Gen William Peter Baya

Gen William Peter Baya

Saint Augustine, St. Johns County, Florida, USA
Death 1 Jul 1903 (aged 69)
Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida, USA
Burial Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida, USA
Plot Saint Marys Cemetery section, Section 2, Block 1, Lot 22, Grave 2.
Memorial ID 58520905 · View Source
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William is a son of Joseph Francis and Catherine Capella Baya. He was born on January 25, 1834 (according to his military records), and grew up in Saint Augustine. The Territory of Florida received statehood on March 3, 1845. In the 1850s, the Baya family moved to Jacksonville. In 1860, William was living at home with his parents and siblings while working as a moulder.

Florida had barely moved on from the Third Seminole War (1855 to 1858) when tensions with the Northern States led to the South succeeding from the Union. Florida succeeded on January 10, 1861, and became a founding member of the new Confederate States of America on February 8, 1861.

In January 1861, William joined a company preparing for the defense of the state. He was soon promoted to orderly sergeant and then to first sergeant. In June, he left to join a marine company in Charleston, South Carolina. There, he was given the rank of lieutenant and command of the CSS Jefferson Davis with a crew of twelve men. After conducting several successful raids against northern merchant ships, the Jeff Davis returned to southern waters. On August 16, 1861, the ship ran aground on a sand bar near Saint Augustine and was abandoned.

On November 18, 1861, he was promoted to Captain and given command of a company in Saint Augustine. Private Joseph Baya, his father, was also a soldier in his company. Captain Baya's Company of Artillery was one of six companies in the 1st Florida Special Battalion commanded by Brigadier General James Heyward Trapier. In May 1862, Captain Baya's company was renamed Company D, and mustered into the 8th Florida Infantry Regiment. He was described as 5-foot 8-inches tall with a dark complexion, black hair, and hazel eyes. Colonel Richard Ferdinand Floyd was given command of the 8th Florida Infantry Regiment on July 15th, and, soon after, the regiment was ordered to Virginia.

Company D fought in the second Battle of Second Manassas and in the capture of Harper's Ferry. But, Colonel Floyd, the commander of the 8th Florida Regiment, was very ill as his regiment readied for the battle at Sharpsburg. His executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel George A C Coppens, took command of leading the 8th into the battle on September 17, 1862. He died early in the battle and responsibility for the unit's command fell to Captain Richard A Walker. As the battle continued, Captain Walker was also killed, and responsibility for leading the 8th passed to Captain Baya. On September 18th, Captain David Lang, of Company C, was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and Captain Baya, of Company D, was promoted to the rank of Major.

Colonel Floyd's health deteriorated to such a degree that it was necessary for him to resign from service on October 2, 1862, On the same day, Lieutenant Colonel Lang was promoted to the rank of Colonel and was designated the new commander of the 8th Florida Infantry Regiment. Major Baya was also promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was designated Colonel Lang's executive officer.

The Battle of Fredericksburg took place in December 1862. Lieutenant Colonel Baya was given command of Companies A, D, and F. His units were ordered to take up exposed postitions on the bank of the Rappahannock River. Union forces quickly overwhelmed them in a fierce attack upon the city. He was wounded, captured, and taken to Fortress Monroe, but was soon returned to his unit as part of a prisoner exchange.

In July 1863, because Brigadier General Roger Atkinson Pryor was suffering from typhoid fever, Colonel Lang was temporarily placed in command of Pryor's Brigade. In the absence of Colonel Lang, Lieutenant Colonel Baya was given full charge of the 8th for the Battle of Gettysburg.

Joseph Baya, Lieutenant Colonel Baya's father, also served in the 8th Florida Infantry Regiment. He was a private throughout the war and was captured at Gettysburg in July 1863. He spent the remainder of the war in a Federal prison.

On October 14, 1863, at the Battle of Bristoe Station, Lieutenant Colonel Baya was severely wounded; which put him out of the fight for over two months. After recovering, he served in several battles including the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864, the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House later that month, the second Battle of Cold Harbor in June 1864, and the Battle of Petersburg in late June and in July. He was wounded again, on August 20th, as he and his soldiers fought for control of Weldon Railroad.

By October 1864, he was in command of the 5th Florida Infantry Regiment with the rank of Colonel. He was captured again at Sayler's Creek, Virginia, on April 6, 1865; first being sent to the Capital Prison, in Washington, DC, and later to Johnson's Island in Lake Erie. He was released on July 25, 1865.

The war was over and Colonel Baya returned to Florida. He settled in Jacksonville, and married Cornelia Sabina Canova on October 18, 1866. They have nine children: 5 boys, 3 girls, and an infant whose gender is unknown.

On June 25, 1868, Florida was re-admitted to the Union. In Spring 1870, the Jacksonville fire departments were brought together as a single organization called the Jacksonville Volunteer Fire Department. William Baya was appointed as its first fire chief.

By 1880, William Baya held the rank of Brigadier General and was in command of the 4th Brigade, Florida Militia, in Jacksonville. The Florida Soldiers' Home Association was formed in 1888 with Brigadier General William Baya as one of its four trustees.

In the February 1893 issue of the Confederate Veteran, his name appears on a long list of those who have donated a dollar or more to the Davis Memorial Fund. He contributed $500. Later that year, another article states that he is the General in command of the 2nd Florida District.

Confederate Veteran
October 1893, p 11.
Jacksonville, Fla., Aug. 18, 1893.
S. A. Cunningham Dear Sir: I take much pleasure in informing you that at our last regular meeting the CONFEDERATE VETERAN was unanimously adopted as the official organ of R. E. Lee Camp, No. 58, U. C V. I notice that in the August number you have again placed the name of Gen. Wm. Baya as Commander of this Camp. Gen. Baya is now Brigadier General of the Second Florida District, and Col. G. Troup Maxwell is our Commander. With many wishes for the future prosperity of the CONFEDERATE VETERAN,
I am yours truly,
At Lampasas, Texas.

By 1896, he had retired from military service. In June 1898, he served as Marshall of the Day in a Jacksonville parade honoring Confederate veterans. Former Union soldiers were also present to give honor. (Florida Times Union, June 17, 1898)

The Gainesville Star - Gainesville, Florida
Friday, July 10, 1903, p 4, col 3.
The last rollcall is being answered rapidly by Confederate veterans of this city, as no less than four have recently "crossed the river to rest beneath the shade tree"--Capt. McNelty, Capt. Hawkins, Gen. Baya and Rev. R. H. Weller. The ranks are fast being decimated.
--Jacksonville Metropolis.

Brigadier General Baya was originally interred at the Old Saint Joseph Church Cemetery on July 2, 1903. He was later removed and reburied at Saint Mary's Cemetery. His widow applied for the Veteran Widow's Pension on March 31, 1908.

The Lieutenant Colonel William Baya Chapter 140, Military Order of the Stars and Bars 140, was charted on April 26, 1991. Chartering ceremonies were held on December 18, 1991, at the home of its first Commander, Colonel John J Masters, US Army Retired, in Saint Augustine, Florida. The Charter was presented by E Price Landrum III, Commander, Florida Society, Military Order of the Stars and Bars.

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(bio by: Raymond B.)

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Gravesite Details Interment - February 19, 1904

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  • Created by: Raymond B.
  • Added: 11 Sep 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 58520905
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Gen William Peter Baya (25 Jan 1834–1 Jul 1903), Find A Grave Memorial no. 58520905, citing Saint Marys Cemetery, Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida, USA ; Maintained by Raymond B. (contributor 47259819) .