Joseph White Latimer was born August 27th 1843 in Oak Ridge, Prince William, Virginia. He was attending the Virginia Military Institute and was in his second year at the school when the Civil War started. While at VMI Latimer was taught artillery tactics by Thomas Jonathan Jackson.
When the war started Latimer left the school to join the Confederacy where he started in 1861 with the Richard Hampden Artillery. He saw his first action in 1862 in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign as part of Confederate Major General Richard S Ewell’s division and was commissioned First Lieutenant. Latimer distinguished himself and was given command of a battalion. He was commanding at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862. In March 1863 he received a promotion to Major, with Ewell referring to him as “Young Napoleon”, however for most the nick name became “The Boy Major”. His promotion placed him in Confederate Major Richard Snowden Andrew’s Battalion a part of Confederate Major General Edward “Allegheny” Johnson’s Division. Andrew was wounded at the Battle of Stephenson’s Depot and this placed Latimer in command at the Battle of Gettysburg.
On the afternoon of July 2nd 1863 Latimer’s command was located on Benner’s Hill and was heavily engaged with Union artillery on Steven’s Knoll and East Cemetery Hill. Latimer’s position on Benner’s Hill was exposed and while moving his guns off, he was wounded in the arm, the shot killing his horse which pinned him underneath. Latimer was taken to the Daniel Lady Farm where his right arm was amputated. When the Confederates retreated from Gettysburg he was moved to Winchester, and then again as the Union troops perused to Harrisonburg, Virginia. While at the home of ETH Warren Latimer developed gangrene, he died August 1st 1863. He is buried in Woodbine Cemetery in Harrisonburg.