Hugh Kilpatrick

Hugh Kilpatrick


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Hugh Kilpatrick was born in New Jersey in 1836. On the outbreak of the American Civil War he joined the Union Army and was commissioned captain of the 5th New York regiment. He was wounded at Big Bethel (10th June, 1861) but recovered to be promoted to colonel of the 2nd New York Cavalry in September, 1861.

Kilpatrick took part in the defence of Washington before fighting at the second battle of Bull Run (August, 1862). He joined General George Stoneman attempt to capture Richmond (June, 1863). Kilpatrick developed a reputation for "dare-devil recklessness that dismayed his opponents and imparted his own daring to his men."

He also fought at Gettysburg (July, 1863) before joining William T. Sherman who claimed: "I know Kilpatrick is a hell of a damned fool, but I want just that sort of man to command my cavalry." He led the cavalry corps of the Army of the Cumberland during the Atlanta Campaign. Promoted to major general, Kilpatrick resigned in December, 1865.

A member of the Republican Party, Kilpatrick was Minister to Chile (1866-68) but broke with the party when he supported Horace Greeley for the presidency in 1868. Hugh Kilpatrick was reappointed to Chile and died in Santiago in 1881.


Union General Judson Kilpatrick

Union General Judson Kilpatrick was flamboyant, reckless, tempestuous, and even licentious. In some respects he made other beaux sabreurs like fellow-cavalrymen George Custer and J. E. B. Stuart seem dull. Because he was a passionate man, Kilpatrick won many admirers and made many enemies during his Civil War career–and not all of his enemies wore gray. Those who knew him usually held one of two opinions. He was either a heroic and noble soldier, or (as one Federal officer wrote) ‘a frothy braggart without brains.

Opinions varied because Kilpatrick was complex. He was a hell-for-leather warrior most of the time, but often stood quite as eager to withdraw from a fight as he had been to enter it. He loved to make speeches to his troopers and worked hard to get public notice, but drove his men and horses so roughly, seemingly without regard for their well-being, that he earned the nickname, Kilcavalry. And in an army rife with gamblers and drinkers, Kilpatrick touched neither playing cards nor bottle but he lacked integrity and cherished certain other vices.

Physically, he looked anything but the romantic concept of the cavalryman. He was bantam-sized, with a lantern jaw, pale eyes, and frizzy red sidewhiskers. But being vain, he dressed with a certain flair. He wore carefully tailored uniforms, great boots, and a black felt hat tilted at a rakish angle. A staff officer once remarked that it was hard to look at him without laughing. But Kilpatrick impressed others with his restless energy, for he seemed always to be in a hurry to accomplish some great deed.

He was born Hugh Judson Kilpatrick near Deckertown, New Jersey, on January 14, 1836. His father was a farmer, but in his teens young Kilpatrick decided against agriculture as his own profession. Politics attracted him–an interest which remained with him through the years–and before he reached 20 he was stumping rural New Jersey on behalf of a local Congressman seeking renomination. The Congressman won and rewarded his young supporter by offering him an appointment to the United States Military Academy.

At West Point, Kilpatrick (Class of 1861) dropped his first name, won satisfactory grades, acted in Dialectic Society dramas, and developed his talent for public speaking. When the secession crisis swept the Academy he harangued cadets from the South with his Union sentiments. As a consequence he found himself involved in several fist fights, but despite his size he thrashed his way to victory more than once.

He was so caught up in the clamor to defend the Union that he got up a petition with classmates’ signatures and sent it to the War Department. The petition asked special permission for the Class of 󈨁 to graduate some months earlier than usual, so that its members could serve the nation as quickly as possible in this time of crisis. The request was granted.

On the April day on which he graduated (he was the class valedictorian), Kilpatrick married Alice Nailer, of New York, in the West Point chapel. He went to war carrying a silken banner which bore her name.

Although he became a lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Artillery upon graduation, Kilpatrick had no desire to fight the war either in the Regular Army or as an artilleryman. He turned to the volunteer service in a search for high rank and glory, and soon was commissioned captain in Duryée’s Zouaves (5th New York Infantry). At once he hurried south to join the regiment at Fort Monroe, Virginia, where he worked hard to mold his company into an effective fighting unit. But he was humane as well as stern, and able to win his soldiers’ confidence and affection.

His first assignments in the field–minor scouting and foraging expeditions– failed to satisfy his craving for battle. He had to wait until June 10 for his first touch of glory. On that day he became the first Regular Army officer to be wounded during the war, being struck in the thigh by a grapeshot while directing his men during the Battle of Big Bethel. Although this first large land fight of the war was a Confederate victory, Kilpatrick won high praise from the Northern press for his coolness and efficiency. As a result, while on leave to recuperate from his wound, he found himself a lieutenant colonelcy in the Harris Light Cavalry–subsequently designated the 2d New York. He accepted his commission on September 25, as did several other officers from Duryée’s Zouaves.

He served with the newly organized unit in the defenses of the nation’s Capital until late in January 1862. Then, tired of the dull routine of garrison life, he accepted the post of chief of artillery on militia Major General James H. Lane’s expedition into Texas. But he had barely started for Kansas, the rendezvous point for the march, when he learned that the expedition had been scrapped. More restless than ever for activity, Kilpatrick returned to his regiment at Arlington, Virginia.

When Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac sailed down the coast to the Virginia Peninsula, Kilpatrick remained behind with the 2d New York and conducted some minor raids through northern Virginia. During one of these, a night reconnaissance near Falmouth Heights, he demonstrated a talent for cunning and audacity. He had only one regiment in his command, but when he found himself confronting Confederate pickets he shouted orders to nonexistent reinforcements. Hearing him and believing that at least a brigade of cavalry was surrounding them, hundreds of Rebels scurried down the Heights, crossed the Rappahannock River, and burned the bridge so that Kilpatrick could not follow and capture them.

In July and August 1862, Kilpatrick went raiding. He struck at Stonewall Jackson’s communication lines in the Shenandoah Valley, burned railroad depots and destroyed tracks, ties, and telegraph lines. Late in August he participated in his first engagement at Brandy Station, Virginia, where he and the rest of Brigadier General George D. Bayard’s cavalry brigade were repulsed by J.E.B. Stuart’s legions.

On December 6, 1862 Kilpatrick became the colonel of the 2d New York. His fame continued to. grow, and in February 1863 he was given brigade command, at age 27.

