Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Beaver, James Addams

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BEAVER, James Addams, soldier, b. in Millerstown, Perry co., Pa., 21 Oct., 1837. The founders of the family came from Alsace in 1740 — Huguenots seeking religious liberty in America. They settled in Chester co., Pa., and became leaders in the affairs of the infant commonwealth. They have furnished soldiers for every American war since the middle of the last century, and in times of peace have been among the most highly respected and influential families of the state. James was educated by his mother (his father having died in 1840) until 1846, when the family removed to Belleville, Mifflin co., and he was sent to school. In 1852 he entered Pine Grove academy, and in 1854 joined the junior class in Jefferson college, Cannonsburg, Pa. After graduation in 1856 he read law in the office of H. N. McAllister, at Bellefonte, Pa., and was taken into partnership by him almost as soon as he was of age. During this period of his life he joined a local military company — the “Bellefonte Fencibles,” under Capt. Andrew G. Curtin, afterward war governor of Pennsylvania. He made a thorough study of tactics, and, when the president called for volunteers to suppress the rebellion in 1861, he was second lieutenant of the company, which promptly marched for the defence of the national capital. On the organization of the 45th Pennsylvania volunteers, he became its lieutenant-colonel, and first saw active service in the neighborhood of Hilton Head and Port Royal, S. C. A new call for volunteers was issued in 1862, and Lieut-Col. Beaver was commissioned colonel of the 148th Pennsylvania volunteers, recruited in the vicinity of his home. He had by this time developed high qualities as a disciplinarian, and his men made it their boast that they were often mistaken for regulars. The regiment joined the army of the Potomac just after the battle of Fredericksburg, was assigned to Hancock's corps, and first met the enemy at the battle of Chancellorsville (2 and 3 May, 1863), where it held an advanced position, and lost very heavily, Col. Beaver being among the wounded. He had not recovered when the third call for troops was issued; but, at his own request, he was placed on recruiting service, in command of Camp Curtin. He was able to rejoin his regiment just before the battle of Gettysburg, but, still weak from his wound, was not permitted to take command during the fight. He led his regiment throughout the Wilderness campaign in May, 1864, and took part in the successful assault upon the confederate works at Spottsylvania Court-House, his regiment being among the first to scale the earthworks. At the battle of Cold Harbor (3 June, 1864) he was left in command of the brigade, Gen. Brooke being wounded, and later he was himself slightly wounded, but not disabled, and remained at his post during the rest of the day, holding an advanced position close to the enemy's works, and constantly under fire. On 16 June, 1864, he was again wounded while leading his brigade in the first assault upon the works at Petersburg. Returning to duty before his wound was fairly healed, he rode to the battle-field of Ream's Station in an ambulance, and had scarcely reached the front and assumed command at the advanced line when his right leg was shattered by a rifle-ball. Amputation followed, and, although his life was saved, he was no longer capable of active military service. He was brevetted brigadier-general of volunteers, 10 Nov., 1864, and mustered out of service at his own request on 22 Dec. of that year, refusing to remain in the army on light duty as he was urged to do. He repeatedly declined promotion that would have taken him away from his own regiment, feeling bound to remain with the men whom he had enlisted. In civil life Gen. Beaver has attended closely to his practice at the bar. He was elected a member of the board of trustees of the Pennsylvania State College, in 1873, and has been very influential in increasing its usefulness and prosperity. He has taken active part as a speaker in the campaigns of the republican party, and at the state convention of June, 1882, was nominated as its candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, and again nominated for the same office in 1886. He is a prominent member of the Grand army of the republic. See “Life of James A. Beaver,” by Frank A. Burr (Philadelphia, 1882).