Walter Gwynn Bio-Sketch


Name: Walter Gwynn
Rank: Brigadier General
Education: United States Military Academy
Birth Date: February 22, 1802
Birthplace: Jefferson County Virginia (now West Virginia)
Death Date: February 6, 1882
Death Place: Baltimore Maryland

Walter Gwynn was born in Jefferson County, Virginia in 1802 to parents Thomas and Ann Gwynn. He lived with his sister and her brother who was later a Governor of Virginia. Gwynn attended the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1818 and graduated in the class of 1822. He joined the artillery as a Second Lieutenant and headed west. In 1827, he helped survey the future route of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Gwynn resigned from the United States Army in February 1832 and took a job as chief engineer for the Portsmouth and Roanoke Railroad. He surveyed as chief engineer for numerous railroads until his retirement in 1857 as one of the premier railroad engineers in the nation.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Gwynn became Major of Engineers in the South Carolina Militia and was instrumental in the planning of the attack on Fort Sumter. He was tasked with placing and designing batteries to protect Charleston Harbor and fire upon Fort Sumter. In April of 1861, Gwynn accepted a commission as Major General in the Virginia Militia and was assigned the duty of bolstering the defenses around Norfolk, Virginia. Gwynn and William Mahone helped to trick Union troops into believing a large number of troops were being placed in Norfolk by running a train back and forth on the tracks to give the illusion that they were moving men into the city. This action caused the Union troops to abandon Gosport Shipyard without a shot being fired. Gwynn also served in the Battle of Big Bethel.

Gwynn went on to serve as a Brigadier General in the North Carolina Militia. In this assignment, he was tasked with command of the northeastern part of the coastal defenses. In August of 1862, he was assigned a Major of Engineers in the Provisional Army of the Confederacy. He was promoted to Colonel of Engineers in October 1862 and served in this position until his resignation in 1863. He became the Florida comptroller after he resigned. Upon the end of the war, Gwynn returned to North Carolina and worked again as a civil engineer. He died in Baltimore, Maryland in 1882 and was buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.