He led his brigade on Stoneman’s Raid during the Chancellorsville Campaign. Although the operation, on the whole, was a failure, some of Stoneman’s officers, Kilpatrick among them, acquitted themselves well. With a detached force, Kilcavalry captured towns in enemy country, again destroyed railroad apparatus, and by marching sixty miles a day penetrated to within two miles of Richmond. His daring threw the Confederate Capital into a mild panic, but finally he had to retreat down the Peninsula to the Union lines outside Fort Monroe, to avoid being captured.

Following Stoneman’s Raid, Kilpatrick’s fame crested. He rode the crest when on June 9 he charged up Fleetwood Hill near Brandy Station during the greatest cavalry battle fought in North America. At the top of the hill his troopers engaged in saber-to-saber fighting against Stuart’s horsemen, trying to push the Rebels from the summit. Kilpatrick’s brigade charged in three waves, but the first two melted away under enemy artillery and flank fire. Elsewhere on the field other Federal brigades were faltering disastrously, and Kilpatrick realized the importance of holding the hill. With his third regiment he was able to smash into the Rebels and scatter them–and for a short time it appeared that his success would throw the battle in the Federals’ favor. But Stuart rallied his troopers and ultimately forced Kilpatrick and his comrades from Fleetwood. The battle went into the history books as another Rebel victory. But the Union horsemen had shown dash and determination–and none among them so much as the little gamecock from New Jersey. Four days later Kilpatrick was wearing the star of a brigadier general.

During the operations that preceded the battle of Gettysburg, he helped prevent Stuart from marching his cavalrymen through Maryland, by way of Edwards’ Ferry and Boonsborough, to join the major portion of General Robert E. Lee’s army. Although he was at first roughly handled by Brigadier General Fitzhugh Lee at Aldie, Viriginia, on June 17, a counterattack enabled him to chase the enemy from the field. Four days later he engaged in a fierce saber battle against Brigadier General Wade Hampton’s cavalry, which culminated in a charge that drove the Rebels out of Upperville, Virginia, and finally through Ashby’s Gap upon their own infantry columns in the Shenandoah Valley.

On June 28, 1863, the Army of the Potomac was reorganized. When Major General George G. Meade assumed over-all command, Kilpatrick was assigned a division in the Cavalry Corps. The unit consisted of two brigades under newly appointed generals, George Custer and Elon J. Farnsworth. Kilpatrick led his new command in its task of covering the army’s center, as the Federals followed Robert E. Lee into Pennsylvania.

On the last day of June Kilpatrick encountered Stuart’s cavalry division in Hanover, Pennsylvania. The Federals were drawn up in the streets of the town, resting, when Stuart’s leading brigade battered and nearly routed Farnsworth’s command. Farnsworth and Kilpatrick rushed up to re-form and steady their line, and they directed a vigorous counterattack that dispersed the Gray horsemen and nearly resulted in the capture of Stuart himself.

After the Confederates rode off, Kilpatrick took Farnsworth’s brigade toward Gettysburg. After a sharp skirmish against Hampton on July 2, the cavalry reached the rear of the Army of the Potomac. On the morning of July 3 Kilpatrick’s command took position on the left of the Union line, across the Emmitsburg Road.

July 3, 1863, marked the beginning of Kilpatrick’s decline as a soldier. To that date his career had been promising and distinguished great things had been expected of him. But on July 3 he made an unwise decision that resulted in the shattering part of Farnsworth’s brigade and the death of its young commander.

Following Pickett’s Charge, Kilpatrick directed Farnsworth to attack the extreme right of Rebel line. This was ordered, ostensibly, to exert such pressure on that vital defense point that the Confederates would be thrown back and their line opened up to a crushing assault by divisions of Union infantry. But it is also clear that Kilpatrick ordered the charge in frustration at having been kept out most of the day’s fighting. He realized that only an energetic officer who committed his troops to battle would win glory on this field.

But he asked the impossible of Farnsworth. The brigade commander was required to attack strongly positioned infantry over rough, boulder-strewn ground, despite being outnumbered. In point of fact, Farnsworth had tried that very thing a short while before and had failed signally. Naturally, he was stunned by the order. General, do you mean it? he asked. Shall I throw my handful of men over rough ground, through timber, against a brigade of infantry? The 1st Vermont has already been fought half to peices these are too good men to kill!

Kilpatrick was enraged that Farnsworth should question his command. Do you refuse to obey my orders? If you are afraid to lead this charge, I will lead it.

A witness to the confrontation later recalled the General Farnsworth rose in his stirrups–he looked magnificent in his passion, and cried, ‘Take that back!’ Kilpatrick hesistated a moment and backed down, but would not withdraw his order. For some seconds there was silence between them, until Farnsworth said quietly, General, if you order the charge, I will lead it, but you must take the responsibility.

His troopers made the charge, were as successful as the Light Brigade at Balaklava, and the responsibility indeed rested on Kilpatrick’s shoulders. In his official report of the battle, however, he tried to cover up his mistake with bombastic words about the infantry’s failure to exploit the confusion into which Farnsworth had thrown the Rebel right.

In the same report Kilpatrick praised the young general whose courage he had openly questioned a short time before: …he baptized his star in blood, and…for the honor of his young brigade and the glory of his corps, he yielded up his noble life.

Kilcavalry truly earned his sobriquet that day, but he tried to make amends by vigorously pursuing Lee into Maryland. In the days immediately following the battle he captured some of Lee’s wagons, and at such places as Hagerstown, Falling Waters, Williamsport, and Boonsborough, achieved varying degrees of success in combat against Confederate infantry and cavalry. In reporting these engagements, however, Kilpatrick indulged a perennial weakness for exaggerating the number of prisoners taken and hte number of casualties inflicted upon the enemy.

As the war moved farther south, Kilpatrick returned to Virginia and spent the rest of the summer and that fall slugging away at J.E.B. Stuart’s horsemen. He took a short respite from this grueling work when he used his artillery to bombard two Confederate-manned gunboats in the Rappahannock. Afterward the slugging matches resumed, and he fought fa series of battles at and near Brandy Station. In one of these he achieved a modest feat by escaping from an encirclement set by Stuart’s men. However, this was later described in slightly grander terms by one regimental historian: Kilpatrick thus escaped serious injury, defeated his pursuers, and presented to the beholders one of the grandest sights witnessed in the New World.

During the winter of 1863­64 Kilpatrick sat in winter quarters and did some thinking. He reassessed his career, and re-evaluated his goals. At length he decided that his future was to be in terms of elective office: first, he would become governor of his native state, and then the President of the United States. And he determined to prosecute the war in a way that would assure the attainment of these goals. He knew that his cateer, and therefore his future, had been jeopardized at Gettysburg and in subsequent campaigning. Clearly he needed a plan that would give him new prominence and would once again splash his name across the North’s newspapers.

