Colonel William Joyce Sewell

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Castlebar, Co. Mayo

Military Officer / Politician

This courageous Officer was awarded the Medal of Honour for his efforts in the American Civil War. He later became a Politician in the New Jersey State Senate.

William Joyce Sewell was born in Castlebar, Co. Mayo during December 1835.  He was orphaned at a young age, then emigrated to the U. S.  during 1951. [i]

U. S.

Sewell worked for a Mercantile business in New York City, travelled on several voyages as a sailor abroad many merchant vessels.  [ii]  He also was employed in the Merchant Industry in Chicago, Illinois.  He moved to Camden in New Jersey during 1860.   [iii]

Military Career

Sewell raised a Company of Volunteers when the American Civil War broke out in 1861.  He was commissioned Captain: he commanded Company, 5th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry.  He fought with the Regiment in the Peninsular Campaign also the second Battle of Ball Run.  During July 1862 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. In January 1863 he was Promoted to Colonel.  That year he rendered his most distinguished service of the war at the Battle of Chancellorsville.  He was wounded but continued to lead his company, until out of ammunitions they were forced to retreat, in fact that action resulted in his Medal award years later.  He recovered his injuries to command the 5th New Jersey unit at the Gettysburg Campaign on 2nd July 1863.  First, they were posted to Trostle Woods prior to Emmitsburg Road. Sewell supported 1st Lieutenant Francis W. Seely’s Battery K, 4th United States Regular Artillery in front of Klingal House.  Again, severely wounded; he with the company were ordered to withdraw.  Later following recovery, he fought in the Wilderness Campaign but due to ill health was forced to resign during July 1864.  Two months later his services were recalled: he was appointed Colonel and Commander of the newly formed 38th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry.  [iv]  His wounds resulted in him leaving the field service with a reassignment as Commander at Fort Powhattan in the Department of Virginia from January to March 1865.     [v]

Politics

Following his national service Sewell became a powerful Railroad Executive & Power Broker with the New Jersey state Politics.  He served in the New Jersey state Senate from 1872 – 1880, he was elected as its President from 1876 -1880.   From 1881 – 1887 he served as a New Jersey Senator in the United States Senate. He was re – elected during 1895 where he served up to his demise.  [vi]  He served on National Commissions for New Jersey National Guards, was appointed a member of the Board of Managers of the 2nd Brigade, N. J. also a member for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.  [vii]  He served as a Commissioner to the World’s Columbian Exposition during 1893 in Chicago plus acted as one of New Jersey’s Monument Battlefield Commissioners.  During the Spanish – American War of 1898 he was appointed by President William Mc Kinley as Major General of Volunteers but declined the Commission as it would have forced his retirement from Politics.  [viii]  While a Senator Sewell served on Enrolled Bills (forty -seventh & forty – eight Congress), The Committee on Military Affairs (forty – ninth Congress) plus the Committee on the Library (forty – ninth Congress.) During his second term he served on The Committee for Enrolled Bills (fifty – fourth Congress through to fifty – seventh Congress.)   [ix]

Medal of Honour

His Medal of Honour citation reads: ‘Assuming command of a Brigade, he rallied around his colors a mess of men from other regiments & fought these troops with great brilliancy though several hours of desperate conflict, remaining in command though wounded & inspiring them by his presence & the gallantry of his personal example.’  Sewell was breveted Brigadier General, U. S. Volunteers for ‘a gallant meritorious services in the Battle of Chancellorsville’ VA nominated by President Andrew Johnson, granted on 12th March 1866.  Sewell was nominated by the President again as Major General, U.S. Volunteers for ‘for gallant and meritorious services during the war.’  It was granted on 23rd July 1868.  [x]

Family

William Joyce Sewell married Helen Louise Hyle, they had three children, Sarah, Helen also Robert.

The demise occurred of Col. Sewell on 27th December 1901, aged sixty – six years at his home in Camden.  He is interred at Harleigh Cemetery (in the Spring Grove Section, Lot 75) in Camden, New Jersey  [xi]

Legacy

During 2005 a Government issue Medal of Honour was erected on his grave site.  The Community of Sewell in named after Col. William Joyce Sewell. [xii]

A school was built in his honour ‘The William Joyce Sewell School’ by Camden Board of Education, New Jersey during 1907 at 700 North Seventh Street, Northeast Corner of North 7th & Vine Streets. On 1st March 1921 Bellevue Hospital New Jersey opened at the former home of Sewell: opened by Dr. James Lynn Maffey with Dr. Elmer Shall.   [xiii]

Footnotes

Colonel Sewell is mentioned among Civil War Medal Citations. [xiv]

The Philadelphia Inquirer mentions Sewell in several editions from 1884 to 1889 then again from 1891 to 1900.  He is mentioned in the Camden Post on 22nd June 1888 also in the Camden Notes of 4th September 1889.  [xv]

Memorial addresses on the life and character of William J. Sewell, late a representative from New Jersey delivered in the House of Representatives and Senate frontispiece 1903. [xvi]

He is mentioned on this site: as ‘a Courageous Officer: https://lifeofthecivilwar.blogspot.com/2016/

His grave at Harleigh Cemetery with Monument sculpted by Alexander Stirling Calder may be seen at this link: https://www.findagrave.com/

Bibliography

[i]  A Day in the Life of the Civil War  (https://lifeofthecivilwar.blogspot.com/ )  [assessed June 23rd 2019]

[ii]  Camden People (http://www.dvrbs.com/People/ ) [assessed June 23rd 2019]

[iii] 1861 in the U.S. Civil War (https://www.geni.com/people/Colonel-William-Joyce-Sewell ) [assessed June 23rd 2019]

[iv] William Joyce Sewell 1835 -1901 (https://www.findagrave.com/) [assessed June 23rd 2019]

[v] 1861 in the U.S. Civil War (https://www.geni.com/people/Colonel-William-Joyce-Sewell ) [assessed June 23rd 2019]

[vi] William Joyce Sewell 1835 -1901 (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/3649/william-joyce-sewell ) [assessed June 23rd 2019]

[vii] 1861 in the U.S. Civil War (https://www.geni.com/people/Colonel-William-Joyce-Sewell ) [assessed June 23rd 2019]

[viii] William Joyce Sewell 1835 -1901 (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/3649/william-joyce-sewell ) [assessed June 23rd 2019]

[ix] 1861 in the U.S. Civil War ( https://www.geni.com/people/Colonel-William-Joyce-Sewell) [assessed June 23rd 2019]

[x] 1861 in the U.S. Civil War (https://www.geni.com/people/Colonel-William-Joyce-Sewell ) [assessed June 23rd 2019]

[xi] 1861 in the U.S. Civil War ( https://www.geni.com/people/Colonel-William-Joyce-Sewell) [assessed June 23rd 2019]

[xii] 1861 in the U.S. Civil War (https://www.geni.com/people/Colonel-William-Joyce-Sewell ) [assessed June 23rd 2019]

[xiii] Camden People (http://www.dvrbs.com/People/CamdenPeople-WilliamJoyceSewell.htm ) [assessed July 5th 2019]

[xiv] Medal of Honour Citations (https://www.americancivilwar.com/medal_of_honor8.html ) [assessed July 5th 2019]

[xv] Camden People (http://www.dvrbs.com/People/CamdenPeople-WilliamJoyceSewell.htm ) [assessed July 5th 2019

[xvi]  An Original History (https://babel.hathitrust.org/ ) [assessed July 5th 2019]

 

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