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Civil War Trust

Post War Lives

Civil War Milestones into Headstones

John Bell Hood
Lieutenant General John Bell Hood (Library of Congress)

John Bell Hood (1831-1879)

A brave and brazen commander, Hood began the war as an officer on the Peninsula Campaign at the Battle of Second Manassas.  During the Battle of Gaines' Mill on June 27, 1862 he distinguished himself by leading his brigade in a charge that broke the Union line—arguably the most successful Confederate performance in the Seven Days Battles. While Hood escaped the battle without an injury, every officer in his brigade was killed or wounded; however, his time would come.  Hood was wounded at Gettysburg on July 2nd in the assault on the Union left, resulting in the loss of his arm. That September, merely two months later, he was seriously wounded at Chickamauga where he lost a leg. Ever an intriguer in the Confederate high command, he managed to secure command of the Army of Tennessee in 1864. Hood would lead this army to its fate in a disastrous frontal assault at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee.  

At the end of the Civil War John Bell Hood moved to Louisiana and worked in the insurance business and as a cotton broker. The wounds he suffered at Gettysburg and Chickamauga would cause him chronic pain for the remainder of his life. In 1868 he married Anna Marie Hennen and together they had 11 children (including three pairs of twins). The yellow fever epidemic which swept New Orleans in 1878-79, ruined Hood’s insurance business, killed him, his wife and his oldest child, leaving his 10 remaining children orphaned. They were adopted by families as far away as New York. Hood is buried in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans.

John Bell Hood's Full Bio »

James Longstreet
James Longstreet

James Longstreet (1821-1904)

Called “Old Pete” and “My Old War Horse” by Gen. Robert E. Lee, Longstreet was Lee’s trusted adviser and friend.  During the incredibly bloody Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862, Longstreet took advantage of the terrain to create an almost impenetrable defense along Marye’s Heights.  From the heights above he used his artillery so effectively that no Union soldiers came closer than 30 yards to the infamous stone wall. In July 1863 Longstreet was a pivotal player in the Battle of Gettysburg commanding Lee’s right flank. At Gettysburg he and Lee disagreed about field tactics. That autumn, Longstreet was sent west to the aid of the beleaguered Braxton Bragg.  His troops arrived on September 20, just in time to rout a significant portion of the Union line at Chickamauga.  Only the staunch resistance of George H. Thomas saved the Union army.  The stubborn Gen. Bragg, however, was less than warm in his reception of Gen. Longstreet and his staff, especially when several of Longstreet's generals wished to have Bragg removed from command.  President Davis would not remove Bragg, and Longstreet’s reputation was damaged.  After a difficult winter–and an abortive attempt at independent command in East Tennessee–Longstreet and his men were happy to return to the Army of Northern Virginia in April 1864.

Following the Civil War, James Longstreet settled in New Orleans and became president of the Great Southern and Western Fire, Marine and Accident Insurance Company and entered a cotton brokerage partnership. President Andrew Johnson refused Longstreet a pardon saying "There are three persons of the South who can never receive amnesty: Mr. Davis, General Lee, and yourself. You have given the Union cause too much trouble." His rights of citizenship were restored in 1868 under President Grant. Longstreet was the only senior Confederate officer to join the Republican Party during the Reconstruction period and endorsed Grant for president.

Longstreet also converted to Catholicism and roundly and openly criticized Robert E. Lee, blaming the Confederacy’s loss of the war on Lee’s tactics at Gettysburg. The combination of those three factors alienated Longstreet from many of his former comrades in the Confederate Army. In 1872 he became the Major General of all militia and state police in New Orleans, while in this role, he saw more violence. During the the Battle of Liberty Place in 1874, White League members assaulted the State House. Longstreet, with police and African American militia troops tried to hold off the mob. Longstreet was pulled from his horse, shot, and taken captive. Federal troops had to be sent in to disperse the White League. He left New Orleans in 1875, served briefly as deputy collector of internal revenue and as postmaster of Gainesville, GA. and then was a U.S. Marshal from 1881 to 1884. Under President Rutherford B. Hayes he served as Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. From 1897 to 1904 Longstreet served as U.S. Commissioner of Railroads. For much of his post- Civil War life he lived on a 65-acre farm near Gainesville, where he raised turkeys and planted orchards and vineyards on terraced ground that his neighbors referred to jokingly as "Gettysburg." A fire broke out on April 9, 1889 (the 24th anniversary of the surrender) destroying his house and many of his personal possessions, including his personal Civil War documents and memorabilia. After the death of his wife in 1889, Longstreet remarried Helen Dortch in 1897. She was 34 and outlived him by 58 years, dying in 1962. Lee’s “War Horse”  died in January 1902 and is buried in Alta Vista Cemetery in Gainsville, Georgia

James Longstreet's Full Bio » 

Nathan Bedford Forrest
Nathan Bedford Forrest (Library of Congress)

Nathan Bedford Forrest (1821-1877)

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Forrest volunteered as a private before deciding to raise and equip an entire unit at his own expense. He was a millionaire by the time the war began making his fortune in cotton and slaves.  He was commissioned lieutenant colonel, and issued this call to arms in June, 1861:

“I wish none but those who desire to be actively engaged.  COME ON BOYS, IF YOU WANT A HEAP OF FUN AND TO KILL SOME YANKEES”

During the war his cavalry was first a part of the Army of Tennessee, but after the Battle of Chickamauga he retained his forces as an independent command and until the war was over his cavalry wreaked havoc on Union forces in the west, earning from William T. Sherman the sobriquet, “that Devil Forrest.” During the Vicksburg campaign he became a thorn in the side of Ulysses S. Grant wreaking havoc on communication lines and union supply depots.