After much deliberation he conceived such a plan. He would enter Richmond with his cavalry, free the Union prisoners there, and perhaps even capture Confederate officials. The more he thought about it, the more eager he grew to test teh scheme. he boasted to others of its brilliance, and it was not long before his boasts were circulating through the army, and northward. President Lincoln eventually heard of it, and began to wonder. In this third year of hostilities the President was almost desperately searching for a blueprint for peace. Despite Kilpatrick’s uneven past performances, Lincoln called the cavalryman to the White House and asked for details. Kilpatrick was more than happy to oblige. When he learned that Lincoln was anxious to distribute through Virginia copies of his amnesty proclamation for secessionists who wished to come back into the Union, he assured the President that his expedition would be the ideal means to that end. Lincoln finally gave his approval for the raid, and a joyous Kilpatrick returned south to put it to the test.

On the morning of February 28, 1864 he started his cavalry toward Richmond from Stevensburg, Virginia. His 4,000 troopers rode in two columns. Under his personal command 3,500 of them were to strike the city from the north 500 in a detachment led by a boyish, onelegged colonel named Ulric Dahlgren, were to attack the Capital from the south. Dahlgren had been taken into Kilpatrick’s plans because he was eager to smell hell–and, incidentally, because he had impeccable social credentials (his father was a prominent Federal admiral).

The raid began smoothly enough. The columns proceeded south by widely divergent routes, planning to make a concerted attack on Richmond–believed to be only thinly guarded this winter–on March 1. Both Kilpatrick and Dahlgren met with little opposition in their destruction of railroad lines and private property, and distributed hundreds of copies of the President’s proclamation.

But the Yankees’ coming had been anticipated by the Confederates. Just outside Richmond Kilpatrick was hit by units of Rebel infantry, artillery, and cavalry. He faltered and then retreated–beaten back fro n the city when success was nearly in his hands. Dahlgren, meanwhile, was stymied by an unfordable river and reached the city too late to coordinate an attack with Kilpatrick. The colonel and his men were sent on a disorderly retreat through a winter storm and were finally surrounded by Rebel home guardsmen. In an ambush fight the detachment was cut to pieces and Dahlgren met a tragic death at 21.

His hopes crippled, Kilpatrick retreated to Fort Monroe. There he fretted that instead of enhancing his reputation, the raid had broken it beyond repair. His anxiety deepened when a national controversy developed around papers found on Dahlgren’s body, stating that the raiders had planned to burn Richmond and kill President Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet.

Before the controversy became clouded and at last faded out, Kilpatrick did in fact see his name prominently displayed in the newspapers–especially Southern newspapers, who called him a barbarian, and worse.

Kilpatrick had just cause to feel concern. His failure resulted in his transfer from Virginia to the Western theater, where he was assigned to a cavalry command under Major General William T. Sherman. It was a demotion of sorts, and Kilpatrick could not delude himself into believing otherwise.

When he went west, Kilpatrick was no longer the cocky, self-assured firebrand he had been the year before. He had tasted defeat and censure, and they had been bitter pills indeed. Nevertheless, he did his best to fit comfortably into Sherman’s command. Soon after joining his new division, he used it to spearhead the Federal drive through Tennessee and into Georgia, over Taylor’s Ridge to Buzzard Roost and through Snake Creek Gap to Resaca, Georgia.

In battle outside Resaca, in May, he had his first large dose of action in the West. There he was so badly wounded that he was forced to leave the field and return north for recuperation.

But through three years of war, he had not learned how to relax from campaigning. He returned to duty in July, against his doctor’s orders, when he heard that Sherman had crossed the Chattahoochee River and was moving on Atlanta.

By the time he returned to the field, his commander was in the city, after General John Bell Hood’s Confederate Army of Tennessee had abandoned it in retreat. Because his wound prevented him from riding horseback, Kilpatrick commandeered a carriage and rode alongside his troopers, shouting orders from the front seat. From the carriage he even conducted a raid against the Confederateheld Atlanta-Macon Railroad.

On August 18 Kilpatrick, now able to ride again, led another raid against Rebel communications south of Atlanta. He marched his division and some auxiliary units to the railroad between Jonesborough and Griffin, destroyed some miles of track, and then was challenged by enemy cavalry, who pushed his force to Lovejoy’s Station. Arriving there on August 20, he found Rebel infantry sitting across his path. Nearly surrounded, Kilpatrick mustered some of the spirit that had won him a strong reputation earlier in the war. He faced his troopers about, charged, and in the words of one historian, simply rode over the Confederate cavalry to safety.

Sherman was not pleased, however, with the scanty accomplishments of the raid. While he did not censure Kilpatrick personally, he relied more heavily than ever before on his infantry to catch and overwhelm Hood. At first Sherman planned to defeat Hood by separating him from his lines of communication and supply. Then he decided to turn his back on the Confederate commander and with a part of his army push east across Georgia to Savannah and the coast, burning out the state. He sent Major General George H. Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland back into Tennessee, where he was to deal with Hood’s westward-marching army. Then Sherman made ready to march to the sea.

He chose Kilpatrick to lead his cavalry, although Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant had previously appointed Major General James H. Wilson to command all the horsemen in Sherman’s theater. Sherman explained his decision to Wilson in curious terms: I know Kilpatrick is a hell of a damned fool, but I want just that sort of man to command my cavalry on this expedition. He then directed Wilson to join General Thomas in Tennessee.

During the march to the sea, Kilpatrick made quite a name for himself. His name, in fact, became infamous to Georgians, who watched his cavalrymen run wild over their property. They learned that Kilpatrick overlooked incidents of pillaging and thievery by his men because he frankly enjoyed wreaking havoc on secessionists.

Some of the general’s favorite vices also came to public attention during the campaign. Georgia newspapers reported that he travelled with female companions, including two Negro girls who cooked for him and with whom he engaged in the most familiar and indecent conversation. And a Confederate prisoner later recalled marching in tow beside Kilpatrick’s carriage and seeing the general stretched out comfortably on the seat with his head in a woman’s lap.

Kilpatrick’s men merrily laid waste to the state, and when the cavalry occupied the capital, Milledgeville, Kilpatrick joined in their fun. He and his officers broke into the Georgia House of Representatives and staged a mock legislative session. Although a teetotaler, Kilpatrick reportedly took the speaker’s stand and regaled the assembly with tales of the cavalry’s gallant campaigns against enemy wine cellars and whiskey store rooms. After a round of speechmaking the congressmen drew up a series of resolutions, including one declaring the Georgia Ordinance of Secession a damned farce.

