Staff Person: Jonathan Dembo
Bryan Grimes (2 Nov. 1828-14 Aug. 1880), the noted Eastern North Carolina planter and civil war hero, appears in the portrait above. The photograph shows Grimes in his brigadier general’s uniform, thus dating the image to 1863. The print shown, however, must be a reproduction. The firm that made the print — Wharton & Tyree, Raleigh, N.C. — did business under that name only during 1909-1910.
Grimes was a member of one of the oldest and wealthiest families in North Carolina. His estate, “Grimesland,” in Pitt County near Washington, N.C., was one of the largest in the state and Grimes was a leading agriculturalist. Early in 1861, however, Grimes served in North Carolina’s secession convention and then accepted a commission as major of the newly formed 4th North Carolina State Troops when the state seceded from the Union.
During the civil war, Grimes saw frequent combat. Demonstrating great courage and fortitude, and often placing himself in great personal danger, Grimes won rapid promotion and suffered many wounds. From the First Battle of Bull Run in Virginia in July 1861 to the final surrender at Appomattox Court House, in April 1865, his military reputation grew steadily. Named a full colonel in June 1862, Grimes took command of the 4th North Carolina Regiment and led it during the Peninsula, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg campaigns. After Chancellorsville, General Robert E. Lee praised Grimes and the other officers in the 4th N.C. as “among the best of their respective grades in the army.” By 1864, Grimes was a brigadier general in command of a brigade of North Carolinian troops. Grimes assumed command of Maj. Gen. Stephen D. Ramseur’s division after Ramseur died in battle and commanded it from December 1864 until the end of the war.
On February 15, 1865, General Lee named Grimes a major general. In April 1865, Grimes led the final attack of Lee’s Army. Grimes’s attack successfully pushed the federals away from the Lynchburg Road and opened a possible escape route for Lee’s Army. Lee, however, opted to surrender at Appomattox rather than accept further useless bloodshed.
Grimes returned to Grimesland and resumed life as a prosperous farmer after the war. In 1880, however, he was murdered to prevent his testimony at a criminal trail. Although acquitted of Grimes’s murder, the assassin was lynched by an angry mob seven years later when he bragged that he had killed Grimes.
Bryan Grimes (1863) photographic print, Thomas Sparrow Collection (#1.1.e/P-1/1) Click on the image to see an enlarged version.