One of the most controversial figures to emerge from the shadows of the Civil War was Nathan Bedford Forrest. After the Confederate surrender he worked as lumber merchant, planter, and was the President of the Selma, Marion and Memphis Railroad. Beginning in 1866 he began associating the Ku Klux Klan, but denied any association with the group when called before the Joint Congressional Committee in 1871 investigating the poor treatment of African American’s in the South during Reconstruction. After the failure of his railroad business in 1874, Forrest sold off many of his possessions and served as the overseer of a prison labor camp outside of Memphis. Forrest died in October 1877 and is buried with his wife under an exquisite equestrian statue in his honor in a park on Union Street in downtown Memphis, Tennessee less than a quarter of a mile from Sam Phillips Sun Records Recording Studio.

Nathan Bedford Forrest's Full Bio »

Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph E. Johnston (Library of Congress)

Joseph E. Johnston (1807-1891) 

When Virginia seceded, Johnston was the highest-ranking U.S. Army officer to resign his commission.

In August  1861, Johnston was promoted to full general—what is called a four-star general in the modern U.S. Army—but was not pleased that three other men he had outranked in the "old army" now outranked him. Only Beauregard was placed behind Johnston on the list of five new generals, thus creating a tension between Johnston and President Jefferson Davis that would last throughout the war. 

Johnston was the original commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, then known as Army of the Potomac.  From this position he would defend Richmond from invading Union general George B. McClellan in the Peninsula Campaign.  Cornered, Johnston finally attacked in the Battle of Seven Pines on May 31, 1862.  The battle was a draw, but prevented McClellan from advancing on Richmond.  Johnston was wounded at the battle, providing Davis with the opportunity to appoint Robert E. Lee to command in Johnston’s stead; Lee held this position for the remainder of the war.  

After recovering from his wounds, Johnston went on to command in the western theater, and was involved but not fully in control of the conflicts at Vicksburg and Chattanooga.  Johnston employed his withdrawal strategies to defend against Union general Sherman’s advance from Chattanooga to Atlanta, and defeated Sherman at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.  

Johnston and his ailing wife, Lydia struggled financially in the years following the surrender at Appomattox. From 1866-1867 Johnston served as President of the Alabama and Tennessee River Rail Road Company, and he renamed it the Selma, Rome and Dalton Railroad. Johnston was restless with the position and the company failed due to lack of capital and investment.  In 1868 he started an insurance company in Savannah, Georgia, acting as an agent for the Liverpool and London and Globe Insurance Company and within four years had a network of more than 120 agents across the Deep South. This allowed him to accrue enough income so that he could devote the remaining year of his life towards writing reflections on the Civil War. In 1874 he published his Narrative of Military Operations, an apology of sorts which castigated President Jefferson Davis and many of his fellow generals.  He was unable to let go of his bitterness related to his service to the Confederacy repeatedly accounting of his multiple grievance, the perceived insult of his rank, and justified his approach in strategy and tactics as a “cautious general.’ The book was a flop and angered many former Confederates. In an ironic twist of fate the post-war reminiscences of both Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman portrayed Johnson more positively. Sherman argued that Johnson was a “dangerous and wily opponent,” and Grant, with regard to the Vicksburg Campaign, claimed that, “Johnson evidently took in the situation, and wisely, I think, abstained from making an assault on us because it would simply have inflicted losses on both sides without accomplishing any result." Grant and Sherman also opined with respect to the Atlanta Campaign "For my own part, I think that Johnston's tactics were right. Anything that could have prolonged the war a year beyond the time that it finally did close, would probably have exhausted the North to such an extent that they might then have abandoned the contest and agreed to a settlement." In 1876–77 Johnson relocated from Savannah, Georgia to Richmond, Virginia. From 1879-1881 Johnson, a Democrat, served in the 46th Congress as a representative from Georgia. He was not re-nominated to stand for reelection in 1880. During the Presidency of Grover Cleveland, Johnson served as a commissioner of railroads. His wife, Lydia, died in 1887, 

From Lydia’s death until his own in 1891 Johnston remained on the lecture circuit and traveled to veterans’ gatherings where he was warmly welcomed Johnston remained on good terms with his former adversary William T. Sherman and reportedly would not permit an unkind word be said about Sherman in his presence as he appreciated Sherman’s magnanimous treatment. Johnson and Sherman maintained, as well, a vibrant correspondence and often dined together, when the opportunity afforded itself.  In a moving gesture and an act of mutual respect and admiration Johnson served as an honorary pallbearer at Sherman’s funeral; keeping his hat off, as a sign of respect, during the procession in New York City on February 19, 1891, a cold and rainy day. When asked why he would not wear his hat Johnson remarked, “If I were in his place and he were standing here in mine, he would not put on his hat." Johnson subsequently caught a cold which turned into pneumonia and died. He and Lydia are buried side by side in Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland.

Joseph E. Johnston's Full Bio »

John Singleton Mosby (Library of Congress)

John Singleton Mosby (1833-1916)

When the Civil War began, Mosby spoke out against secession, but joined the Confederate army as a private, serving in the "Virginia Volunteers," a company of mounted infantry, that fought at the Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run). During this time Mosby's exceptional skill at gathering intelligence came to the attention of J.E.B. Stuart. In early 1862, Mosby was promoted to First Lieutenant and assigned to Stuart's cavalry scouts.

