William Mahone - Facts

December 1, 1826 - October 8, 1895

Key facts about Major General William Mahone, a prominent Confederate officer who served in nearly all of the major campaigns and battles in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War.

Full Name:

  • William Mahone

Birth Date:

  • December 1, 1826

Birth Location:

  • Brown’s Ferry, Courtland, Virginia


  • Fielding Jordan Mahone and Martha (née Drew) Mahone


  • Virginia Military Institute (1847)


  • Military officer
  • Engineer

Career Summary:

  • President of the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad
  • Major General (CSA)
  • U.S. Senator


  • Otelia Butler (1855)


  • Little Billy

Place of Death:

  • Washington DC

Date of Death:

  • October 8, 1895

Place of Burial:

  • Blandford Cemetery, Petersburg, Virginia


  • William Mahone was the only son and the second of three children born to Fielding Jordan Mahone and Martha (née Drew) Mahone.
  • William Mahone’s family was of Irish ancestry.
  • Both of William Mahone’s grandfathers served in the War of 1812.
  • William Mahone’s father commanded a militia regiment during Nat Turner’s Rebellion in 1831.
  • Before attaining the age of 18, William Mahone enrolled at the Virginia Military Institute on July 20, 1844, being the recipient of a state scholarship.
  • William Mahone graduated from the Virginia Military Institute on July 5, 1847, standing eighth out of his class of twelve cadets.
  • Following his graduation from the Virginia Military Institute, William Mahone pursued advanced engineering studies at Rappahannock Military Academy, where he also served as a teacher.
  • In 1849, William Mahone found employment as an engineer working for the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. Within four years he had risen to the position of chief engineer of the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad.
  • On February 8, 1855, William Mahone married Otelia Butler. The couple remained married for forty years and produced thirteen children, three of whom survived to adulthood.
  • By 1860, William Mahone and his wife were leading a comfortable life in Norfolk, Virginia, where they owned seven slaves, and he was employed as president of the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad.
  • William Mahone was a proponent of secession.
  • Twelve days after Virginia left the Union, William Mahone was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel of the 6th Virginia Volunteer Infantry stationed near Norfolk on April 29, 1861.
  • On May 2, 1861, William Mahone was promoted to the rank of colonel.
  • Due to his small stature, William Mahone’s men referred to him as “Little Billy.”
  • Due to his strict disciplinary policies throughout the war, William Mahone was reportedly not popular among his troops.
  • William Mahone was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general on November 16, 1861.
  • In May 1862, William Mahone’s brigade was redeployed for garrison duty near Richmond where the defenses they assisted in constructing contributed to the Confederate victory at the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff on May 15.
  • William Mahone led his brigade into combat at the Battle of Seven Pines (May 31 – June 1, 1862) and the subsequent Seven Days Battles (June 25 – July 1, 1862), which concluded the Peninsula Campaign.
  • In August 1862 William Mahone was wounded during the Second Battle of Bull Run (August 28–30, 1862), causing him to miss the Maryland Campaign, including the bloody Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862).
  • William Mahone led his brigade without much acclaim at the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11 – 15, 1862), the Battle of Chancellorsville (April 30 – May 6, 1863), the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – 3, 1863), and throughout the Overland Campaign, including the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5 – 7, 1864), and the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House (May 8 – 21, 1864).
  • William Mahone was elected to the Virginia Senate in 1863. Although he nominally served until 1865, his military duties prevented him from becoming an active legislator.
  • During the Petersburg Campaign (June 1864 – March 1865) William Mahone’s star began to shine.
  • Troops under William Mahone’s command stopped the federal advance during the Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864.
  • William Mahone’s role in the atrocities committed during the battle of the Crater remains undetermined.
  • Confederate General Robert E. Lee lauded William Mahone’s performance during the battle of the Crater and rewarded him with a long-coveted promotion to major-general, effective July 30, 1864.
  • Because of William Mahone’s conspicuous performance throughout the Petersburg Campaign, General Robert E. Lee considered him as one of his most trusted divisional commanders by the time of the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.
  • Following the Civil War, William Mahone resurrected his railroad career.
  • In 1877, William Mahone made a failed attempt to capture the Conservative Party’s nomination for governor of Virginia.
  • William Mahone was a leader in Virginia’s short-lived Readjuster Party.
  • William Mahone served one term in the United States Senate from March 4, 1881 to March 3, 1887
  • William Mahone helped obtain funds for the establishment of the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute near Petersburg, the forerunner of Virginia State University.
  • William Mahone made a failed bid to become Virginia’s governor in 1889.
  • William Mahone died in Washington DC on October 8, 1895 after suffering a stroke.
  • William Mahone is buried at Blandford Cemetery, in Petersburg, Virginia.

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  • Article Title William Mahone - Facts
  • Date December 1, 1826 - October 8, 1895
  • Author
  • Keywords William Mahone
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date June 13, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 17, 2024