Mission Statement:

"To advance through research, education and symposia, an increased public awareness of the Cape Fear region's unique history."

Colonel William Lord DeRosset

 

Colonel DeRosset in Late Life

Cape Fear Historical Institute Papers

 
William Lord DeRosset was born in Wilmington, North Carolina

October 27, 1832, the eldest son of Dr. Armand J. and Eliza Jane DeRosset, daughter of William C. Lord. After their marriage in 1829,

Eliza bore eleven children, seven sons and four daughters.


The DeRosset family is French in origin, the revocation of the

Edict of Nantes forced Lewis Henry DeRosset to flee that country

for England. Dr. DeRosset’s grandfather, Dr. Moses John DeRosset,

was born in London, England in 1726 and emigrated to America

with brother Louis H. in 1760 to the Cape Fear area.

Dr. Moses J. DeRosset was mayor of Wilmington in 1765 and

helped lead the Stamp Act resistance in the Cape Fear.


William Lord DeRosset was prepared for college at

St. Timothy’s Hall, Cantonsville, Maryland, and St. James College, Hagerstown, entered the University of North Carolina in June, 1849

and left in 1851. He was subsequently with his father in New York,

and entered as an apprentice at the Lawrence, Massachusetts

machine shops. Returning to Wilmington, he helped establish the

Clarendon Iron Works and in 1860 became a member of the

mercantile firm DeRosset & Brown, formed by his father and

John Potts Brown.


He married Carolina Horatia Nelson in December, 1854 who bore

him two children, Annie and William Lord, Jr.; and after her death

on 10 November 1860 he wed Elizabeth Simpson Nash on

10 June 1863. The latter marriage produced six children:

Armand John, Mary, Henry Nash, Kate, Frederick Nash, and Anita.


In 1854 was made a lieutenant of the Wilmington Light Infantry

(WLI); in 1856 was elected captain which rank he held until the

outbreak of war. Under orders from Governor John W. Ellis in

April, 1861, DeRosset’s WLI occupied Fort Caswell with other companies from Wilmington. Two weeks later he was ordered to

Federal Point with his WLI to man a two-gun battery, erected by

Major Charles Pattison Bolles. This battery would form the nucleus

of the earthen Fort Fisher.

Colonel William Lord DeRosset


After several months duty at Battery Bolles, the WLI was

organized into the Third North Carolina Regiment of which

Wilmingtonians Gaston Meares (DeRosset’s brother in law) was

colonel, and Robert H. Cowan was lieutenant colonel. DeRosset

was promoted to the rank of major on 6 May 1861. At the unit reorganization in May, 1862 and Cowan being made colonel of the Eighteenth North Carolina Regiment, DeRosset was promoted

to the rank lieutenant-colonel.


In this rank he served in General Roswell S. Ripley’s Brigade of

Georgians and North Carolinians in the campaign before Richmond, participating with credit in the battles of Mechanicsville, Gaines’ Mill,

and Malvern Hill. Colonel Meares was killed by a shell fragment during the latter engagement and DeRosset assumed command

of the regiment, soon afterward being promoted to full colonel.

General

Roswell S. Ripley


He led the Third North Carolina in the Maryland campaign, and commanded General Ripley’s Brigade during the battle of

South Mountain, though the regiment was not actively engaged.

He led the Third North Carolina Regiment at the battle of Sharpsburg, which lost in the carnage of that day 330 killed and wounded out

of 520 taken into the fight, including 23 out of 27 officers, seven of

whom were killed or mortally wounded. Colonel DeRosset was

among the wounded officers, a minie ball passing through his lower

body, nearly causing his death and disabling him for the war.


General Daniel H. Hill, in recounting the severe losses of his

division, reported: “Colonel DeRosset, Third North Carolina,

received a severe wound which I fear will forever deprive the

South of his valuable service.”


DeRosset returned to Wilmington in the summer of 1862 for recruiting

duty but returned to Virginia for the Fall, 1862 campaign.


After many months of suffering he gave up hope of resuming his

command, and resigned his commission as colonel in July of 1863.

He joined his father’s commission merchant business in Wilmington,

and in late 1864 brother Louis H. DeRosset moved to Hamilton,

Bermuda to handle supplies sent to through the blockade to his

father’s firm. In January, 1865, William accepted the appointment

of colonel in the Invalid Corps from President Jefferson Davis, and

was surrendered with the army of General Joseph E. Johnston

at Greensboro.