In January of 1863, Stuart placed Mosby in command of the 43rd Virginia Cavalry, which operated as a partisan unit. By this time, Mosby had been promoted to the rank of Major. "Mosby's Rangers" began to conduct a campaign of lightning raids on Union supply lines and harassment of Union couriers. The fame of the unit grew with each success and because of his ability to seemingly appear and disappear at will, Mosby became known as "The Gray Ghost."

Mosby was an active member of the Republican Party after the war, and became the presidential campaign manager for Grant in Virginia. He received numerous death threats for his friendship with Grant and his childhood home was burnt down. "There was more vindictiveness shown to me by the Virginia people for my voting for Grant than the North showed to me for fighting four years against him." Grant appointed Mosby as consul to Hong Kong (1878-1885). He used his legal skills as a lawyer for the Southern Pacific Railroad in San Francisco, and later with the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice. The Mosby’s were close friends with George S. Patton’s family. He played games with young George when he visited the Patton ranch; Mosby would play himself and George would be Gen. Lee.  Mosby defended the legacy of J.E.B Stuart and even went so far as to write a lengthy book in his defense. Mosby died in Washington D.C. in 1916 and is buried in Warrenton Cemetery in Warrenton, Virginia.

John Singleton Mosby's Full Bio »

Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee (Library of Congress)

Robert E. Lee (1807-1870)

From 1852 to 1855, Lee served as superintendent of West Point, and was therefore responsible for educating many of the men who would later serve under him - and those who would oppose him - on the battlefields of the Civil War.  In 1855 he left the academy to take a position in the cavalry and in 1859 was called upon to put down abolitionist John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry.

Because of his reputation as one of the finest officers in the United States Army, Abraham Lincoln offered Lee the command of the Federal forces in April 1861. Lee declined and tendered his resignation from the army when Virginia seceded on April 17, arguing that he could not fight against his own people.  Instead, he accepted a general’s commission in the newly formed Confederate Army. He served as military adviser to President Jefferson Davis until June 1862 when he was given command of the wounded General Joseph E. Johnston's embattled army on the Virginia peninsula. In late summer 1862 Lee won a significant victory at Second Manassas and invaded Union soil for the first time only to be turned back in September at Antietam.  Lee’s reputation as a brilliant field commander was secured in May 1863 as a result of his victory at Chancellorsville. After his defeat at Gettysburg he offered his resignation to President Jefferson Davis who refused it. Lee remained in command of the Army of Northern Virginia for the duration of the war and his skill at maneuvering troops and resisting Grant’s forces in the Overland Campaign (1864-1865) prolonged the war.

After signing the surrender terms at Appomattox Court House, Robert E. Lee lost his right to vote as well as his property at Arlington, which was turned into a cemetery for Union War dead, and became the nucleus of Arlington National Cemetery. Unknown Union dead are buried beneath a sarcophagus which is located in the middle of Lee’s wife, Mary’s, rose garden, her favorite place on the grounds. He signed an Amnesty Oath, but his citizenship was never restored in his lifetime. In 1874 surviving members of the Lee Family sued the government of the United States for the loss of their Arlington Estate and in Lee vs. the United States. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Lee Family though they never returned to reclaim their property and eventually sold the property to the United States.

Lee supported President Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction program but joined with Democrats instead of the Radical Republicans who wanted more punitive measures to be levied against former Confederates. Shortly after the war was over he was offered the Presidency of the small liberal arts school, Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia and served in that capacity from October 1865 until his death from a heart attack in 1870. Lee is buried in a sarcophagus called the “Recumbent Lee” in the Lee Chapel on the campus of Washington and Lee University. His home, Arlington House: The Robert E. Lee Memorial is a national historic site and a unit of the National Park Service. His home was given this status in honor of Lee’s work to heal the nation after the war.

In American memory, Lee has been elevated to mythological status. After his death in 1870 members of Lee’s former high command staff turned Lee into a Christ-like figure who could do no wrong, thus setting the stage for the beginning of the myth of the Lost Cause, where the South was viewed as virtuous and noble defeated not because their cause was unjust, but rather because they were overwhelmed by superior numbers and resources. Lee became the de facto symbol for Lost Cause proponents and when the American Hall of Fame was established in 1909, Lee was one of the first inductees, venerated as an American hero rather than a regional one. In the post war era of erecting public monuments to heroes the North took the lead in the immediate post war years. In 1890 with the dedication of the Lee Monument in Richmond southern states began to match their Northern counterparts in the arena of monument making and memory. 

Robert E. Lee's Full Bio »

Joe Wheeler
Joseph Wheeler (Library of Congress)

Joseph Wheeler (1836-1906)

Born in Georgia, but raised as a child in New England, after attending West Point, Wheeler served in the US Army with an affinity for the cavalry. He earned the name “Fighting Joe” as a result of his actions in the War with Mexico. When the Civil War began, Wheeler joined the Confederate Army where his skills as a fine cavalry officer were utilized. His actions as a leader of horse soldiers who waged guerilla like warfare on his opponents are in the same league as those of his contemporaries, JEB Stuart, Nathan Bedford Forrest and John Singleton Mosby.

His service to the Confederacy was principally in the western theater: Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, though he fought at the Battle of Shiloh with the 19th Alabama. His skills as a raider emerged during the subsequent Siege of Corinth and from 1862 to the end of the war Wheeler continued to wage aggressive guerilla type tactics on Union forces.

