Captain Henry Fitzgerald
Henry Fitzgerald was born in Glasgow, Scotland on June 23, 1834. In the summer of 1838, his parents brought him to Ellicott City, Maryland. At the time of the beginning of the Civil War, he was living in Manchester, Virginia, across the James River from Richmond, and was serving the Danville Railroad as a pattern maker. On May 9, 1861, he was commissioned 1st Lieutenant under Captain L. F. Bossieux, Company I, 6th Virginia Infantry.
Because of his industrial skills, he was quickly transferred from service in the Sixth Virginia to the C.S. Ordnance Department, in charge of the stocking factory of the Richmond Carbine Works. When the department was formed into military companies for local defense, he was made Captain of Company D, 1st Battalion Virginia Infantry (Armory Battalion), Local Defense Troops. In this capacity, his company was called to action on March 1, 1864, to answer the threat caused by Dahlgren’s Raid. In battle at Green’s Farm, his company was overrun by Dahlgren’s cavalry, and Captain Fitzgerald was captured and quickly paroled.
Fitzgerald was detailed later that year to help set up the carbine factory at Tallassee, Alabama. The factory’s production was cut short by the end of the War, but not before a few of these rare weapons were produced.
This quarter plate ambrotype was taken early in the War, probably by Rees’ studio (unsigned). Lt. Fitzgerald is posed with his wife Catherine and first child Alexander. The silk dress Mrs. Fitzgerald wears in the photograph has survived, and has become part of this unique artifact grouping.
Sadly, Catherine Fitzgerald died in 1868 after the birth of their fourth child, who did not long survive. Captain Fitzgerald remarried; his second wife was named Eliza J. Anderson, and three children followed. Henry Fitzgerald served as City Marshall of Manchester for many years, and the patriarch of several generations of prominent Richmond citizens. When he died in 1900, he was buried in the family plot at Hollywood Cemetery.
For several years, the dress and ambrotype were exhibited at the Tredegar Center, a Civil War museum located on the site of the Tredegar Iron Works and the site of Captain Fitzgerald’s valuable Civil War service.