This imposing monument presides over the plaza to the west of Government House and overlooks the busiest intersection in downtown St. Augustine. In actuality, it’s more than just a monument. It’s also the grave of William Wing Loring, a man who served in three armies including as Pasha in the army of Egypt.
Born December 4, 1818 in Wilmington, North Carolina, William moved to St. Augustine with his parents in 1823 – just two years after Florida had become a United States territory. At the age of 14 he enlisted in the Florida Militia and fought in the early skirmishes of the Second Seminole War. He was promoted to lieutenant before he left the militia to finish his schooling in Virginia.
After school, he passed the bar exam and spent some time as an attorney and even served in the state legislature from 1843 to 1845. He joined the Army and served in the Mexican War where he lost his arm during battle in Mexico City. In 1849 he took command of the Oregon Territory as part of the Mounted Rifles and served in the west until 1859. When the Civil War erupted, he resigned to join the Southern cause serving at Vicksburg, in Tennessee, North Georgia and in the campaign against Nashville. In 1865 he surrendered to General Sherman in North Carolina shortly after Appomatox.
A group of Confederate and Union veterans later served in the Egyptian army after being recommended to the Khedive of Egypt by none other than William Tecumseh Sherman. Loring served for nine years, attaining the rank of Fereek Pasha (Major General). On his return to the states, he wrote a book about his experiences titled A Confederate Soldier in Egypt (1884). He co-authored another book, The March of the Mounted Riflemen, which was published after his death.
Upon his return from Egypt, Loring spent his time working on his book and traveling between his Florida home, New York and the western states. From a profile in the New York Times dated October 17, 1886:
One evening I heard a fine looking old gentleman extolling the United States Government, and saying many kindly things of Lincoln and of Grant. I also noticed that he carried upon his right side an empty sleeve, which he at last alluded to indirectly by saying: “I lost one arm in the service of my country at the storming of the citadel of the city of Mexico, but I have another left which is always ready and loyal to do her bidding.” I then asked who the gentleman was, and I was informed that it was “old Billy himself”….There is no man more warmly embosomed in the hearts of Floridians than Gen. Loring.
General Loring died in New York on December 30, 1886 from pneumonia. Robert Hawke tells the rest of the story in Florida’s Army:
Loring’s reinterment and public funeral in St. Augustine during March of 1887 was one of the grandest events in the city’s history for that decade. It was used as an occasion for a combined encampment, and week-long meeting, of the Union and Confederate veterans organizations of northeast Florida. Both groups, in conjunction with other local civic organizations, sponsored the erection of a memorial obelisk and monument, in Government House Square, inscribed with the details of Loring’s life and military service, and emblazoned with the flags of the United States, the Confederated States, and the Ottoman province of Egypt. It is a fine memorial to the local militiaman who became a pasha of Egypt.
- Hawk, Robert. Florida’s Army: Militia, State Troops, National Guard, 1565-1985. Englewood, Fla: Pineapple Press, 1986.
- William W. Loring. Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_wing_loring]
- William Wing Loring. Civil War Home [http://www.civilwarhome.com/loringbio.htm]
- Florida Photographic Collection. State Archives of Florida. [http://www.floridamemory.com/PhotographicCollection]