(Taken from the Confederate Military History, Volume 3)
Major-General Henry Heth was born in Chesterfield county, Va., December 16, 1825. He is the son of John Heth, of the Black Heth estate, in that county, who served as a colonel in the volunteer forces of Virginia, and as an officer in the United States navy in the war of 1812, when he was captured with Decatur and taken to Bermuda, whence he escaped with two comrades in an open beat. An uncle of his, Col. William Heth, fought at Quebec under General Montgomery and was distinguished in the revolutionary war. Henry Heth was educated at the United States military academy, and graduated in 1847 with the rank of brevet second lieutenant of the Second infantry. His first service was in the war with Mexico, when he was made second lieutenant of the Eighth infantry. He was engaged in the skirmish at Matamoras and at Galaxara in I847-48, and in 1848 at the evacuation returned to Jefferson barracks. On the Indian frontier he was on duty at Fort Atkinson, Fort Kearny and Fort Laramie, taking a conspicuous part in many Indian fights, and winning a first lieutenancy in June, 1853, with promotion to adjutant in November, 1854, and to captain, Tenth infantry, in March, 1855. Soon after the latter promotion he led a detached company, mounted as cavalry, in the Sioux expedition under General Harney, which ended in the victory at Blue-water. In I857 he was assigned to special duty in preparing target practice for the army, and in 1858 he rejoined his regiment in Utah, where he remained until the latter part of 1860, when he returned to Virginia on leave of absence.
When coercion seemed inevitable he resigned his Federal commission, served on the staff of General Taliaferro at Norfolk, as captain, and accepted the duty of organizing the quartermaster's department at Richmond. He was commissioned major, C. S. A., and soon promoted colonel of the Forty-fifth Virginia regiment, in which capacity he organized General Floyd's command at Wytheville, for the West Virginia campaign, and after participating in the battle of Carnifax Ferry, conducted Floyd's retreat from Cotton Hill. In January, 1862, he was promoted brigadier-general, and assigned to the command in West Virginia, where he fought in May of that year the battle of Giles Court House, in which he was opposed to Col. R. B. Hayes, and later the battle of Lewisburg. In June he joined Gen. Kirby Smith at Knoxville, Tenn., and accompanied him in the movement into Kentucky. After reaching Lexington he was given charge of a division of infantry and a brigade of cavalry, and moved against Cincinnati, some of his troops, on September 6th, reaching the suburbs of Covington, but he was withheld from an attack by positive orders. In February, I863, he joined the army of Northern Virginia, and was assigned to the command of Field's brigade, of which he had charge in the battle of Chancellorsville. On the wounding of A. P. Hill in the first day's fight, he succeeded to command of the division but was himself wounded in the opening of the fight next day, which General Lee noted with regret in his dispatch to President Davis.
He was promoted major-general and placed in command of a division of General Hill's corps, consisting of the brigades of Pettigrew, Brockenbrough, Archer and Davis. Engaging in the Pennsylvania campaign, he moved to Cashtown, and thence sent Pettigrew's brigade to Gettysburg to procure a supply of shoes. The brigade returned with information of Federal advance. Heth attacked the Federals under Reynolds the next day, and fought a desperate battle, a worthy opening of the great three days' struggle, in which he lost in twenty-five minutes 2,700 out of 7,000 men, and half his officers, and was himself severely wounded.
He was subsequently engaged in the affair at Falling Waters, and in the following October, with two brigades attacked Warren's corps of Meade's army, fighting the battle of Bristoe Station. After wintering at Orange Court House, he commanded the advance of Hill's corps, marching on the plank road to resist Grant's flank movement on May 5th. He replied for three hours to the attacks of General Hancock on the Brock road; was distinguished for intrepid fighting about Spottsylvania on the 10th, 11th and 12th of May, and a few days later engaged General Warren at Nowell's Turnout. June 3d he took part in the battle of Bethesda Church. During the siege of Petersburg he served on the lines from July, 1864, until the evacuation, occupying the extreme right of Lee's lines during September, October and November. He fought gallantly on the Weldon railroad August 18th, 19th and 20th; at Reams' Station captured 2,000 men, 9 pieces of artillery and many flags; at Burgess' Mill in November, 1864, and in all the struggles on the right, and lastly commanded at Burgess' Mill when the Confederate lines were broken. He conducted his division on the retreat and surrendered with the army on April 9th. During the following years he gave his attention to mining for a time, and then engaged in insurance at Richmond, Va.