After the war Wheeler served in the United States House of Representatives from 1880 to 1900 as a member of the Democratic Party. Upon the outbreak of hostilities and war with Spain in 1898 Wheeler was appointed by President William McKinley as a General in the U.S. Army to command the Cavalry Division. Wheeler was the commander of Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders. In the first major land engagement of the war on Cuba at the Battle of Las Guasimas, Wheeler reportedly forgot which army he was leading shouting, “Let’s go boys. We’ve got the damn Yankees on the run again!” He retained his commission in the Army after the war and served with American forces during the Philippine-American War or Insurrection.

A prolific author after the Civil War on military topics Wheeler wrote the biography Fitz John Porter (1883), The Santiago Campaign (1898) Confederate Military History: Alabama (1899), and Report on the Island of Guam (1900). Wheeler also co-wrote several more books throughout the rest of his life, the last of which, The New America and the Far East: A Picturesque and Historic Description of These Land and Peoples, (1907), was published posthumously. Wheeler Is one of only a few former Confederate officers buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Stand Watie (1806-1871)

His Cherokee name, Degataga, translated means Stand Firm, thus Stand Watie, the last Confederate General to surrender an army in the field. Prior to the war Waite was a leader of the Cherokee nation of which he was most proud. During the war his branch of the Cherokees sided with the Confederacy and Waite served as a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army commanding the Confederate Indian Cavalry in the Army of the Trans-Mississippi. The Confederate Indian Cavalry was composed of mainly Cherokee, Muskogee, and Seminole Indians.

After the Civil War, Waite returned to his people’s homeland, Oklahoma, to help the Cherokee nation. Watie served as Principle Chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1862-1866. During the Civil War the Cherokee, many who were slave owners supported the Confederacy. After the war he worked to reconcile the Cherokee Nation’s grievances with the United States government leading a delegation to Washington. Struggles within the Cherokee nation also consumed Waite as he labored to heal the division between the Cherokee majority which had supported the Confederacy and a minor faction of the Cherokee which had remained loyal to the Union. With ill feeling Waite wanted to establish a separate Southern Cherokee Nation but failed in doing so. Inter-tribal resentment lingered into the 20th century. For a time Waitie lived in exile among the Choctaw Indian Nation. On September 9, 1871, Waite died after returning from his exile. He is buried in Delaware County, Oklahoma in the old Ridge Cemetery, now named Polson's Cemetery.

Daniel Edgar Sickles
Daniel E. Sickles (Library of Congress)

Daniel E. Sickles (1819-1914)

Defined by one of his biographer’s as an “American Scoundrel” Dan Sickles led a colored and checkered life. After attending Law School at NYU He became involved in politics and held several offices:  Corporate Consul of New York City, Secretary of U.S. Legation in London, and State and Federal legislator representing New York State as a member of the Democratic Party.

In 1859 he shot and killed his wife's lover, Francis Barton Key. The victim was the son of Francis Scott Key, (author of the Star Spangled Banner).  Future Secretary of State Edwin Stanton represented Sickles in what would be the first successful use of the "temporary insanity" defense.

Sickles began his military career serving as Colonel for the 17th New York Infantry before being appointed Brigadier General of Volunteers, commanding New York's Excelsior Brigade.  Sickles was a classic political general appointed not because of any military experience, but rather for his connections. In November 1862 he was promoted to Major General.  While he was extremely brave in battle, he often found himself in conflict with superior officers. In the Army of the Potomac he saw action early in the war during the Peninsula Campaign, at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville.

In 1867, Daniel Edgar Sickles received a brevet generalship in the US Army for his actions at Fredericksburg and Gettysburg. During Reconstruction from 1865 to 1867, he commanded the Department of South Carolina, the Department of the Carolinas, the Department of the South, and the Second Military District. In 1866, he was appointed colonel of the 42nd U.S. Infantry (Veteran Reserve Corps). In 1869 he was retired with the rank of major general. From 1869 to 1874 he served as US Minister to Spain, and took part in the negotiations growing out of the Virginius Affair an international incident between the United States, Spain, and Great Britain. His inaccurate and emotional messages to Washington promoted war, until he was overruled by Secretary of State Hamilton Fish and the war scare died out. Always a ladies man until his death, he flirted heavily in the Spanish royal court and was rumored to have had an affair with the deposed Queen Isabella II. Following the death of his wife, Teresa in 1867, in 1871 he married Senorita Carmina Creagh, the daughter of Chevalier de Creagh of Madrid, a Spanish Councilor of State. They had two children.

From 1888-1889 Sickles was president of the New York State Board of Civil Service Commissioners and served as sheriff of New York in 1890. Ever loyal to the Democratic Party, Sickles served as a member of the House of Representative in the 53rd Congress from 1893 to 1895. An important “founding father” of the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Movement, Sickles, devoted great energies from the end of the Civil War to the end of his life as chairman of the New York Monuments Commission, but he was forced out when $27,000 was found to have been embezzled.

Sickles had an important role in efforts to preserve the Gettysburg Battlefield, sponsoring legislation to form the Gettysburg National Military Park, buy up private lands, and erect monuments.  The only Union Corps Commander at Gettysburg to not have his own monument, when asked why, Sickles reportedly stated, “The battlefield at Gettysburg is my monument.” However, there was, in fact, a memorial commissioned to include a bust of Sickles, the monument to the New York Excelsior Brigade. It was rumored that the money appropriated for the bust was stolen by Sickles himself; the $27,000 he allegedly embezzled, this purportedly cost him his likeness (a portrait bust) on the monument. Where Sickles bust should have been placed, an American eagle sits instead. The monument can be found today in the Peach Orchard.  

