July 3rd 1863, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
“At about one o’clock there burst upon us most unexpectedly the heaviest cannonade I had ever witnessed. Without waiting for orders which could hardly have been heard, we advanced with one impulse for a few paces and lay down behind the First Delaware men, who had taken our places at the wall. By the good providence of God, the enemy’s guns were pointed so that the shot mainly cleared us and went over the crest of the hill into the valley beyond, where, as we afterwards learned they supposed our troops were massed. Else it would seem that our little line by the stone wall, being built on a ledge of rock took those shot that fell short and bounded off instead of burying themselves in the ground beneath us and then exploding, tearing in pieces those lying above, as I know them to do in the grove further to our right. I mention these things on account for the singularly little damage we sustained from its terrific fire. One of the guns was directly behind me and at every discharge threw the gravel over me, and I could not only see and smell the thick cloud of burning power but could taste it also. I lay with my arm thrown over Eddy Hart and so hot was it that the drops of perspiration falling from my face made mud of the dusty soil on which we were stretched.” William B. Hincks (Regimental History,p.149)
William B. Hincks is described in the regimental history as born in Bucksport, Maine who moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut as a lad who abandoned his educational dreams to enlist in Company A, Fourteenth Connecticut. He is described as a man with strength of mind and purity of purpose, integrity of character, and frankness of manner who could not fail to influence his comrades and win their love and esteem. (Regimental History, p.157)
Hincks enlisted as a private and rose quickly through the ranks of the regiment. On August 20, 1862 he mustered into “A” Co. Connecticut 14th Infantry as a private, promoted Sergeant in February, 1863, Sergeant Major in June, 1863, Adjutant, in October 1863 and Major in April, 1965.
He was mustered out with his regiment on May 31, 1865 (American Civil War Research Database), having been in service from Antietam to Appomattox with the 14th Connecticut Regiment. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on December 1, 1864. His citation read:
During the highwater mark of Pickett’s charge on 3 July 1863 the colors of the 14th Tenn. Inf. C.S.A. were planted 50 yards in front of the center of Sgt. Maj. Hincks’ regiment. There were no Confederates standing near it but several lying down around it. Upon a call for volunteers by Maj. Ellis, commanding, to capture this flag, this soldier and 2 others leaped the wall. One companion was instantly shot. Sgt. Maj. Hincks outran his remaining companion running straight and swift for the colors amid a storm of shot. Swinging his saber over the prostrate Confederates and uttering a terrific yell, he seized the flag and hastily returned to his lines. The 14th Tenn. carried 12 battle honors on its flag. The devotion to duty shown by Sgt. Maj. Hincks gave encouragement to many of his comrades at a crucial moment in the battle.
Issued to the 14th Tennessee Infantry in the summer of 1862, this flag was carried into the works during Pickett’s Charge by Tennesseans from Robertson, Montgomery, and Stewart counties. Held at the U.S. War Department for decades, about 500 captured Confederate battle flags were returned to the former Confederate and border states in 1905. This Richmond Depot flag of the 14th Tennessee Infantry was one of those, and it currently resides at the Tennessee State Museum.
Hincks returned to Bridgeport after the war and became a bank executive; he served on many corporate boards and helped P.T. Barnum found the Barnum Museum and Bridgeport Hospital. He also wrote about local history. He married Mary Louise Hart in 1866 and they had three sons. They lived in a house on Park Avenue and Prospect Streets that has since been demolished. He was a deacon in his church and involved in many community activities. Hincks died on November 7, 1903 at the age of 62 and is buried in Mountain Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport, Connecticut.