Major Jennings’ close call

Guest blogpost: Ron Coddington | Publisher of Military Images Magazine

MAJOR JENNINGS’ CLOSE CALL.—The war record of Maj. William Henry Jenkins of the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry, pictured here with his wife Mary Ann, is worthy of note. In Tennessee, he fought Confederate horseman commanded by the likes of John H. Morgan and Nathan Bedford Forrest. He distinguished himself in the 1863 engagements at Stones River and McMinnville. In Georgia, he participated in raids with Hugh Judson “Kill Cavalry” Kilpatrick. Though fated to face the enemy on so many occasions, his closest brush with death during the war occurred one day in camp during the 1864 Atlanta Campaign, according to a story in the regiment’s history related by Capt. Joseph G. Vale of Company K.

“On the 13th of August, a few shells from the sixty-four pounders in the rebel works,” he says, “were again dropped into our camp. One of these, passing through the shelter of Major Jennings, Seventh Pennsylvania, knocked to pieces a table, around which were seated at the time the Major, Lieutenant Percy White, Capt. C.C. McCormack, and either Capt. Garret or Lieutenant Edward P. Inhoff, all of that regiment. After passing through the shelter, the shell struck the logs of the breastworks against which it was built, exploded, prostrated the entire group, and mortally wounding Robert Bridgens, of Company E, who was sitting on the works nearly over the shelter.”

Jennings was spared. He survived the war and returned to his home in St. Clair, Pa. There he reunited with Mary Anne and their two young sons. A carpenter by trade, he worked at his profession until 1890, when he accidentally fell from a church and died. He was about 62 years old. Mary Ann and at least one of his sons survived him. A post of the Grand Army of the Republic was named in his honor.

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