On October 30, 1897 Sickles was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions on July 2, 1863 at Gettysburg although, his actions that day disobeyed orders and are highly controversial. His citation reads, “Displayed most conspicuous gallantry on the field vigorously contesting the advance of the enemy and continuing to encourage his troops after being himself severely wounded."  As legend has it, each July 2nd, on the anniversary of his right leg amputation at Gettysburg, Sickles would visit his limb which was on display in a glass case at the Army Medical Museum. Today, visitors can see Sickles leg and a cannon ball, like the one that seriously wounded him, on display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine. Sickles is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Daniel E. Sickles Bio »

Charles Redmond Douglass (1844-1920)

Charles Redmond Douglass, the third and youngest son of abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, served with distinction in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and was involved in the famous frontal assault at Fort Wagner, South Carolina.

After the Civil War he worked for the Freedman’s Bureau as a clerk, holding that position in Washington, DC from 1867-1869. From 1869-1875 he worked in the Treasury Department. A diplomatic career next followed when he worked for the State Department in 1871 as a clerk to the Santo Domingo Commission. His successful work there led to President Ulysses S. Grant appointing him consul to Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo. From 1875-1879 Douglass worked as a clerk in the U.S. consulate in Santo Domingo, returning to America upon his wife's death. With honed diplomatic skills and credentials Douglass relocated to upstate New York and joined the West India commissions business. Returning to Washington, DC in 1882, Douglass next found employment as an examiner for the United States Pension Bureau. He retired from federal government service in 1920. While living and working in Washington, DC in the 1870s he enjoyed a role for the District of Columbia schools as their secretary and treasurer following his appointment as a trustee in 1872. During this tenure he secured the employment of the first African American teachers in the nation’s schools and was an advocate of equal pay for African American teachers. A lifelong activist for Civil Rights, Douglass also found success in the newspaper business working for his famous father after he purchased the "New National Era" in 1870, becoming a correspondent. Douglass also dabbled in real estate and became a developer in Maryland establishing a beachfront property on twenty-six acres creating a summer resort, acquiring the property in 1892, calling it Highland Beach. Interested in and promoting the intellectual life of African Americans, Douglass served as president of the Bethel Literary and Historical Association, a cultural and literary institution for African-Americans in Washington, DC. Douglass also joined the District of Columbia's branch for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He died at the age of 76.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Library of Congress)

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (1828-1914)

Though present at Antietam, Chamberlain and his regiment , the 20th Maine, saw their first trial by fire in one of the doomed assaults on Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg but missed a chance to be involved at the Battle of Chancellorsville due to an outbreak of smallpox.  Losses at Chancellorsville elevated Col. Adelbert Ames, the regiment’s commander and Chamberlain’s military mentor as well, to brigade command, leaving Chamberlain to command the regiment in the next major engagement of the war, the Battle of Gettysburg.  

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain returned to Maine a hero after the Civil War living in pain and sometimes ill health due to the severe wound he sustained at Petersburg. A member of the Republican Party, Chamberlain served as Governor of Maine for four, one year terms 1866-1869 then served as President of Bowdoin College, where he had been a professor of rhetoric before the war from 1871-1883. He spoke eloquently at the dedication of the 20th Maine Monument on Little Round Top in 1888 famously saying, “On great fields something abides, on great fields something remains,” a quote often invoked in the Civil War battlefield preservation movement. He remained active in the affairs of the Grand Army of the Republic until his health, due to his lingering wounds, forced him to stop. In 1893 he received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions on Little Round Top on July 2, 1863. Chamberlain finally succumbed to his wounds and died in 1914 at the age of 85. He is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery in Brunswick, Maine.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's Full Bio »

Colonel Emory Upton
Colonel Emory Upton (Library of Congress)

Emory Upton (1839-1881)

Graduating 8th in his class from West Point in 1861, Upton saw combat for much of the Civil War. 

He was at Bull Run and Antietam. After Antietam he was promoted to Colonel of the 121st New York which saw action at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. He is famously remembered for proposing and then leading a futile assault at the Mule Shoe Salient at Spotsylvania Court House.

After the Civil War, Upton continued his military service as an instructor, most notably as the Commandant of West Point from 1870-1875.  During this time he wrote: A New System of Infantry Tactics, The Armies of Asia and Europe, and The Military Policy of the United States from 1775.  These and other writings, drawn from his experiences in the Civil War—as well as his own personal observations of foreign military practices—advocated dramatic changes in the American Armed Forces including advanced military education and improved promotion protocols.  Upton’s works were widely read in military circles and were later published by Secretary of War Elihu Root. In the last years of his life, Upton suffered from severe headaches, quite possibly migraines associated with a brain tumor.   On March 15, 1881, while commanding the 4th Artillery in Presidio, California, he wrote out his resignation from the Army and promptly took his own life.  Upton is buried in Fort Hill Cemetery, Auburn, New York

Emory Upton's Full Bio »

Grenville Dodge (1831-1916)

Appointed by the Governor of Iowa as the Commander of the 4th Iowa, Dodge saw service for most of the war in the west. He led troops at the Battle of Pea Ridge and was involved in the Atlanta Campaign, leading his corps in action at the Battle of Ezra Church. Dodge was shot in the head by a Confederate sharpshooter during the siege of Atlanta.

Named Commander of the Department of the Missouri which, at the end of the war included Kansas, Nebraska, and Utah, Grenville Dodge helped bring an end to the American frontier. In the summer of 1865 he organized the Powder River Expedition to put down Indian uprisings along the Bozeman Trail and western mail routes. Punitive expedition against Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes, known to history as Red Cloud’s War. During the Powder River Expedition he was captured by a war party of Indians and managed to escape. While escaping he discovered a pass through the Black Hills Mountains west of the Platte River for the Union Pacific Railroad to utilize during their construction of the Transcontinental Railroad building from East to West.

