Colonel Cross in the State House

This splendidly-hirsute fellow is the late (very late) Colonel Edward E. Cross, valiant commander of the 5th New Hampshire in the War Between the States. (That “valiant” is not ironic; the guy led from the front, with predictable consequences).

His portrait hangs in the State House, where members of the nation’s largest state legislature and their staffers see it every day the Legislature is in session (which is too many damned days, but that’s another story). Colonel Cross was just a figure mentioned in passing to us, until we received the following in a political newsletter.

If you ever walk the hallway near the south stairwell you’ll likely notice a number of portraits of individuals from the Civil War. Among those immortalized on the wall is Col. Edward E. Cross of Lancaster, NH whose portrait is located right outside of SH 103. Before joining the army Col.Cross was a reporter for the Coos Democrat, the Cincinnati Times and even started one of the first papers in the Territory of Arizona.

Col. Cross served as the commander of the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Regiment for three years during the Civil War. Under his command the NH “Fightin’ 5th” served with distinction in battle at Fair Oaks, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. The 5th NH Vols. were always “first to fight” and earned the unfortunate distinction of losing more soldiers in battle than any other regiment.

Not a distinction that was much sought after, we’re thinking. And we’re not going to explore too deeply what that might have to say about the leadership of Colonel Edward Cross of the Fightin’ 5th.

It was during the battle at Fredericksburg that an artillery shell “burst in front of Col. Cross, and he fell, apparently lifeless”. Col. Cross was escorted off the battlefield and later recovered in an army hospital. To commend him for his bravery the men of his unit purchased him a sword and pair of spurs from Tiffany’s in New York.

Col. Cross returned to command the NH 5th Volunteer Regiment during the Battle of Gettysburg where he was mortally wounded on July 2, 1863. Just before the fighting he reportedly yelled to Confederate General Winfield Scott “this is my last battle” as if he knew what was to come of his fate.

Something doesn’t make sense here. Winfield Scott was a Union General, the elderly hero of 1812 and the Mexican War whom Lincoln sacked in 1861 and replaced with McClellan; he wasn’t at Gettysburg. There was a Confederate general named Winfield Scott Featherston, but he doesn’t seem to have been at Gettysburg, either. But that’s what our source (not online) says.

The “my last battle,” thing, though. Uh-oh. Sounds like foreshadowing, doesn’t it?

The sword and spurs on display here at the State House are the very set that was purchased for Colonel Cross by his unit unfortunately, he was killed at Gettysburg before they could be presented to him. Next time you find yourself by the south stairwell take pause to look at the portrait of Col. Cross and read more about the life of this incredible Granite Stater.

Now, you may never find yourself by the south stairwell in the State House in Concord, New Hampshire. Why would you?

But now you know a little something about Colonel Cross. And aren’t you glad you did?



16 thoughts on “Colonel Cross in the State House

  1. James F.

    Union General Winfield Scott HANCOCK:

    “Tough, hard-fighting Col. Edward Cross wore a red bandanna on his head when he led the men of the 5th New Hampshire Regiment into battle. He did it so his men could spot him more easily – but he also made a better target. He was wounded at the Battle of Fair Oaks, the Battle of Antietam and the Battle of Fredericksburg.

    On July 2, 1863, he wore a black bandanna rather than a red one before another battle. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock saw him and shouted, “Col. Cross, this day will bring you a star!”

    “No General,” Cross said. “This is my last battle.” He was mortally wounded that day at the Battle of Gettysburg and died in a field hospital on July 3, 1863.”

    Link in nick.

  2. Loren

    “To commend him for his bravery the men of his unit purchased him a sword and pair of spurs from Tiffany’s in New York.”
    So Tiffany once sold something useful besides lamp shades? Who’d have thought it?

    1. archy

      ***So Tiffany once sold something useful besides lamp shades? Who’d have thought it?***

      Tiffany’s was also the source of the pair of Colt M1895 *potato digger* beltfed MGs purchased on behalf of Theodore Roosevelt’s 1st Volunteer *rough riders* thoughtfully obtained in the 7mm Mauser chambering used by the Spanish, none in the .30 Government/.30-40 Krag cartridge used by the Army or the 6mm Lee in Navy service being then available. The NRA American Rifleman magazine had a nicely thorough article on the guns and their historic use a year or two back, which shot down the theory that the Sgt Tiffany running the unit’s MG section was the son of the engravers.

  3. Cap'n Mike

    New Hampshire is smart enough to keep their legislatures pay in the 3 figure zone, unlike here in Mass where most of the Hacks are full time and pulling down 6 figures.

    Last time I was up your way, the waiter at the restaurant we were eating at mentioned he was a rep, or it may have been the bartender.
    Seems like a good way to keep the Legislature with skin in the game.

  4. Seacoaster

    Granite State (and Green Mountain State) military history posts always appreciated.

    1. Hognose Post author

      That one came, of all things, in a newsletter from the House Republicans. I think the Democrats also claim him, a bit ahistorically, but anybody who celebrates a Civil War hero is alright by me.

  5. Eric

    Hoo-ah! Thank you for posting this. Leadership like Colonel Cross consistently demonstrated in combat is rare these days in the officer corps, but especially rare from field grade officers. What a MAN.

  6. JoeFour

    “But now you know a little something about Colonel Cross. And aren’t you glad you did?”

    Yes, absolutely! Thanks!

  7. JSW

    I am a Son of the Confederacy, but our national heritage is under such fire that I commend anyone that posts anything about Americans that fought in the the Civil War.
    As I get older. I realize I have much more in common with a patriot that loves the 20th Maine versus a transgender advocate in the modern military.
    Helluva Country we have built.

    1. Bill Robbins

      JSW: You got that right. I read about a recent legal ruling in a city or town down south to allow removal of Confederate statues, a now a common practice. This is the same history erasure that we condemn in other times and places.

      1. Hognose Post author

        New Orleans. Funny thing, most of the people intent on trashing Lee are well disposed towards Lenin — one of history’s greatest monsters.

  8. Keith

    I also am a son of the Confederacy on my fathers side. However given the rule of the PC crowd I’ve never got one of those car stickers.

    I would point to the commander of the 29th infantry regiment at Chipyong-Ni in Korea as another officer of that caliber. I have a copy of a little book I read on that many years ago in school on order from Amazon.

    Remember the past.

    Keep your powder dry and your faith in God.

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