During the march Kilpatrick carried on a running war against Major General Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry, who constantly hovered on the fringes of Sherman’s army. Often Wheeler bested Kilpatrick in skirmishes and engagements, but not even Fightin’ Joe was able to curtail Sherman’s inexorable march through the state.

On the other hand, Kilpatrick got the better of Wheeler now and again, as in November when under Sherman’s orders he swung his cavalry north toward Augusta and then south toward Millen. It was a feinting movement and Wheeler, taking the bait, concentrated his cavalry at Millen, thinking that the Federal horsemen were heralding Sherman’s advance. Actually Sherman was marching unmolested in another direction–toward Savannah–with his four infantry corps.

Fuming at his deception, Wheeler tried to get even. On one occasion he routed Kilpatrick from a night bivouac. On another day he pushed him away from some strategic objectives which he had planned to destroy. And when Kilpatrick’s cavalry reached Aiken, South Carolina, Wheeler’s men struck them so viciously that the Federals were driven out of the town like chickens.

On the whole, however, Kilpatrick did an efficient job of guarding Sherman’s flanks. When the army reached Savannah, just before Christmas 1864, Sherman wrote him: The fact that to you, in great measure, we owe the march of four strong infantry columns, with heavy trains and wagons, over 300 miles through an enemy’s country, without the loss of a single wagon, and without the annoyance of cavalry dashes on our flanks, is honor enough for any cavalry commander.

When Sherman resumed his march, from Savannah through the Carolinas, Kilpatrick redoubled his efforts to make the Confederacy suffer. At the start of that campaign, according to prevalent rumors, he issued large quantities of matches to his troopers. He left no doubt about his intentions when he told some of his officers: In after years when travelers passing through South Carolina shall see chimney stacks without houses, and the country desolate, and shall ask ‘who did this?’ some Yankee will answer, ‘Kilpatrick’s cavalry.’ And he spoke even more plainly to a group of foot soldiers: There’ll be damned little for you infantrymen to destroy after I’ve passed through that hellhole of secession.

He tried hard to keep his word. As an example, consider his short but unpleasant stay in Barnwell, South Carolina, where his troopers were careless with their matches. While flames consumed part of the town, Kilpatrick held a gala ball at his headquarters and even forced some of the local ladies to dance with his officers. Thereafter his soldiers renamed the place, fittingly, Burnwell.

Through South Carolina Kilpatrick continued his war against both Wheeler and Lieutenant General Wade Hampton, whose cavalry guarded the retreat of the Army of Tennessee, once again under General Joseph E. Johnston. In addition to authorized warfare, Kilpatrick engaged in a bitter personal feud with Hampton, stemming from reports that Hampton’s men had lynched captured Federal troopers. Although Hampton denied the charges, Kilpatrick heatedly declared that he would retaliate in kind. It is difficult to determine where the burden of guilt in this should rest, for unauthorized killings undoubtedly took place on both sides, but certainly the issue inflamed the bitter feelings that already existed between Kilpatrick and his opponents. Since Kilpatrick’s men retaliated by violating private property, the people of South Carolina suffered most for it in the long run.

Shortly after Sherman’s army entered North Carolina, Kilpatrick endured perhaps the most embarrassing hour in his career. It came about because of his old fondness for female companionship.

Despite his raccoon-like face and slight build, Kilpatrick had always considered himself a ladies’ man. When his wife Alice died in 1863, his passionate nature apparently turned into licentiousness. While in Virginia he had been intimate with a pretty camp follower who had also been a good friend of his subordinate, Custer. And in North Carolina he travelled with another companion, a tall, handsome, well-dressed lady.

Presumably it was she who, clad only in a nightgown, was routed from Kilpatrick’s headquarters near Fayetteville, North Carolina, when Hampton’s cavalry attacked it one night in March 1865 Kilcavalry himself, wearing nightshirt and boots, was nearly captured when a Confederate swooped down on him and demanded to know General Kilpatrick’s whereabouts. Realizing that in his sleepwear he had been taken for an ordinary soldier, Kilpatrick pointed to a passing horseman and said, There he goes! The Rebel spurred his mount and was off, and Kilpatrick wasted no time finding a horse of his own and riding to safety. His lady friend, meanwhile, had to hide in a ditch until the fighting was over. When the Confederates learned these facts, they laughed heartily at Kilpatrick’s expense.

But the Rebels’ merriment could not last. In subsequent weeks Sherman proceeded to back Johnston into his final corner, and Kilpatrick’s men bagged scores of prisoners–Confederates who sensed the futility of waging a doomed campaign. On April 26 Johnston was forced to surrender his army to Sherman near Durham Station, North Carolina, and the war was over. After the Rebel army disbanded, Kilpatrick was promoted major general of volunteers and won a brevet major generalship in the Regular Army.

Kilpatrick’s postwar life was varied and colorful if ultimately tragic. Resigning his commission, he was appointed minister to Chile by President Andrew Johnson. In South America, his libertine days at an end, he married the niece of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Santiago and settled comfortably into domestic life when he was recalled to the United States in 1868.

Kilpatrick later became a director of the Union Pacific Railroad, tried his hand at playwriting, and spoke to numerous veterans’ associations. He switched his politics to vote for Democrat Horace Greeley in 1872, but afterward returned to the Republican fold and was reappointed minister to Chile in 1880. He served there until his death the following year from a kidney ailment.

He never achieved his most cherished goals. Though in February 1864 he had envisioned himself a future governor and President, he made only one bid for elective office–a rather modest one, as a congressional candidate from New Jersey, in 1880. But he was soundly defeated.

Though it may seem a minor defeat, Kilpatrick never quite got over it he always longed for the adulation of the electorate. For a man who had seen many hopes destroyed during his lifetime, this was perhaps the cruelest disappointment of all.

This article was written by Edward G. Longacre and originally published in the April 1971 issue of Civil War Times Illustrated Magazine.

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Sussex County Lost, April 9: Kilpatrick's Encampment

Not long after the signing of the surrender of the Confederate forces to the Army of the Potomac, many former combatants took up the pen to refight the Civil War in newspapers and books.

Not long after the signing of the surrender of the Confederate forces to the Army of the Potomac, many former combatants took up the pen to refight the Civil War in newspapers and books.

