William Joyce Sewell was promoted to Colonel of the 5th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry 6 January 1863.
William J Sewell was born 6 December 1835 in Castlebar, Mayo, Ireland. He immigrated in 1851, first working in Chicago, Illinois, before moving to Camden, New Jersey.
When the Civil War started, Sewell began service as a Captain in the 5th New Jersey. He moved quickly through the ranks and was made Captain in the regiment 6 January 1862. He was in command of a brigade at the Battle of Chancellorsville, where he would be wounded. He would receive another wound while in command of the 5th on 2 July 1863 out along the Emmitsburg Road, near the Klingle Farm. This wound would force from the field and out of the war until 1 October 1864. When he returned to duty it was as the commander of the 38th New Jersey Infantry, but with his wounds still giving him trouble, he was reassigned to command of Fort Powhatan in the Department of Virginia until the end of the war.
Following the war Sewell went to work in the railroad industry, before entering politics. He would serve in the New Jersey State Senate from 1872 to 1881, and was elected to the United States Senate, serving from 1881 to 1887. At the time of his death, Sewell was the President of the West Jersey and Seashore Railroad. He died at his home in Camden, New Jersey 27 December 1901. Sewell was buried with full military honors in the Harleigh Cemetery in Camden, New Jersey.
Sewell was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Chancellorsville on 25 March 1896. The citation reads, “Assuming command of a brigade, he rallied around his colors a mass of men from other regiments and fought these troops with great brilliancy through several hours of desperate conflict, remaining in command though wounded and inspiring them by his presence and the gallantry of his personal example.”