In 1850, William Hunt Beckwith and Laurence Ranson Beckwith were 4 and 8 years old, respectively. They lived in the town of Columbia, South Carolina with their mom, their dad, and their two sisters. A native of Virginia, their father worked as a town clerk while their mother ran the house. The boys’ neighbors were a mix of native and foreign born, most with small families they supported as clerks and merchants with the exception of the engineer two houses down.
Eleven years later, on August 15, 1861, William and Laurence, ages 15 and 19, joined Company A of the 15th Regiment, South Carolina Infantry, Army of Northern Virginia.
William’s enlistment card gives an age of 16 in 1861. His tombstone, weathered but standing, does not stretch the truth. Died January 4, 1862. Age 15 years, 9 months. At the time of William’s death, their unit was not fighting any battle but disease was rampant at camp.
He was picked up in Lightwood Knot Springs, ready to fight alongside his older brother, and laid to rest next to Trinity Episcopal in what has grown to be the city of Columbia.
Laurence fought another year as a Private after his brother’s death, but secured a rank of First Sergeant when he reenlisted. June 12, 1862, he joined the 6th Cavalry Regiment South Carolina, Company G. Upon leaving military service with his own grave injury, Laurence made the decision not to return to the town where he and his little brother had enlisted to fight.
More on his story here.