On this day in 1864, Confederate General Archibald Gracie Jr. is killed in the trenches at Petersburg, Virginia, when an artillery shell explodes near him.
Gracie was born in New York City in 1832 (his grandfather built Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the mayor of New York) and graduated from West Point in 1854. Although his family lived in the North, his father owned a business in Mobile, Alabama, and Gracie moved there upon his resignation from the army in 1856. Gracie soon became an ardent supporter of the Southern cause, and was active in the Alabama state militia. In early 1861, before Alabama seceded from the Union, Gracie was ordered by the governor to seize the federal arsenal at Mount Vernon.
Gracie joined the 3rd Alabama when hostilities erupted between North and South, and he served in Tennessee and Kentucky during the first part of the Civil War. He was part of General Edmund Kirby Smith's invasion of Kentucky in 1862, and his service earned him a promotion to brigadier general. He fought at Chickamauga and Chattanooga in 1863, and his brigade joined General James Longstreet for the campaign against Knoxville in November. Gracie was wounded at the Battle of Bean's Station on December 15, but he continued with Longstreet back to Virginia when Longstreet rejoined Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.
Gracie's command protected Richmond, Virginia, in the summer of 1864, and his leadership at Drewry's Bluff was instrumental in holding Union General Benjamin Butler's force at bay near the Confederate capital. Gracie fought during the siege of Petersburg for the rest of the year, and was recommended for promotion to major general. However, he was killed before the rank was confirmed. Most of Gracie's family remained in the North, and his relatives arranged for transfer of his body to Union lines. He was buried in New York City.