Valley Memory Articles

Augusta County: "Col. John Doak Lilley," by Unknown, 1914

Summary: Obituary for distinguished Confederate veteran of Staunton

The death of Col. John Doak Lilley, of Staunton, Va., on June 13, 1913, removed a most useful and honored citizen, a man of true worth and unquestioned integrity. He was one of three brothers who served the Confederacy faithfully, his two brothers being Gen. Robert Doak Lilley and James C. Lilley, Jr., courier to General Lee.

Col. John D. Lilley was born September 5, 1841, at Greenville, Va., and was educated in the schools of Greenville, Staunton, and at the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington. In 1861 he left the Institute with the corps of cadets under Gen. Stonewall Jackson for Richmond, where the cadets were detailed to drill recruits, and he was appointed to command the Brunswick Blues and Nottaway Grays at the burial in Richmond of Henry L. Wyatt, the first Confederate soldier killed in battle.

After two months the Cadet Corps was disbanded, and Colonel Lilley returned to Staunton, where he assisted Col. John B. Baldwin in organizing the 52d Virginia Infantry. He was offered a position on the staff of Gen. Jubal Early, but declined, and took the first lieutenancy of Company I, Capt. C. R. Mason commanding, in the regiment he had assisted in organizing. The regiment was ordered to McDowell, Va., and wintered on top of the Alleghany Mountains. Captain Mason was detailed by General Jackson to take command of the forces building bridges and roads, and Colonel Lilley succeeded him as captain of the company. In this capacity he fought in the battles of Alleghany Mountain, December 13, 1861; McDowell, May 7, 1862; Front Royal and Winchester, 1862; Cross Keys and Port Republic, June 8 and 9, 1862. He was then promoted to the rank of major, and on July 1, 1862, he fought in the battle of Malvern Hill, and was with Stonewall Jackson in his famous march around General Pope's army which terminated in the battle of Cedar Mountain. At the second battle of Manassas, August 25, 1862, Major Lilley was severely wounded in the thigh, and before he could be gotten from under fire he was shot in the left leg and arm. During his convalescence he was detailed enrolling officer at Lexington, Va., and while serving in this capacity he assisted in the burial of Gen. Stonewall Jackson, whose body was brought to Lexington in May, 1863.

Rejoining his regiment, Major Lilley fought in the battles of the Wilderness, and on May 19, 1864, at Spottsylvania C. H. he was wounded in the right hand. As soon as possible Major Lilley again rejoined his regiment and was appointed on the general court-martial at White Oak Swamp, where he served until the day before the battle of that place, when he was promoted to the rank of colonel and commanded his old regiment, the 52d, in the battle until the commander of the brigade, General Lewis was killed. when Colonel Lilley was ordered to take command of the brigade October 27, 1864. The next day, while superintending the reenforcement of the breastworks, his hand and arm were accidentally crushed, and he was so disabled as to be ordered to the rear.

Returning to Staunton, Colonel Lilley found that Milroy and the Federals were about to enter that town, so he went to Waynesboro; and in order to avoid capture he and a companion, Alex Fishburn, secured horses and, swimming South River, took refuge in a cabin in the mountains. A few days after this he started to Lynchburg by way of Lexington. Eight miles from Lexington he met Colonel Spangler, who informed him of General Lee's surrender, showing his parole.

After these stirring days were over, Colonel Lilley settled on a farm, Buffalo Hill, formerly owned by his great-grandfather. In 1870 he was made surveyor of Augusta County and later road commissioner, and as a member of the school board did much for the schools of Riverheads District. Through his efforts more than any other a handsome monument was raised to the Confederate dead in Thornrose Cemetery, Staunton, Va. He is survived by his wife, formerly Miss Anna Smith, of Greenville, Va., and four sons.

Bibliographic Information: Source copy consulted: Confederate Veteran, Vol. 22, p. 33, 1914

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