Strong Vincent (1837-1863)

Strong Vincent (June 17, 1837 - July 7, 1863) was a lawyer who became famous as a hero of the Battle of Little Round Top at Gettysburg, where he was mortally wounded in the American Civil War.

Vincent was born in Waterford, Pennsylvania, son of iron foundryman B. B. Vincent and Sarah Ann Strong Vincent. He attended Trinity College and Harvard University, graduating in 1859. He practiced law in Erie, Pennsylvania. At the start of the Civil War, Vincent joined the Pennsylvania Militia as an adjutant and first lieutenant of the Erie Regiment. On September 14, 1861, he was commissioned lieutenant colonel of the 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry and was promoted to colonel the following June. After the death of his regimental commander in the Peninsula Campaign (at the Battle of Gaines' Mill), Vincent assumed command of the regiment. He developed malaria on the Virginia Peninsula and was on medical leave until the Battle of Fredericksburg in December, 1862. On May 20, 1863, he assumed command of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, V Corps, Army of the Potomac, replacing his brigade commander, who was killed at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

At the Battle of Gettysburg, 26-year-old Vincent and his brigade arrived on July 2, 1863. He had started the Gettysburg Campaign knowing that his young wife, Elizabeth H. Carter, whom he had married on the day he enlisted in the army, was pregnant with their first child. He had written her, "If I fall, remember you have given your husband to the most righteous cause that ever widowed a woman."

Due to a move against orders, General Daniel E. Sickles of the III Corps had left a significant terrain feature, Little Round Top, undefended. The chief engineer of the Army of the Potomac, Gouverneur K. Warren, recognized the tactical importance of the hill and urgently sought Union troops to occupy it before the Confederates could. A staff officer sent by Warren encountered Vincent's brigade nearby. Vincent, without consulting his superior officers, decided that his brigade was in the ideal position to defend Little Round Top. He and a color bearer immediately moved to the hill and brought his brigade into position at the extreme left flank of the Union line.

One of Vincent's regiments, the 20th Maine, led by Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, has received most of the fame for the defense of Little Round Top, but there is little doubt that the efforts and bravery of Vincent were instrumental in the eventual Union victory. Vincent impressed upon Chamberlain the importance of his position on the brigade's left flank and then he left to attend to the brigade's right flank. There, the 16th Michigan Infantry was starting to yield to enemy pressure. Mounting a large boulder, Vincent brandished a riding crop given to him by his wife and shouted to his men "Don't give an inch!" A bullet struck him through the thigh and the groin and he fell. Due to gallant performances by the 20th Maine and the 140th New York, the Union line held against the Confederate onslaught. Vincent was carried from the hill to a nearby farm, where he lay dying for the next five days, unable to be transported to his home due to the severity of his injury.

Commander of the Army of the Potomac, General George G. Meade, recommended Vincent for promotion to brigadier general on the evening of July 2. The promotion was approved and dated to July 3, 1863, but it is doubtful that Vincent knew about the honor before he died.

Vincent's wife gave birth to a baby girl two months later, but his daughter died before reaching the age of one and is buried next to her father.

His corps commander, George Sykes, described Vincent's actions in his official report from the battle: "Night closed the fight. The key of the battle-field was in our possession intact. Vincent, Weed, and Hazlett, chiefs lamented throughout the corps and army, sealed with their lives the spot intrusted to their keeping, and on which so much depended.... General Weed and Colonel Vincent, officers of rare promise, gave their lives to their country".

Strong Vincent is buried in the Erie Cemetery, Erie, Pennsylvania. He is memorialized by a statue on the 83rd Pennsylvania monument at the Gettysburg battlefield, by a statue erected in 1997 at Blasco Memorial Library, Erie, and by Strong Vincent High School in Erie.