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  • Brevet Major General John White Geary

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    John White Geary (December 30, 1819 – February 8, 1873) was an American lawyer, politician, Freemason, and a Union general in the American Civil War. He was the final alcalde and first mayor of San Francisco, a governor of the Kansas Territory, and the 16th governor of Pennsylvania.

    At the start of the Civil War, Geary raised the 147th and 28th Pennsylvania Infantry regiments and became colonel of the latter. Commanding the district of the upper Potomac River, he was wounded and captured near Leesburg, Virginia, on March 8, 1862, but was immediately exchanged and returned to duty. On April 25, 1862, he was promoted to Brigadier General, U.S. Volunteers and the command of a brigade in Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks's corps, which he led in the Shenandoah Valley against Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. His brigade joined Maj. Gen. John Pope's Army of Virginia in late June. He led it at the Battle of Cedar Mountain on August 9, 1862, where he was seriously wounded in the arm and leg. He returned to duty on October 15 as the division commander; the corps was now part of the Army of the Potomac, designated the XII Corps, under the command of Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum.

    Geary's division was heavily engaged at Chancellorsville, where he was knocked unconscious as a cannonball shot past his head on May 3, 1863.

    At the Battle of Gettysburg, Slocum's corps arrived after the first day's (July 1, 1863) fighting subsided and took up a defensive position on Culp's Hill, the extreme right of the Union line. On the second day, heavy fighting on the Union left demanded reinforcements and Geary was ordered to leave a single brigade, under Brig. Gen. George S. Greene, on Culp's Hill and follow another division, which was just departing. Geary lost track of the division he was supposed to follow south on the Baltimore Pike and inexplicably marched completely off the battlefield, eventually reaching Rock Creek. His two brigades finally returned to Culp's Hill by 9:00 pm that night, arriving in the midst of a fierce fire fight between a Confederate division and Greene's lone brigade. This embarrassing incident might have damaged his reputation except for two factors: the part of the battle he was supposed to march to join had ended, so he wasn't really needed; and, because of a dispute between army commander Maj. Gen. George G. Meade and Slocum over the filing of their official reports, little public notice ensued.

    The XII Corps was transferred west to join the besieged Union army at Chattanooga. Geary's son Edward died in his arms at the Battle of Wauhatchie, enraging him sufficiently to prevail in a battle in which his division was greatly outnumbered. He distinguished himself in command during the Battle of Lookout Mountain, the entire Atlanta Campaign, Sherman's March to the Sea, and the Carolinas Campaign. He oversaw the surrender of Savannah, Georgia, and briefly served as the city's military governor, where he was breveted to major general.


    Inventory Number: CDV 007