William J. Green, the eldest son of Duff Green, Esq., of Falmouth, in the county of Stafford, was born on the 25th of November, 1825. He entered the Virginia Military Institute in 1843, and graduated in July, 1846.
After leaving the Institute he became a partner with his father, who combined the business of merchant, manufacturer, and farmer. His integrity, capacity, and energy produced their usual result of success, and the growing esteem and confidence of the community.
His love for military life made him take much interest in training the militia of his native county, in which his skill in tactics and executive ability led to his promotion to the command of the 45th Regiment Virginia Militia, a position he held until the war. Though opposed to secession, he was one of the first of her sons to tender his services in the defense of Virginia. He was commissioned as lieutenant-colonel, and assigned at first to the 30th Virginia Infantry, but soon transferred to the 47th Regiment During the first year of the war, his regiment was not engaged in any pitched battle with the enemy, but was occupied with the harassing duties of picket service, and in drill and training for more exciting and eventful campaigns. His discipline and tactical skill contributed largely towards its preparation and fitness for its subsequent brilliant career.
The rigor of his discipline, exercised not less upon himself than upon others, the value of which was not then, at least, appreciated, caused dissatisfaction among the subaltern officers, and led to his being left out at the reorganization of the regiment in the spring of 1862, a fate which befell so many others of the best officers in the service.
Being then without a command, he was urged by friends and brother officers to proceed to Richmond to seek a command suitable for his ability and skill. But he could not bear the idea of leaving the front while battle was imminent, and he accepted the invitation of Brigadier-General J. J. Pettigrew to serve upon his staff as volunteer aid. He remained with him until the battle of Seven Pines, where General Pettigrew was severely wounded and taken prisoner. Brigadier-General Pender, who succeeded to the command, requested Colonel Green to remain upon his staff. At the battle of Mechanicsville, June 26, 1862, the efficient services of Colonel Green were highly appreciated by his brigade commander and the gallant officers with whom he was associated. On the day following, the enemy having been driven to Cold Harbor, General Pender's Brigade was ordered to the front to assail their formidable line, and after a severe fight was thrown into disorder by the force of the greatly superior numbers to which it was opposed.
Having succeeded in rallying the disordered ranks around him, Colonel Green, with the cool, intrepid bravery which characterized him, led them in another charge upon the enemy. In this charge he fell, having received two balls, one through the heart, the other through the stomach, and yielded his life a willing sacrifice for Virginia he loved so well, and as he had but a few hours before expressed the hope, "that he might fall as became his lineage."
Assistant Adjutant-General Lewis G. Young, in announcing his death, writes: "No braver man, and few as accomplished officers have fallen in this or any other war. Among us he was loved and esteemed, and I grieve for him as one of my most cherished friends."
General Pettigrew, one of the most gallant and accomplished men of his time, said, in the hearing of the writer of this sketch, that "Colonel Green was the most perfect pattern of a staff-officer he had ever known. His intelligent knowledge of his duties, tact, discretion, energy, devotion to duty, obedience, courage, and firmness, left nothing to be desired in him."
"Will Green," as his friends called him, had many high and noble qualities. He was somewhat impetuous in temper, and open and unsparing in the expression of his disapproval of anything which seemed low or mean. His dislikes were sure to be known. He was frank and generous, and. devoted in his attachments. No man would have done more for his friends than he. His nerve and force of will would have made him a marked man in any position of life. He was a born soldier, and a brilliant career was cut short by his early death.
Judge William S. Barton.
(Source: Biographical sketches of the Graduates and Eleves of the Virginia Military Institute who fell during the war between the States, by Chas. D. Walker. Published 1875. Transcribed and submitted to Genealogy Trails by Linda Rodriguez)