In 1866 he resigned from the US Army and became the Chief Engineer of the Union Pacific Railroad and was a principle character in overseeing the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. He can be seen in the iconic photograph, on the right side, shaking hands with his counterpart Samuel Montague of the Central Pacific Railroad, taken when the Golden Spike was hammered into place in Ogden, thus completing the Transcontinental Railroad.

During his work for the railroad, Dodge was caught up in the subsequent financial scandal that was a result of the construction, known as Crédit Mobilier. Dodge was rewarded handsomely for his work and received a sizeable monetary windfall from the scandal then fled to Texas in an effort to not testify in any court proceedings related to the scandal. This particular scandal and subsequent related corruption overshadowed the administration of President Grant.

In 1866 he was elected as a Republican member of the United States House of representatives in Iowa, representing the 5th Congressional District of Iowa. He served until 1869. After leaving Congress Dodge became a prolific businessman in the railroad industry and relocated to New York City to oversee his financial and quasi-railroad empire. In this capacity he served as either President or Chief Engineer of numerous railroad companies. During the Spanish American War he served at the head of a commission to investigate the conduct of the Army during the war. The US Senate published the document as "Report of the Commission appointed by the President to investigate the Conduct of the War Department during the war with Spain." Using his personal railcars for transportation during the investigation, Dodge and other members of the Committee traveled in style between cities where they conducted their inquiries. Near the end of his life he was involved with the plans to erect a statue in Washington, DC, not far from the White House to General William T. Sherman. Dodge died in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1916 and is buried there in Walnut Hill Cemetery. His home is a National Historic Landmark in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

William Tecumseh Sherman
Major General William T. Sherman (Library of Congress)

William T. Sherman (1820-1891)

Best known as a proponent of “Total War” William T. Sherman saw service in the Union Army from the first battle at Bull Run where he was a colonel until the war ended. Sherman spent most of the war in the Western Theatre and his troops were involved in most of the major campaigns of that theatre from Shiloh, to Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and the Atlanta Campaign. He is best known in Civil War annals for his famous March to the Sea where he told his superior General, Ulysses S. Grant, “I will make Georgia howl” leaving in his wake a forty to sixty mile-wide path of destruction through the heartland of Georgia.  On December 21, 1864 Sherman wired Lincoln to offer him an early Christmas present: the city of Savannah. 

Sherman’s September 1864 capture of Atlanta is in part credited to Abraham Lincoln’s reelection to the Presidency in November 1864.

After the war, William T. Sherman remained in the military and eventually rose to the rank of full general, serving as general-in-chief of the army from 1869 to 1883.  Praised for his revolutionary ideas on "total warfare," William T. Sherman died in 1891. Critics have scorned him on counts of being an overzealous warrior and for not believing in the political and social equality of the Negro. From 1869-1883 he was the principle American general managing the Plains Indian Wars covering the lands included in the Military Division of the Missouri, essentially the land between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains – he had limited resources to protect new settlers and the railroad as the nation moved westward in the years after the Civil War. As general of the Military District of Missouri he negotiated many treaties for the United States government with various Indian tribes. In 1869 he was promoted to General of the Army upon the election of his friend Ulysses S. Grant to the Presidency. During his tenure the nation saw rapid growth west of peoples carried there by the burgeoning railroad system as well as the systematic decimation of the buffalo in an effort to force Indian nomadic tribes to give up their way of life. Sherman oversaw the realignment of Army posts (forts) to reflect the changes made in the westward movement. In dealing with the Indians, Sherman gave wide latitude to his subordinates, such as Phillip Sheridan to wage a hard war on the Indian tribes not unlike the kind Sherman waged on southerners during the Civil War, but was equally as hard in meriting justice to white speculators and corrupt Indian Affair personnel who took advantage of Indians for personal gain. In spite of his attempts to reduce tension on the frontier he sustained much criticism from humanitarians who supported the cause of Indians and their rights. In an effort to deal with these criticisms he relocated Army headquarter from Washington to St. Louis.

In 1875, Sherman publishes his two volume memoirs. Prior to giving up active duty in 1883 and retiring from military service in 1884, Sherman delivered several speeches to various military and social groups across the nation. His famous sobriquet, “War is Hell” probably emanated during this time though historians are not sure whether he uttered the words at the graduation ceremonies for the Michigan Military Academy or before a crowd in Columbus, Ohio.

He retired to live out his life in New York City becoming a patron of the arts, dying in 1891. During his last years he only posed once for a portrait sculpture a bust sculpted by the great American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens which became the face of Sherman immortalized on what many consider one of the greatest equestrian statues of the world, the Sherman Memorial in New York City near the south entrance to Central Park. Saint-Gaudens found Sherman to be difficult both as a person and as a subject matter. Sherman’s massive funeral in New York City took place on a bitterly cold day with rain. Thousands, including Civil War veterans from both sides attended the funeral and stood in respect along the procession route. Sherman’s remains were transferred by rail to St. Louis, Missouri where he is buried in Calvary Catholic Cemetery. Though not Catholic himself, Sherman married into a devout Catholic family. In Sherman’s honor the most prolific American tank used in World War II “the Sherman” found great service in the various Allied armies and in California the largest Sequoia Redwood was named the General Sherman. 

William T. Sherman's Full Bio »

George H. Thomas
Major General George H. Thomas (Library of Congress)

George Henry Thomas (1816-1870)

A Virginian by birth, George Henry Thomas, remained loyal to the government of the United States after Virginia seceded and thus was disowned by his family. After the war he was never welcomed into their presence again. His sisters turned a portrait painting of him around in their house to face the wall. 

