"Died in the Defense of his Country"

By Elias Stewart, graduate assistant

Despite being a lesser-known engagement, the Battle of Lynchburg acts as a unique tapestry in which an array of notable people from across the East Coast convened in a seemingly insignificant town to fight in the Civil War. Many of these individuals went on to do prominent work after the war while others left a lasting impact before their deaths on the battlefield. This post will follow the West Virginian soldier, Samuel Wilson Nester. Although not much is found of his life, a valiant legend covers Private Nester at the time of his death that has stayed with his family for generations.

Samuel Nester was born in what is now Barbour County, West Virginia on April 2, 1823. He married Elizabeth Smith on October 23, 1845 and they had ten children together. A military report described Samuel as having a “dark complexion,” “grey eyes,” and stood around six-feet tall. Nester was a 38-year-old farmer before the call of duty compelled him to enlist as a private in Company C of the 11th Infantry of the West Virginia Volunteers on December 22, 1861.

Nester and his regiment took part in a number of engagements throughout West Virginia and Virginia. As the Calhoun Chronicles, a local West Virginia newspaper documented, Company C engaged in “Cloyd Mountain, Virginia, May 9, 1864, where the 11th…acted as supports to the 10th West Virginia and 30th Ohio, who in a fierce hand to hand engagement captured the Confederate works in less than ten minutes. Later assisting in the destruction of the Virginia & Tennessee R.R. tearing up tracks, heating the rails and bending them around trees. At New River Bridge on May 10, 1864, the 11th supported the Artillery, throughout this engagement, which was in artillery action at long range.” On May 26th, the 11th infantry joined with Union forces under the command of General David Hunter to continue south through Lexington with plans to capture Lynchburg.