Union Maj. Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick was considered one of the more colorful figures to emerge from the war. The general longed for a more physical and emotional reminder of things past. In 1878, on the rolling hills and fields of his Sussex County farm in Wantage Township, "Little Kil," as he was referred to by his West Point classmates, sought to re-create scenes familiar to the veterans of four years of warfare.

Kilpatrick planned to stage the first re-enactment of a Civil War battle.

Kilpatrick was derisively known to some as "Kill-Cavalry" for his supposed abuse of men and horseflesh during the war. However, not every cavalryman agreed with this infamous nickname. "That he has done some rash things all must acknowledge," wrote one trooper in the 2nd New York Cavalry (the Harris Light Cavalry that Kilpatrick was in command of), "but that he has done much to give a name to the Cavalry of the Union Army must also be acknowledged."

After graduation from West Point in the class of May 1861, the future general fought as a captain at Big Bethel and recruited a portion of the Harris Light Cavalry as its lieutenant colonel at the Sussex Inn. He led a brigade and division of cavalry in the Gettysburg campaign and initiated a failed 1864 raid on Richmond to free Union prisoners from the infamous Libby Prison.

He completed his Civil War career as commander of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's cavalry in the famous March to the Sea and Carolina campaigns. Despite several battlefield embarrassments and three combat wounds, Kilpatrick managed to attain the rank of major general by age 27.

From his early days at West Point, Kilpatrick nourished a keen interest in politics. It is believed that his meteoric rise in rank was integrally tied to political connections he had cultivated over time. However, by 1878 Kilpatrick's political prospects were less than dismal.

Despite repeated attempts, he failed to garner the nomination for New Jersey governor or the U.S. House of Representatives, and had changed political parties twice. As a backer of Rutherford B. Hayes' 1876 presidential bid, Kilpatrick had mismanaged his campaign responsibilities. He lost Hayes' confidence, which cost him a coveted job in the new administration.

But the former cavalry commander would not be thwarted in his attempt to gain additional notoriety or prestige. Now a gentleman farmer in Wantage, he conceived the idea of an immense encampment for Grand Army of the Republic veterans. The three-day event would include military parades, appearances by famous generals and politicians, speeches, a play authored by Kilpatrick himself, even a re-enactment between the veterans and members of the New Jersey National Guard.

At first, preparations went along somewhat smoothly, with Gov. George B. McClellan -- the former Union general -- agreeing to provide troops, tents, arms and equipment. A New York City caterer was engaged to serve special guests at the general's farmhouse. The famous showman P.T. Barnum provided a giant tent to accommodate 5,000 people. A grandstand, fresh-water aqueduct and guardhouse were constructed. In order to recoup funds that he was laying out, Kilpatrick would pay for the free event by charging vendors for booth space.

In order to draw more veterans and the general public to the event, Kilpatrick announced that several well-known and revered generals from the war would be attending. These dignitaries included President Rutherford B. Hayes, New Jersey Gov. George McClellan, and Generals William T. Sherman and Phil Sheridan. However, their attendance was never confirmed prior to the event, and so many of those attending the three-day event were sorely disappointed. Maj. Gen. Dan Sickles, another very colorful member of the general staff of the Union Army, did come to the event to show his support for Kilpatrick.

To quell any fears of anyone who was concerned about crime, Kilpatrick promised that sheriff's deputies and detectives would patrol the camp to ensure pickpockets and "base women" would be discouraged from plying their respective trades.

The event was scheduled to run from Aug. 25-27, 1878. The first day five trains arrived in Deckertown (now Sussex Borough) with each carrying about 400 passengers. Many more came by foot, horseback or carriage. An estimated 4,000 attendees were veterans the remaining 36,000 visitors were composed of family members, curiosity seekers and, despite Kilpatrick's assertions, a criminal element.

The first day's scene was reminiscent of the war itself, as scarred, empty-sleeved veterans arrived at the crowded railroad station accompanied by state militia units in full dress uniforms.

More than 10,000 people made their way 21/2 miles from the train depot to the farm. After they trudged up the dusty roads, the throng quickly became aware of shortages in food and tents. "We didn't have a thing to eat," claimed a member of the New Jersey National Guard, "until my company formed, and each man putting in thirty cents, we bought our supper."

Beer, however, was not in short supply. Apparently the much-touted aqueduct system failed, so participants took advantage of the 10,000 kegs of brew that had been brought to the farm to quench their thirst. "Camp Kilpatrick," likened by the press to "one vast beer garden," had its share of gamblers, pickpockets, roulette wheels, sword swallowers and other raucous performers. Adding innuendo to Kilpatrick's reputation, just a mile from the general's farmhouse was a large tent staffed by "shameless women," who apparently were doing a brisk trade.

Day two included a dress parade, political speeches by one-legged Gen. Dan Sickles and a performance of Kilpatrick's new play, "Allatoona." When actors forgot their lines, the general, hidden off stage, was ready with his prompter's book. The evening concluded with a serenade dedicated to Mrs. Kilpatrick and a grand fireworks display.

The last day of the celebrated August encampment dawned slightly cool and cloudless. By noon, about 30,000 spectators had crammed onto Kilpatrick's pastures for the much-heralded re-enactment battle.

The discharge from a single cannon signaled the opening of a 1,500-man battle. The veterans, acting the part of Confederates, were posted on a hill. The New Jersey state militia attacked from its position on the field below, capturing the battery. The veterans organized and carried out a well-coordinated counterattack with flags flying, musketry rattling and artillery blazing. Hand-to-hand combat in retaking the field pieces left many re-enactors bleeding from small wounds.

Suddenly, Kilpatrick emerged on his horse, dashing into the melee with a flag of truce. Recognizing a supreme dramatic moment, Kilpatrick, standing up in his stirrups, declared for all to hear that his long-standing wish had been fulfilled: He had re-created the past days of glory. The crowd responded with uproarious cheers.

The re-enactment thus concluded, the men marched back to camp. In typical theatrical style, Kilpatrick stood on his porch, his arm in a sling, feigning a wound as the troops filed by him.

For one season at least, the general's farm was destroyed: his grain and hay supply consumed, the cornfield trampled, the orchard ruined, fences pulled down and used for bonfires (much like during the war). Cynics who speculated that he hosted the re-enactment for profit were grossly mistaken. A New York paper sarcastically commented: "This little entertainment will cost him $5,000 when all the bills are in. But what are filthy dollars to a man of sentiment?"

Kilpatrick, however, remained unmoved by the criticism. In this respect, his re-enactment was a perfect reflection of its creator: great fanfare, unfulfilled expectations, political hyperbole, a generous dose of theater, some success and an undercurrent of depravity. If nothing else, this event laid the groundwork for future military re-enactments that in recent decades have helped to educate the general public about early life in the army and specific campaigns and battles that shaped the future history of our country.