Although an earlier back injury made his physical movements deliberate, Thomas possessed deep tactical understanding of warfare, attributable to having served in all three branches of the military. During the Battle of Chickamauga, he held his position, rallying broken and scattered units to prevent a hopeless rout. Future president James Garfield reported to Army of the Cumberland commander William Rosecrans that Thomas was “standing like a rock,” and the name stuck; the “Rock of Chickamauga” was soon elevated to command and rose to greater fame.

When the Civil War ended Thomas commanded the Department of the Cumberland in Kentucky and Tennessee, and at times also West Virginia and parts of Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama, where he worked to uphold the rights of freedmen against abuses.

In 1869 Thomas was approached by President Andrew Johnson soliciting from him a position of Lieutenant General in the US Army. Thomas who eschewed politics asked that his name be removed by the Senate for consideration. In 1869 upon his request he was appointed to the Military District of the Pacific taking up residency in San Francisco at the Presidio. During his post war career he spent much time anguishing over his reputation as being somewhat slow, hence the nickname of Old Slow Trot given to him by cadets at West Point which then carried over during the war. Derision of his name continued during the war by those opposed to Thomas’ place in the Union Army. Because he was of southern birth he was often perceived by the general staff in Washington and the Lincoln Administration as being a southern sympathizer, with officials blaming his dalliance in military maneuvers on his personal leanings. Many historians in his defense argue that Thomas was not slow, merely methodical in his planning and execution. National Park Service Historian Emeritus, Ed Bearss, once said, “Thomas knew when he was going to hit you and he was going to hit you hard.”

Ever sensitive about his reputation, Thomas died of an apparent attack of apoplexy only five years after the Civil War concluded. Some historians believe that his stroke was precipitated by his reading and trying to reply to an unflattering article about him in a period journal written by his worst Civil War nemesis General John Schofield. Thomas was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, New York, the home of his wife, Frances. Unforgiven by his family, no blood relatives attended his funeral. 10,000 mourners attended Thomas’s burial including President Grant and his Cabinet, Generals Meade, Hooker, Sheridan, Sherman, Rosecrans, and Schofield. Unlike other Civil War personalities of the same rank, Thomas, an extremely private individual, never wrote his memoirs and prior to his death destroyed any and all correspondence of any kind.

George Thomas's Full Bio »

Sheridan Portrait
Phillip H. Sheridan (Library of Congress)

Phillip Sheridan (1831-1888)

Sheridan is most famous for his destruction of the Shenandoah Valley in 1864, called “The Burning” by its residents.  At Chattanooga, his troops assaulted Confederate position’s atop Missionary Ridge. His actions caught the eye of Ulysses S. Grant who brought Sheridan east with him when he relocated his command of the Union Army to Virginia. In Virginia, Sheridan assumed command of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Command. Sheridan, like Grant and Sherman, favored the philosophy of Total War.

At war’s end, Phil Sheridan was a hero to many Northerners and a household name. His commander General Grant held him in the highest esteem.  During Reconstruction, Sheridan was appointed to be the military governor of Texas and Louisiana (the Fifth Military District).  Because of the severity of his administration there, President Andrew Johnson declared that Sheridan was a tyrant and had him removed. In 1867, Ulysses S. Grant charged Sheridan with pacifying the Great Plains, where warfare with Native Americans was wreaking havoc.  In an effort to force the Plains Indians onto reservations, Sheridan used the same tactics he used in the Shenandoah Valley:  he attacked several tribes in their winter quarters, and he promoted the widespread slaughter of American bison, their primary source of food.  The phrase, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian,” has been attributed to Sheridan.

In 1871, Sheridan oversaw military relief efforts during the Great Chicago Fire.  He became the Commanding General of the United States Army on November 1, 1883, and on June 1, 1888, he was promoted to General of the Army of the United States – the same rank achieved by Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. Sheridan is also largely responsible for the establishment of Yellowstone National Park – saving it from being sold to developers. 

In August 1888, Sheridan died after a series of massive heart attacks.  He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, his grave not too far from Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee. His horse, originally named Rienzi, then after Sheridan’s famous ride, renamed Winchester, can be seem mounted and on display in the Smithsonian Institute’s Museum of American History.

Phillip Sheridan's Full Bio »

George Brinton McClellan
Major General George B. McClellan (National Archives)

George B. McClellan (1826-1885)

In 1864, after leaving the Army George B. McClellan became involved in politics when he was nominated to be the Democratic candidate for president against his former boss, Abraham Lincoln.  McClellan ran on an anti-war platform, promising that he would negotiate peace terms with the Confederacy to help end the war as soon as possible.  But by November of 1864, a string of Union successes had convinced many that the war was in its final phase.  McClellan resigned his army commission on Election Day, but ultimately Lincoln was elected to a second term. After the war, McClellan, a railroad man before the Civil War, served as an administrator for a number of engineering firms and in 1878 was elected Governor of New Jersey.

In his final years, the former general penned a defense of his tenure as commander of the Army of the Potomac, but died before he could see it published. He is buried beneath an impressive column topped by a large eagle in Riverview Cemetery in Trenton, New Jersey.

George B. McClellan's Full Bio »

George Custer
George Custer (Library of Congress)

George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876)

George Armstrong Custer has been better known for his exploits after the Civil War than those during. However, his career in the Union army was a success due in large part to his dual characteristics of bravery and audacity.  Described as aggressive, gallant, reckless, and foolhardy, Custer has become one of the most celebrated and controversial figures of the Civil War. With his flair, Custer saw action at Second Manassas, served as a courier between Winfield Scott and Irvin McDowell, and subsequently as a staff officer for Generals George B. McClellan and Alfred Pleasanton with the temporary rank of captain.

