Clip Signature of Union Major General Alfred Pleasonton with rank of Major General - Clip signature is nicely displayed with engraved brass plaque and a copy of an image of Pleasonton on glossy card stock. Measures 21" x 11".
Born: 07/07/1824 in Washington, DC
Died: 02/17/1897 in Washington, DC
USMA: 1844, class rank: 07/25
American Civil War
Battle of Antietam
Battle of Chancellorsville
Battle of Fredericksburg
Battle of Brandy Station
Battle of Byram's Ford
Battle of Mine Creek
Battle of Marais des Cygnes
Pleasonton, Alfred, major-general, was born in Washington, D. C., June 7, 1824. He was graduated at the United States military academy in 1844 and served in the war with Mexico, where he won the brevet of 1st lieutenant for gallantry at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. He was promoted captain in 1855, served during the disturbances in Kansas and was then from 1858 to 1860 assistant adjutant-general of the Department of Oregon. He commanded a regiment in the Department of Utah from June to Aug., 1861, then took the regiment to Washington, and on Aug. 3, he was transferred to the 2nd cavalry, being subsequently engaged in the defenses of Washington. He served in the siege of Yorktown and the Seven Days' battles, was commissioned brigadier-general of volunteers, July 16, 1862, and commanded the advance cavalry division of the Army of the Potomac in the Maryland campaign in the fall of that year. For his services at Antietam he was brevetted lieutenant-colonel, and he subsequently took part in the Rappahannock campaign in the winter of 1862-63, and until June 1863; commanded the cavalry corps of the Army of the Potomac during the Pennsylvania campaign, and was brevetted colonel for his services at Gettysburg. He was promoted major-general of volunteers, June 22, 1863.
Pleasonton's first combat in his new role was a month later in the Gettysburg Campaign. He led Union cavalry forces in the Battle of Brandy Station, the largest predominantly cavalry battle of the war. The Union cavalry essentially stumbled into J.E.B. Stuart's Confederate cavalry and the 14-hour battle was bloody but inconclusive, although Stuart was embarrassed that he had been surprised and the Union horsemen had a newfound confidence in their abilities. Subordinate officers criticized Pleasonton for not aggressively defeating Stuart at Brandy Station. Gen. Hooker had ordered Pleasonton to "disperse and destroy" the Confederate cavalry near Culpeper, Virginia, but Pleasonton claimed that he had only been ordered to make a "reconnaissance in force toward Culpeper", thus rationalizing his actions.
In the remainder of the Gettysburg Campaign up to the climactic battle, Pleasonton did not perform as a competent cavalry commander and was generally unable to inform his commander where the enemy troops were located and what their intentions were. The Army of Northern Virginia, under Gen. Robert E. Lee, was able to slip past Union forces through the Shenandoah Valley and north into Pennsylvania. During this period, he attempted to exercise political influence by promoting the nephew of a U.S. Congressman, Captain Elon J. Farnsworth, a member of his staff, directly to brigadier general. Pleasonton also promoted Captain Wesley Merritt and First Lieutenant George Armstrong Custer to brigadier general.
Pleasonton corresponded with the congressman and complained about his lack of men and horses in comparison to Jeb Stuart's; he also politicked to acquire the cavalry forces of Maj. Gen. Julius Stahel, who commanded the cavalry in the defenses of Washington. The machinations worked. Stahel was relieved of his command and his troopers were reassigned to Pleasonton. Hooker was enraged by these activities and it was probably only his own relief from command on June 28, 1863, that saved Pleasonton's career from premature termination.
In the Battle of Gettysburg, Pleasanton's new commander, Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, understood Pleasonton's reputation (and his father's) and kept him on a short leash. For the three days of the battle, Pleasonton was forced to remain with Meade at army headquarters, rather than with the Cavalry Corps headquarters nearby, and Meade exercised more direct control of the cavalry than an army commander normally would. In postwar writings, Pleasonton attempted to portray his role in the battle as being a major one, including predicting to Meade that the town of Gettysburg would be the decisive point and, after the Confederate defeat in Pickett's Charge, that he urged Meade to attack Gen. Lee and finish him off. He conveniently made these claims after Meade's death, when dispute was impossible. On the other hand, however, Pleasonton cannot be blamed for the unfortunate cavalry action on July 3, when Meade ordered the division of Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick to attack the right flank of the Confederate army, which resulted in a suicidal assault against entrenched infantry and the futile death of Brig. Gen. Elon Farnsworth. After Pleasanton was removed the field, Meade was impressed with his performance from headquarters as an acting chief of staff during the battle.
He took part in the battles of Culpeper Court House and Brandy Station, Va., and in March, 1864, was transferred to the Department of the Missouri, where he was engaged in the defenses of Jefferson City, on Oct. 8. He commanded subsequently the cavalry in pursuit of the Confederate Gen. Price, and routed him near Marais des Cygnes river on Oct. 25.
For his services against Price he was brevetted brigadier-general in the regular army on March 13, 1865, and his brevet of major-general U. S. A. for gallant and meritorious services in the field during the war bore the same date. Gen. Pleasonton was mustered out of the volunteer service, Jan. 15, 1866, after having engaged in over one hundred battles and skirmishes, and he resigned his commission in the regular army in 1868. He was subsequently for several years collector of internal revenue in New York city, and then became president of the Terre Haute & Cincinnati railroad. In May, 1888, he was placed on the retired list with the rank of major. Gen. Pleasonton died in Washington, D. C., Feb. 17, 1897.
Inventory Number: DOC 103