Bull Runnings

Some of the more intriguing threads I like to pull are the ones that link well known figures by blood or marriage – family ties. I’ve explored this before in the case of Peyton Manning (establishing that such a link probably doesn’t exist, see here, here and here), and you probably know the story of how a descendant’s relationship to First Bull Run Medal of Honor recipient Adelbert Ames led him to a memorable and often repeated encounter with the 35th President of the United States (if not don’t fret, I’ll talk about it later). Today let’s take a look at one of Ames’s classmates who had not one, but two descendants who are household names in the US today.

In May, 1861 Hugh Judson Kilpatrick graduated from the US Military Academy 17th out of his class of 45. Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st US Artillery on May 6, 1861, three days later he accepted a captaincy in the 5th New York Infantry, Duryee’s Zouaves. He was with that regiment in the expedition to Big Bethel in June, and in the battle there on June 10th he was severely wounded but did not retire from the field until too weak from loss of blood. Later he organized the 2nd NY Cavalry and by Dec. 1862 had risen to the colonelcy of that regiment. In June of 1863 he became a brigadier general of volunteers in command of a division of cavalry in the Army of the Potomac. He was hand-picked by Sherman to lead his cavalry in Georgia and the Carolinas, and ended the war a Major General USV and Brevet Maj. Gen. USA. After the war he twice served as US envoy to Chile, and he died in that country in 1881, of Bright’s disease at the age of 46.

Today, he serves mainly as a punch-line for Civil War authors working backwards from their conclusions and assumptions regarding his character.

Kilpatrick and his Chilean wife Luisa had a daughter, Laura Delphine, who married an American diplomat named Harry Morgan (no, not that Harry Morgan, though a like-named son would become an actor). Laura and Harry had a daughter named Gloria Laura Mercedes Morgan, who married Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, an heir to the Vanderbilt fortune. The fruit of that union was Gloria Laura Vanderbilt, the poor little rich girl who became the centerpiece of a bitter custody battle between her widowed mother and the powerful Vanderbilt clan. Eventually, her name graced the butts of hundreds of thousands of women in the 1970’s and ‘80’s. Little Gloria Vanderbilt is the great-granddaughter of Hugh Judson Kilpatrick.

Little Gloria’s fourth marriage, to Wyatt Emory Cooper, produced two sons. Older brother Carter committed suicide in 1988, jumping from the window of the family’s 14th floor apartment before his mother’s eyes. Kilpatrick’s other great-great-grandson, Anderson, pursued a career in journalism, and today has his own news program on CNN. See the resemblance?

By the way, another CNN talking head is named Campbell Brown. S he gets her first name from her mother’s side and her last from her father’s. So it seems s he’s not related to the stepson of Richard S. Ewell, a Confederate brigade commander at First Bull Run. That Campbell Brown wrote a Century Magazine article on his step-dad at Bull Run that can be found in Volume I of Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, and also published The First Manassas: Correspondence between Generals R. S. Ewell and G. T. Beauregard in further defense of Ewell in the face of Beauregard’s unfairly critical recollections. This book is a collection of his Civil War related writings.


Marietta's Rich History

Before there was an Atlanta or a Chattanooga there was Marietta, Ga. A small cluster of homes near the Cherokee town of Kennesaw were reported as early as 1824. An early road in what would become Cobb County crossed the "Shallow Ford" of the Chattahoochee and ran just south of these settlers.

In 1832 the state of Georgia formed 10 counties from what had been Cherokee land. Cobb County was named for Thomas Willis Cobb, U.S. representative, US senator and Supreme Court judge. In 1837 the Georgia Gazetteer reported that the city of Marietta was named for Cobb's wife. The Georgia legislature legally recognized the town on Dec. 19, 1834, but by that time a sizable community already existed. The first plat for the city, since destroyed, was laid out by James Anderson in 1833, who had worked extensively in north Georgia. Like most towns, Marietta had a square in the center with a modest courthouse.

Three years later the state assembly approved a bill creating the Western and Atlantic Railroad. Colonel Stephen Long, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, was chosen to head the project, and he selected Marietta as home base. The impact of locating near Marietta Square was significant. Business began to boom. Three taverns sprang up around the center of town to accompany the early stores of Thomas Johnston and George Winters, John Lemon, Watson W. Simpson, and James Waller. A tanyard was nearby.

By 1838 roadbed and trestles had been built north of the city. Construction continued until 1840 when Long quit, having been criticized by politicians for being too slow. He felt the criticism unfounded, and he was probably correct. For two years work came to a standstill until another engineer was found. On Feb. 7, 1842 Charles Fenton Mercer Garnett took over, using the area that would become Atlanta as his base.

As crews began to clear and grade north of the town a new pastime became popular. The roadbed was perfect for horse racing, and the sport grew quite popular, taking place in the approximate area of the present-day Marietta Welcome Center and Visitors Bureau. The Western and Atlantic began to operate from Atlanta to Adairsville in 1845 and through to Chattanooga in 1850. Tanyards became a thriving business and, coupled with railroad-related revenue, made up a major portion of the city's business income.

Enter John Glover. Arriving in 1848, Glover quickly became a successful businessman and popular politician. So popular that when the town incorporated in 1852, Glover was elected its first mayor. Although the Glovers would be successful at many endeavors through the years, among the earliest successes were a tanyard and warehouse. Also moving to the city were Dix Fletcher, who managed the Howard House, which served as a stagecoach stop, and Henry Greene Cole who ran Cole's, a "bed and breakfast" of the day. In the Howard house register one of their guest was Zachary Taylor of Washington City. Cole ran a hotel called the Marietta Hotel on the south side of the square. It was known as the finest in Marietta.

To the west of the city, near the base of Kennesaw Mountain, a "Dr. Cox" offered treatment with his "water cure." Although visitors described it as "invigorating," most probably just came to get away from the bug-infested coast and to enjoy the good food however, by 1861 Cox began what would develop into a substantial tourist industry. "Dr. Cox" was a real medical doctor, named Dr. Carey Cox, and practiced what is known as homeopathic medicine today. The Cobb Medical Society recognizes him as the first physician.