On June 29, 1863 Custer was commissioned to brigadier general of volunteers and assigned to command a brigade in Kilpatrick’s division. While in this position he led his men in the Battle of Gettysburg where he assisted in preventing J.E.B. Stuart from attacking the Union rear. Upon his promotion he became the youngest general officer in the Union Army.

Throughout the remainder of the war Custer continued to distinguish himself as fearless, aggressive, and ostentatious.  His personalized uniform style, complete with a red neckerchief could be somewhat alienating, but he was successful in gaining the respect of his men with his willingness to lead attacks from the front rather than the back. 

As Custer's final major act in the war he led the division responsible for cutting off Lee’s last avenue of escape at Appomattox; a week later he received the appointment, major general of volunteers.

In 1866, George Armstrong Custer was commissioned lieutenant colonel of the newly formed 7th Cavalry and assigned to command the cavalry in the West.  While in this position he took part in Winfield Hancock’s expedition against the Sioux and Cheyenne in 1867.  After a court-martial and suspension from duty for an unauthorized visit to his wife, Elizabeth Clift Bacon, Custer was restored to duty by Philip Sheridan. Custer went on to take part in the Yellowstone expedition into the Black Hills, which precipitated the Sioux uprising of 1876, culminating in the Battle of Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876.  Under the over-all command of General Alfred H. Terry, Custer was to be part of a two column attack.  However, upon discovering a large native settlement, Custer proceeded to divide his own forces into three battalions. Without waiting for support, Custer led an attack which resulted in the annihilation of his immediate command and a total loss of 266 officers and men, including his brothers Tom and Boston.  The soldiers' remains were given a hasty burial on the battlefield, but within the next year Custer’s body was reinterred at West Point with a full military funeral. George Armstrong Custer was a prolific writer who recorded many of his escapades, and it was through these writings, as well as his wife’s determination to clear his name that he became one of the most celebrated and controversial figures of the Civil War. 

George Armstrong Custer's Full Bio »

Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant, as photographed by Mathew B. Brady (National Archives)

Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)

Arguably the most famous Union general of the Civil War, Grant, an 1843 mediocre graduate of West Point found early success and fame in the Western Theatre of the Civil War. Victories at Forts Henry and Donaldson, Shiloh, and Vicksburg catapulted him to President Lincoln’s attention. In 1864 Lincoln made Grant Commander of all Union Forces and Grant moved his headquarters to that of the Army of the Potomac where he brought the war to a successful conclusion in 1865, the result of his hard fought Overland Campaign.

After the Civil War, President Andrew Johnson named Ulysses S. Grant Secretary of War over the newly reunited nation. In 1868, running against Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant was elected eighteenth President of the United States. Unfortunately, though apparently innocent of graft himself, Grant’s administration was riddled with corruption, and scandal. For two years following his second term in office, Grant made a triumphal tour of the world.

In 1884, he lost his entire savings to a corrupt bank. To make up some of his losses, he wrote about his war experiences for Century Magazine. They proved so popular that he was inspired to write his excellent autobiography, Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, finishing the two-volume set only a few days before dying of cancer at the age of sixty-three. Mark Twain provided valuable assistance in helping Grant to complete his memoirs and get them published. In today’s parlance The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant was a best-seller. Ulysses S. Grant is buried in New York City, overlooking the Hudson River, in the largest mausoleum of its kind in the United States.  Reminiscent of Napoleon's tomb in Paris, Grant's tomb is a National Memorial. His beloved wife, Julia, is buried next to him.

Ulysses S. Grant's Full Bio »

Edward Ferrero (1831-1899)

Prior to the Civil War the Spanish born but of Italian lineage, Ferrero gained notoriety for his dancing acumen including teaching dance at West Point. When war broke out he joined the Union Army after having served as commander the 11th New York Militia, which was known for its precision in military steps the byproduct of Ferrero’s incorporation of dance moves into the Militia’s drill. 

The 151st New York was raised at his own expense with Ferrero serving as its first commander. Ferrero saw service with Ambrose Burnside as a Brigade Commander during the Roanoke Expedition where the 151st had the distinction of being the first Union regiment to capture a fortified Confederate position during the war.

Ferrero also led troops during Second Manassas and as a general for the first time at Fredericksburg. He also saw action in the Western Theater at Vicksburg and Knoxville. In 1864 he returned east and commanded black troops during the Petersburg Campaign.  His troops were slaughtered during the Battle of the Crater and he was accused of dereliction of duty, with rumors persistent that he was drunk during the attack.

After his debacle at Petersburg, Edward Ferrero left the military service in August 1865 returning to his adopted home, New York City. Rather than reopen his previous dance academy, Ferrero had larger ambitions and leased a building in a new location, eventually turning it into a world-famed ballroom known as Apollo Hall. After his lease ran out Ferrero, next, rented out Tammany Hall for his dancing academy and became a member of the Society of the same name and joined the Democratic Party though he never sought political office.

After the war he became an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Loyal Legion, and became a Freemason. As a writer Ferrero wrote two books related to the art of dancing. First, The Art of Dancing Historically Illustrated to Which is Added a Few Hints on Etiquette followed by his best-selling, The History of Dancing, which is still in print. Between the end of the Civil War and his death in 1899 Ferrero remained one of the most prominent dancers and dance instructors in the United States. He is buried in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.

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