A Civil War Biography

Laurence Simmons Baker


Baker was born 10 May 1830 in Gates County, North Carolina. He obtained an appointment to West Point and graduated standing 42nd in the class of 1851. He was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant and assigned to the Mounted Rifles. He spent the next ten years in the regular army serving on the frontier and rising to the rank of captain.

Although Baker was opposed to secession, he resigned from the regular army 10 May 1861 after North Carolina left the Union. He was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the Confederate army to rank from 16 May 1861 and helped form a regiment of cavalry. The regiment, of which he became second in command, was mustered into Confederate service as the 1st North Carolina cavalry regiment in Richmond on 12 October 1861. When Robert Ransom, the commanding officer of the 1st NC, was elevated to brigadier general, Baker was elected colonel on 1 March 1862. He commanded the regiment during the Peninsula and the Seven Days campaigns after which the regiment was assigned to Wade Hampton's division. Baker commanded the regiment at Second Manassas, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg where he succeeded to brigade command after Hampton was wounded. After taking part in several of the rear guard engagements covering the Confederate retreat from Pennsylvania, Baker was promoted to brigadier general on 23 July 1863. Just over a week later, on 31 July, he was severely wounded in the right arm while resisting a Federal crossing of the Rappahannock River. On 9 June 1864, after taking nearly a year to recover, he was assigned command of the 2nd Military District in the Department of North Carolina. He commanded a brigade that was sent to Georgia to aid in the defense of Savannah then returned to North Carolina. He commanded a reserve brigade during the Carolina campaign, seeing action at Bentonville. He was detached from Joseph Johnston's army when that army was surrendered so Baker merely disbanded his brigade. He was formally paroled in Raleigh, North Carolina in May 1865.

Following the war Baker took up farming in North Carolina. In 1878 he became a railroad station agent in Suffolk, Virginia. He died in Suffolk on 10 April 1907.

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