The Georgia Military Institute was built in 1851 about a mile from the square on Powder Springs Road. Classes began in July with just seven students. By the end of the first year, 28 men were in attendance. During the 1850s fire destroyed much of the city on three occasions. The first, in 1854, destroyed the Howard House and threw Dix Fletcher out of work. He took Mayor Glover's warehouse, which had been spared, and turned it into the Fletcher House, another bed and breakfast to serve the visitors of the growing town. John Denmead, a contractor who helped build the railroad, stayed on and opened the first bank in the city in 1855.

By the time the Civil War began in 1861, Marietta had recovered from the fires and was booming. The Raiders spent the night of April 11 and stole the train on April 12. Twenty-one of the men stayed in the Fletcher House and two stayed in Cole's Marietta Hotel. On the night of April 12, 1862, a group of 23 men spent the night split between Cole's and the Fletcher House. Early the next morning they met in James Andrews' room and proceeded to Marietta Station. Boarding a train, they commandeered it a few minutes later in Big Shanty. The next 50 miles of the ride has been dramatically recreated for generations and is now generally referred to as "The Great Locomotive Chase."

During the summer of 1864, forces under the command of William Tecumseh Sherman moved in and occupied the town. For the next five months, federal troops would pillage by day and ravage by night. In November 1864, men under the command of Union General Hugh Kilpatrick, Sherman's "merchant of terror," set the town on fire. "Uncle Billy's" boys were leaving for the heart of Georgia on "The March to the Sea."

In 30 years as a town Marietta had seen more history than most towns see in a century. Witness the history of the city at the exciting Marietta History Museum on the second floor of the Kennesaw House. See the room where Andrew's Raiders finalized their plans for the Great Train Robbery. Visit the Cherokee section and learn about "removal" on the Trail of Tears.


Researching Civil War Photo: Gloria Vanderbilt’s Great Grandfather

Introduction: In this article, Melissa Davenport Berry writes about researching a Civil War photo of one of Gloria Vanderbilt’s ancestors. Melissa is a genealogist who has a blog, AnceStory Archives, and a Facebook group, New England Family Genealogy and History.

Heritage Collectors’ Society asked me to research a few photographs recently. Among the collection was this photo of Union General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick (1836-1881).

Photo: Hugh Judson Kilpatrick. Credit: Heritage Collectors’ Society.

From this and other articles, I learned that Hugh Kilpatrick was a Union cavalry officer during the Civil War, earned the nickname “Kill-Cavalry,” and achieved the rank of brevet brigadier general. He was born in Deckertown, New Jersey, and graduated from West Point (1861). He served in the Gettysburg campaign and on Sherman’s march to the sea.

In 1864 Kilpatrick led a calvary expedition of 5,000 men around Robert E. Lee’s army near Richmond, Virginia, attempting to relieve union prisoners at Libby prison. The expedition failed in its main objective, but “inflicted considerable loss on the Confederates by destroying their railroads and bridges and cutting up several of their regiments.”

Continuing my research, I found this article in the Augusta Chronicle which referenced General Kilpatrick’s sister. Her name was Adeline “Phebe” Kilpatrick, who married Abiah Wilson in Deckertown, New Jersey.

Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia), 15 February 1904, page 6

The couple purchased (about 1870) a plantation called “Innisfail” in Morgan County, Georgia, once the summer residence of Robert Taylor, a Confederate general in the Georgia State Militia. Kilpatrick’s nephews Dr. A. O. Wilson and Walter Wilson stayed on the property when their father returned to New Jersey.

Walter told reporters a war tidbit about his uncle:

“General Kilpatrick was a self-made man, and graduated at West Point when Gen. Pierce M. B. Young was a cadet. …during a certain battle [Battle of Big Bethel, 10 June 1861] in the Civil War, a Confederate officer who had been in his class at West Point recognized the general across the lines and pointed him out to a sharpshooter, who sent a bullet though his knee wounding him for life.”

The House of the Ferret antique shop in South Deerfield, Massachusetts, has a sampler made by Adeline “Phebe” when she was 14 years old. The sampler contains the verse:

And must this body die
This mortal frame decay
And must these active limbs of mine
Lie moldering in the clay

After the Civil War, Hugh Kilpatrick served as U.S. Minister to Chile and married a wealthy Chilean woman, Luisa Fernandez de Valdivieso.

Photo: Luisa and Hugh Kilpatrick. Credit: Ohio History Collection, Sherman Family Papers, P 42 Box 1, Folder 1, Page 6, Image Number 22.

They had two daughters: Julia Mercedes Kilpatrick (who married U.S. Army Brigadier General William Carroll Rafferty) and Laura Isabel Delphine Kilpatrick (who married Harry Hays Morgan).

Laura and Harry Morgan had twin daughters: Thelma (who married Marmaduke Furness and became Viscountess Furness) and Gloria (who married Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt).

Photo: twin daughters of Laura and Harry Morgan: Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt (left) with her identical twin, Thelma Morgan, Viscountess Furness, in 1955. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Gloria and Reginald Vanderbilt had a daughter, Gloria Vanderbilt, who became a famous artist and socialite.

When Kilpatrick’s great granddaughter Gloria Vanderbilt made her debut as a fashion designer, she told the Dallas Morning News, “I wanted to make something of myself… Maybe the drive is in my genes,” which derived from both sides of her potent pedigree. Gloria’s four marriages are catalogued in this article, which she claims no fame to, but her “workhorse” ethic is in her blood.

Well, Gloria is a tight fit to her forbearer great grandfather Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, who distinguished himself as a battle lord and a Chilean minister. Perhaps she inherited her fondness of home fashion and needlecraft from her great Aunt Phebe.

Gloria, dubbed “the Renaissance Woman” in the creative field, proved to supersede all her ancestor’s fame with her Murjani fashion enterprise. No one can accuse Gloria of riding anyone’s coattails as she asserted: “My track record stands for itself.”

Other famous kin in Gloria’s line include Anderson Cooper, Julia Ward Howe, Robert Trent Paine, and J. P. Morgan.


Hugh Kirkpatrick from Lurgan

Note: The Birth Dates of many people in this Patrick Line are incorrect, dates made up to fit a narrative told by Dr. Lee Wellington Patrick, but dates that do not match with the source material. Burke's Landed Gentry contains the dates many in this line inherited their property, meaning after the death of the parent, but most contain no actual birth or death dates.

From Burke's Landed Gentry, 1834 Edition, Vol 2.Page 471

John Patrick (son of William Patrick, who obtained a grant of the lands of Overmains, near Kilwinning, from the monastery) acquired by charter, in 1605, the estate of Byres, in Ayrshire, and subsequently part of the lands of Dalgarven. He died in 1638, leaving five sons, I. Hew, his heir. II. Robert, infeft in part of Dalgarven. III. James, infeft in another part of Dalgarven in 1638, who married Agnes Finlay, and left six sons, all of whom after his death assumed the surname of Kilpatrick, viz.

