamefully recreant to a
sacred duty, if they honor not our noble dead.
William Adams was the son of Peter and Sarah Adams, and was born in
Greensborough, N. C., on the 18th of February, 1836. The affectionate liberality of his worthy
father gave him the advantages of a good education, and he never forgot the
moral teachings of his patriotic and Christian mother. His love for his mother was the strongest
feeling of his life. His ardent and
sometimes fiery nature could always be subdued to gentleness by that voice
which sang the cradle-songs of his childhood.
His impulsive temperament never made him unjust or ungenerous, and in
his heart malice had no hiding place.
His sprightly and cheerful disposition was the charm of the social
circle. He always looked on the bright
side of the pictures of life and they were “things of beauty” to him. I am confident he never felt the sense of
fear, and daily only called forth the energy and fervor of his pure heart.
Adams graduated at University in June 185?.
He chose the profession of law, and was admitted to the bar in February,
1860. With high intellect, and many
noble virtues, he entered the stadium to contend for the prizes of life. His ardent spirit was eager for the contest
and the triumph, but he never reached the goal to which his young ambition
the cause of war and all our woes, was issued on the 15th of April,
1861; and on the 23rd, the Guilford Grays were on their way to Fort
Macon. A nobler band of boys never
entered their country’s service, and William Adams was then their first
Lieutenant. For more than sixteen months
he endured the toils and privations of army life. His affectionate heart was
every day longing for home, but duty kept him in the camp. He soon became Captain of his company, and
his comrades say he was a brave and accomplished officer. He promptly obeyed the orders of his
superiors in command, and while he was firm in discipline, he was kind and
generous to his men.
commanded his company at the battle of Newbern, and did all that courage could
do, to prevent that disaster. He was
with his company in a reserved corps during the seven days battle before
Richmond, and he went with the army in the expedition into Maryland. He fought his last battle at Sharpsburg, and
there at the post of duty and of danger, he offered up his life as a sacrifice
to the freedom of the South.
Shepherdstown his sad and weary comrades laid him in a quiet grave, which they
hallowed with the tears of affection. He
sleeps now on the confines of his country, by the banks of the beautiful
Potomac, and the blue mountains of the land he loved, stand guard beside his
tomb. He could have no prouder resting
place, for the noble river that rushes by, for more than sixty years, has
flowed near the grave and sighed the dirge of Washington.
[Transcribed by Sharon Strout]