Graduating at the very bottom of his 1847 class at West Point, Henry Heth served 14 years on frontier duty before resigning his infantry captaincy on April 25, 1861, to serve his native Virginia.
His initial service came in the Kanawha Valley and the Lewisburg area of western Virginia. He joined Kirby Smith in East Tennessee in the summer of 1862 and commanded a division and briefly the department. At the request of Robert E. Lee, who called the brigadier by his first name, allegedly the only case of Lee doing this with his generals, Heth was transferred to the Army of Northern Virginia. Commanding a Virginia brigade he fought at Chancellorsville and was in command of the division until wounded.
Returning to duty he was soon promoted (an October 1862 appointment as major general had not been confirmed), and given a division in the new 3rd Corps. On the first day at Gettysburg he was wounded but recovered to fight at Falling Waters, Bristoe Station, and Mine Run before the end of the year. The next spring, and summer he guided his men through the Overland Campaign and supervised them in the trenches around Petersburg, often sallying forth to defeat Union attempts to cut the railroads and highways into the beleaguered city. Briefly in corps command during the final winter of the conflict, he surrendered with his chief at Appomattox. He was involved in insurance after the peace.
- Captain, Infantry (spring 1861) Colonel, 45th Virginia (1861)
- Brigadier General, CSA (January 6, 1862)
- Commanding District of Lewisburg (February 6-May 8, 1862)
- Commanding division, Department of East Tennessee (July 3-December 1862)
- Commanding the District, same department (December 1862)
- Commanding the department (January 1863)
- Commanding Field’s (old) Brigade, A.P. Hill’s Division, 2nd Corps, Army of Northern Virginia (March 5-May 2, and late May 1863)
- Major General, CSA (May 24, 1863)
- Commanding the division (May 2-3, 1863)
- Commanding division, 3rd Corps (May 30-July 1 and July 1863-February 1865 and March-April 9, 1865)
- Commanding the corps (February-March 1865)
(Morrison, James L., ed., The Memoirs of Henry Heth)