James Dearing (April 25, 1840 – April 22, 1865) was a Confederate States Army officer during the American Civil War. He was mortally wounded at the Battle of High Bridge during the Appomattox Campaign, making him one of the last officers to die in the war; there are claims that he was the last general officer to die in the war.
Dearing was born in Campbell County, Virginia. He attended Hanover Academy, but received an appointment to the United States Military Academy in 1858. He was first in his class and nearing the completion of his West Point education when his home state seceded. He resigned on April 22, 1861, and was commissioned a lieutenant of artillery in the Virginia Militia. He served at First Manassas in the Washington Artillery out of New Orleans. He and his guns served with George E. Pickett's Brigade at Yorktown, Williamsburg, Seven Pines, and with Pickett's Division at Fredericksburg.
At the Battle of Gettysburg Dearing commanded a battalion of artillery in Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, as a major. He actively participated in the second and third days of battle including the massive artillery bombardment prior to Pickett's Charge. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on February 27, 1864. He took command of the horse artillery for Robert E. Lee's army and then commanded various cavalry brigades through the end of the war.
Dearing was appointed a brigadier general of "volunteer troops" on April 29, 1864, but this appointment was never confirmed by the Confederate Congress. He served through the Siege of Petersburg with Lee's cavalry, under Maj. Gen. W.H.F. "Rooney" Lee. During the retreat to Appomattox, Dearing fought a close range pistol duel with Union Col. Theodore Read at the Battle of High Bridge on April 6, 1865. Read was killed and Dearing mortally wounded.
Dearing died in Lynchburg, Virginia, and is buried there in Spring Hill Cemetery. Just prior to his death at the Ladies' Aid Hospital, he was visited and paroled by his old West Point classmate, Brig. Gen. Ranald S. Mackenzie, then commanding in Lynchburg. There are claims that he was the last general to die in the Civil War, although his lack of congressional approval for that rank means that he formally was serving in his previous rank of lieutenant colonel at the time of his death.
Dearing is mentioned in the Gettysburg movie as well as the book it is based on.
- Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
- Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders, Louisiana State University Press, 1959, ISBN 0-8071-0823-5.
- Eicher, p. 593.
- Warner, p. 70.
- Warner, p. 69.
- James Dearing at Find a Grave Retrieved 2008-07-05