Lewis Ledyard Weld

Lewis Ledyard Weld, whom Weld County was named after, was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln as the Territorial Secretary of Colorado in 1861. Weld, who was also a lawyer, left Colorado to join the Union Army during the Civil War.


Lewis Ledyard Weld, son of Lewis (Y. C., 1818) and Mary A. (Cogswell) Weld, was born in Hartford, Conn., May, 13, 1833. He fitted for college at the Grammar School in his native place, and entered our class at the beginning of its course.

After graduating, he was employed from Oct., 1854 to June, 1855, as a private tutor in Burlington, N. J. From July to Dec., 1855, he taught in Cleveland, O., and studied law in the office of Hon. Hiram Griswold. From Jan., 1856, to the summer of 1858, he was a law student in New York city, and for a portion of the time clerk in the New York county surrogate's office. Having been admitted to the bar, he removed in the summer of 1858 to Kansas, and opened a law office in Leavenworth, where in Dec., 1858, he became a member of the law firm of Pendery, Bailey & Weld.

In the spring of 1860, his health having suffered severely from the climate and the active life he had led as an uncompromising advocate of freedom, during the struggle to make Kansas a free state, he crossed the plains to the Pike's Peak gold region in the Rocky mountains. His health being restored by the change, and the prospects of that growing region being brilliant, he entered in a law partnership with Judge G. W. Perkins, and practiced there until the erection of that country into the territory of Colorado.

Upon Mr. Lincoln's accession to the presidency, he was appointed by him secretary of Colorado, and from December 1861, to April, 1862, when he resigned, was acting governor of the territory. During this time he was able, with the cooperation of staunch and true men, to save the territory to the Union, and to establish a loyal sentiment therein, overcoming by his energy the machinations of the large number of secessionists then in that community.

All the time he was in Kansas and Colorado, he was a frequent contributor to the press, and for a considerable time, after he resigned the secretaryship, was editor of the "Denver Common-wealth." It was thus, through the press, as well as in frequent public speeches, that he was able to do much to form a correct public sentiment, and to unite, by their love for the Union,men, who otherwise might have been separated by their adherence to old party prejudices. He remained in the territory until early in 1863, when he returned to the east with the purpose of entering the army.

Choosing the hardest and most dangerous branch of the service, he at once applied for a position in the organization of the U. S. colored troops, and having passed the examining board of Gen. Casey, in Washington, was offered and accepted a captaincy in the 7th Regiment U. S. Colored Troops. The fall and winter of 1863 were passed in recruiting in Maryland, for that and other regiments, and in fitting the troops enlisted for the field. When in Feb., 1864, the brigade was ordered to the Department of the South, Captain Weld was placed on the staff of Brig. Gen. William Birney, commanding the district of Florida, as provost marshal general of the district, and was present in each of the advances and skirmishes with the enemy which took place during the spring and summer.

In Aug., 1864, the brigade was ordered to the Army of the James and attached to the 10th Army Corps. Immediately on their arrival in Virginia, Captain Weld rejoined his regiment, and with it participated in the two battles of Deep Bottom and Russel's Mills. Recrossing the James, the 10th Corps was ordered to the front of Petersburgh, to do duty in the trenches. On Sept. 1,1864, Captain Weld was again appointed on Gen. Birney's staff as acting Ass't Inspector General of the 3d division. In Oct., he received the appointment of major of the 41st Colored Infantry, and forthwith took command of the battalion then near Philadelphia, and soon after reported to Gen. Butler, with six companies. The regiment was placed in the 25th Army Corps, when that corps was formed, and in Dec., Major Weld was given the Lieut. Colonelcy.

Towards the close of the month, exposure on the picket line and in the trenches, had so increased a cold which had for some time troubled our classmate, that he was obliged to submit to medical treatment. On the 6th of Jan., he was removed by ambulance and boat to the hospital at Point of Rocks, on the Appomattox. Here he received the care and attention of several excellent surgeons, but their skill could not save him. After four days of acute suffering, he died on the morning of the 10th Jan., 1865, with a full realization of his condition and a peaceful trust in his Savior, having been attended, during his last hours, by his only surviving brother, Mason C. Weld, of the 25th Ct. Vols. Lewis retained to the last his sprightly humor and wit; yet his whole character was more serious, and his religious feelings more decided during the last few months of his career.

Any sketch of his life would be imperfect without an allusion to an event which produced a great and lasting effect upon his mind and character. While stationed in Florida, he made the acquaintance of an accomplished young lady, from New England, possessed of unusual charms of person and character. This acquaintance soon ripened into affection, and they became engaged to be married. A short time afterward his affianced left Florida with her parents and sister, to return home; but during a short stay at Beaufort, S. C., she was attacked with the malarial fever and died before word could reach him. Those who knew the ardor of his nature, will readily understand that such an experience of sorrow, must have left its impression upon the whole man.

Lewis's body was embalmed and taken to Hartford, Ct., where it was deposited by the side of his brother Charles, who was an officer in the 17th U. S. Infantry, who died in 1863, of wounds received at the battle of Chancellorsville. On the graves of the two brothers, several of the friends of their earlier days have erected a most beautiful and appropriate monument.

Perchance few of us may ever be able to visit it, yet no "Storied Urn" is necessary to keep fresh in our hearts the memory of one we loved.

Record of the Class of 1854 – Yale,from a biographical sketch of Lewis Ledyard Weld, published by J. Munsell, 1867

This information was provided by the Yale University Library Manuscripts and Archives. Lewis Weld Family Papers. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library. To read more about the Weld Family in these papers go to http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/mssa.ms.0559