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Captain Giles William Bruce Hale

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Posted: Date Tuesday, April 17th 2007, 8:01 PM Icon 6097 Date 0

1840 - 1933
Co. D, 2nd Va. Cavalry

Born 21 April 1840, Giles William Bruce Hale was the son of G.W.B. and Rosina (?) Hale and the great-grandson of Thomas Hale of Hale’s Ford. Giles was orphaned at the age of 10 and raised by his Uncle Samuel Hale of Liberty Hall. When his Uncle Samuel died, Giles inherited his estate. Giles attended Randolph-Macon College from 1860 to 1861 and left to become Captain of Company D, 2nd Virginia Cavalry, composed entirely of Franklin County soldiers. Later he was transferred to the staff of General Jubal A. Early as aide.

Company D participated in many of the major engagements of the war in Virginia under Colonel John Mosby, Brigadier General Thomas Taylor Munford and was with General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry. Captain Hale also served as courier for General Mosby. Early in the war Capt. Hale was wounded and suffered severe hemorrhages for the rest of his active service, resulting in a medical discharge.

On 18 February 1863 he married Josephine Hortense Eugenia Claiborne. She was born in 1844, the daughter of Congressman Nathaniel and Elizabeth H. (/) Claiborne.

After the war, Giles came home to participate in local businesses in Rocky Mount, eventually operating “The Early House,” a tavern/hotel named in honor of General Jubal Early.

At the age of 37, Capt. Hale was elected the first mayor of Rocky Mount on 17 February 1873 and served for many years as mayor without a salary. He was President of the F & P Railroad in 1889 and had the honor of having the engine of the F & P Railroad named for him.

He was much involved in the Rocky Mount Land Improvements Company which cut the area into lots and actually started Rock Mount residential development.

After the death of his wife in 1889, he moved to a small house near the N & W depot where he wrote extensively and entertained his friends. He spent much of his time writing accounts of the War and boosting Early’s reputation. He also wrote poetry, one specifically, “What Did the Privates Do?” is included here. He was awarded the Southern Cross of Honor in 1911.

When he died on 8 September 1933, he was the last surviving member of Early’s general officers. He and his wife are buried in High Street Cemetery in Rocky Mount.

What Did The Privates Do?

Our stories teem with wondrous deeds, our books are filled with fame.
Brass bands do play, and cannons roar, in honor of the name
Of men who were Officers, and who were honest, brave and true.
But still the question comes to me, “What did the Privates do?”

Who were the men to guard the camp when foes were hovering ‘round?
Who dug the graves of comrades dear, who placed them in the ground?
Who sent the dying message home to friends the dead men knew?
If Officers did all of this, what did the Privates do?

Who were the men to fill the place of comrades slain in strife?
Who were the men to risk their own to save their buddies’ life?
Who was it that lived on salted pork and bread to hard to chew?
If Officers did all this, what did the Privates do?

Who lay in pits on rainy nights, all eager for the fray?
Who marched beneath the scorching sun to many a toilsome day?
Who paid the sutler twice the price, and scanty rations drew?
If Officers did all this, pray, what did the Privates do?

Who led the van at Malvern Hill where slaughter marked the day?
Who gave the Yanks that bitter pill at Manassas, Halt and say!
Who at Shiloh waged that bloody fight when Grant’s army fairly flew?
If Officers did all this, say, what did the Privates do?

Who at Gettysburg made that gallant charge when whole commands did melt away?
Who at Sharpsburg scaled those bloody heights, and stood the brunt throughout the day?
Who is it that fought against such fearful odds, and from the world high praises drew?
If Officers alone did this, say, what did the Privates do?

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