William Nelson Pendleton was born in Lexington, Virginia, on December 23, 1808. Following his graduated from the U.S.M.A. in 1830, he was commissioned in the artillery and served for a year as an assistant mathematics professor at the U.S.M.A.
After only two more years, in 1833, he resigned from the army to teach mathematics at a civilian university.
Pendleton went on to become an Episcopal clergyman and continued in that capacity through his entire life, pausing only during the period of the Civil War.
At the outbreak of war, Pendleton was commissioned as a captain in the Confederate Army. Just prior to First Bull Run, Gen. Joseph E. Johnson promoted Pendleton to colonel and assigned him as chief of artillery in what would become the Army of Northern Virginia.
Pendleton would continue in that role through the end of the war. Under his supervision, the artillery of the Confederate Army did valant service in the face of an enemy with vastly superior resources.
After the war Pendleton resumed his ministerial duties in his home-town of Lexington. In 1868 he achieved the degree of doctor of divinity. He died on January 15, 1883.