  • 1. Thomas, his heir.
  • 2. Hew, minister of Cumnock.
  • 3. John, of Castleton.
  • 4. James, minister of Pennycuick, in Mid Lothian, whose daughter, Christian, married Sir John Clerk, bart. of Pennycuick.
  • 5. Robert, a writer in Edinburgh.
  • 6. William, minister of Antrim, Ireland.

From James Reid's "The History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Vol. 3", Page 42

Rev. Hugh Kirkpatrick, from Scotland, who was minister in Lurgan from about 1686 to the Revolution he then retired to his native country, supplied the parish of Dalry from 1689 to 1691, when he was settled in Old Cumnock and, being transported by the Irish Synod from Lurgan to Ballymoney in 1693, and urged to return, he left Cumnock in 1695, and was installed in Ballymoney,where he died in 1712. His son (James) was educated in Glasgow, and I find he was a fellow student in the divinity class with Simpson, afterwards professor of divinity in the University, and suspended on account of having embraced Arianism. The Rev. James Kirkpatrick succeeded the venerable Anthony Kennedy in Templepatrick, was ordained to that charge in August, 1699, and demitted it September 24, 1706. While in that congregation, he published, anonymously, " A Sermon occasioned by the King's Death and her present Majesty's [Anne] Accession to the Crown. Preached March 29, by a Presbyterian Minister in the North." [Belfast] 1702, 410, pp. 16. It is recommended by Mr. Upton, one of the elders of that congregation. Mr. Kirkpatrick was the author of several other publications, which are subsequently noticed in these pages. [In 1710, Christian, daughter of the Rev. Hugh Kirkpatrick, and sister of the author of " Presbyterian Loyalty," married Surgeon Joseph Boyd, of Armagh, great-grandfather of the Rev. Daniel G. Brown, minister of Newtownhamilton. Mr. Brown has inherited a fine oil portrait of the Rev. Hugh Kirkpatrick, as well as several other interesting memorials.

From Rev. William Dod Killen, D.D., "Congregations of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and Biographical Notices of Eminent Presbyterian Ministers and Laymen"

Page 44 In April,1692, the people applied to the Synod of Ulster for advice about a minister, David Boyd and Robert Love being their commissioners. In 1693, the Synod transferred Mr. Hugh Kirkpatrick from Lurgan to this congregation but he being in Scotland, where he had fled at the Revolution, did not come over to his new charge till 1695. Mr. Kirkpatrick was Moderator of Synod in 1699. He was father to the Rev. Dr. James Kirkpatrick, afterwards of Belfast, the author of “Presbyterian Loyalty.” Mr. Hugh Kirkpatrick died in April, 1712.

Page 186 LURGAN 1st. THE earliest account we have of this congregation is in 1684, when we find it about to be planted. In 1686 Mr. Hugh Kirkpatrick was minister here. He retired to Scot land at the time of the Revolution, and became minister of a parish there.


Hugh J. Kilpatrick

Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, or Judson Kilpatrick as he was more commonly known, began his military career after graduating from the United States Military Academy in 1861 at the outbreak of the war. On May 9, 1861, he became captain of the 5th New York Infantry after serving shortly as a commissioned second lieutenant. On June 10, 1861, he became the first officer of the Union army to be wounded during the war, while leading men at the Battle of Big Bethel. In September of 1861, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the 2nd New York Cavalry, and fought during the Battle of Second Manassas. In December of 1862, he was promoted to Colonel. In February of 1863, Kilpatrick took command of a brigade in the newly formed Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac. He led his brigade throughout the Chancellorsville Campaign, during which he harassed Lee’s army and destroyed Confederate supplies. He took part in most of the major engagements of Union cavalry in the Eastern Theatre, including battles at Beverly Ford and Stoneman’s Raid. During the Gettysburg Campaign, Kilpatrick took part in the largest cavalry battle of the war on June 9, 1863 at the Battle of Brandy Station. On June 14, 1863, Kilpatrick was promoted to Brigadier General. He commanded troops at the Battle of Gettysburg, and clashed with Confederate forces numerous times, including one charge after the failure of Pickett’s Charge that led to great Union casualties amongst his ranks. He continued to attack the Confederates forces throughout their retreat to Virginia.

In February of 1864, Kilpatrick commanded the 3rd Cavalry Division during a very unsuccessful raid on Richmond intended to free Union prisoners of war. This caused Kilpatrick to be transferred to the forces of General William T. Sherman. He was wounded on May 13, 1864, at the Battle of Resaca during the early days of the Atlanta Campaign, but returned in July to continue harassing Confederate forces on Sherman’s “March to the Sea” as well as during the Carolina Campaigns, where he accompanied General Sherman to surrender negotiations with Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston. His reputation during the war for launching foolish cavalry charges and dangerous attacks led many to refer to Kilpatrick as “Kil-Cavalry.”

After the war, Kilpatrick was involved in politics, and served as the United States ambassador to Chile.


Kilpatrick’s “Shirt-Tail Skedaddle”

On March 10, 1865, Confederate Gen. Wade Hampton surprised Union Gen. Hugh J. Kilpatrick at Monroe’s Crossroads. Kilpatrick’s 3rd Cavalry Division was protecting the left flank of Gen. William T. Sherman’s army as troops headed north.

On the night of March 9, Kilpatrick’s division camped at Monroe’s Crossroads, in what is now Hoke County. Confederate cavalrymen led by Hampton approached the camp from behind and found the rear of it completely defenseless. They retreated to plan a surprise attack.

The next morning, Kilpatrick woke up early and stepped outside of the house in his nightshirt. At that point, Confederate cavalrymen charged through the camp. Groggy Federal soldiers rose from their bedrolls, clumsily took their weapons and headed for shelter. Still only in his nightshirt, Kilpatrick ran across the yard in his bare feet, mounted a horse and escaped.

In just a few minutes the Confederates had overrun the camp. Union troops regained control when a lieutenant reached the unguarded Confederate artillery pieces and fired them into a mass of Confederates. By 9 a.m., the Confederates had retreated.

Today, the battlefield site is an artillery impact area at Fort Bragg. The gravestones of Union and Confederate soldiers who lost their lives that day are hidden throughout the woods.

  • Images of the Civil War from the State Archives
  • The Civil War on NCpedia from the N.C. Museum of History
  • The North Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee

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Watch the video: RETREAT FROM GETTYSBURG


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