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?