The family of Colonel DeRosset served the American Confederacy

as a unit, his father was a member of Wilmington’s Committee of Safety; his mother was president of the Soldiers’ Aid Society of Wilmington throughout the war. Under her direction, and that of

Mrs. Alfred Martin, the ladies of Wilmington would daily

gather at City Hall to seek relief funds and donations.

When wounded, sick and footsore veterans came through

Wilmington, the women provided them with food, hospitality, medicine and a change of bandages.


Four other sons of Dr. Armand & Eliza DeRosset, the brothers of

Colonel DeRosset, were in the Confederate service. Dr. M. John DeRosset, who left a position as surgeon at New York’s Bellevue

Hospital and offers of position with a New York regiment, returned

South to serve with General Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah

Valley in 1862, thence was one of the surgeons in charge of the

Baptist College Hospital, Richmond; Captain Armand L. DeRosset

served in Eighteenth and Third North Carolina, was present when

Fort Caswell was evacuated in January 1865, severely wounded

and left for dead on the field at Averasboro in March, but recovered;

Louis H. DeRosset served in Nassau with the Confederate Ordnance

and Quartermaster’s Department; and Thomas C. DeRosset,

who left school to join the Junior Reserves and served at the

Fayetteville Arsenal. He died of sunstroke in 1878 while in

command of the Whiting Rifles attending memorial ceremonies

at Wilmington’s Oakdale Cemetery.


At the close of the war Colonel DeRosset resumed business with

his father and brother under the firm name DeRosset & Company.

In 1877 he connected himself with the Navassa Guano Company

as superintendent of agencies. He became both secretary and treasurer

of the venture and held these posts until failing health forced his

resignation. Not preferring politics, he served only one term as a

Wilmington c ity alderman.


Colonel DeRosset assisted in forming an association of the

Third North Carolina Regiment in 1865, which was practically the

first association of Confederate veterans, and of this association

he was made president for life.


He wrote Confederate Veteran magazine

in September, 1893:

[The] Cape Fear Camp now numbers over 100 members,

with the prospect of largely increased numbers this coming fall.

We have here, I believe, the oldest organization of veterans on either

side in the country. In February, 1866, the officers of the

Third North Carolina Infantry, living here [Wilmington],

organized an association which has been kept alive ever since,

having their regular reunions on May 16th, the date of the

organization of their regiment. The command was enlisted

“for the war,” and all officers were appointed by the Governor

of the State. We also have an organization of the

“Veterans and Reserves” of the Wilmington Light Infantry,

an old ante-bellum organization, which was sent into service

under my command. I preside over each of these organizations,

an honor of which I am justly proud.”


He was commander of the Cape Fear Camp, United Confederate Veterans from 1894 to 1896, and was elected Major-General of

the North Carolina Division of Confederate Veterans, and served

on many important committees. Major-General DeRosset issued

his first general order from Wilmington, August 5, 1895, by which

he appointed Junius Davis Adjutant and Chief of Staff. Davis was

the son of Confederate Attorney General George Davis, and had

served in the 1st Regiment, North Carolina Artillery during the war.


The civic involvement of Colonel DeRosset included the presidency

of the Cape Fear Agricultural Association in 1870, the Chamber

of Commerce in 1872, and Master of the Orient Lodge of Masons

in 1886, and by integrity of character achieved a high place in the estimation of all those who knew him. He also served as a vestryman

and senior warden of St. James Episcopal Church , was a member

of the standing committee of the Diocese of North Carolina and

East Carolina, and treasurer of the Diocese of East Carolina.


Colonel DeRosset died at his home in Wilmington on

August 14, 1910, after an extended illness of several months.

He was buried in Oakdale Cemetery with military honors.

About the Author:

Bernhard Thuersam is the executive director of the Cape Fear Historical Institute in Wilmington, North Carolina. A native of the Niagara Falls,

New York region, he has been a devoted student of world history

since 1958, and is a former Chairman of the Cape Fear Museum

Board of Trustees. Contact him at bernhard1848@att.net

Sources:
Confederate Military History, C. Evans, ed., Broadfoot Publishing, 1987)
Cyclopedia of Eminent Men, Vol. II, Brant & Fuller, 1892
Dictionary of NC Biography, W. Powell, ed., UNC Press, 1986
Confederate Veteran Magazine, October, 1910
Confederate Veteran Magazine, September, 1893