Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Southern born Federal Generals in the Civil War

Virginia Born Winfield Scott

       Recently, on facebook, I noticed a couple of guys on my friends list discussing who had more generals from the other country, North or South. One young man guessed the North had more Southern born generals than the South had Northern born generals. He was quickly corrected by another friend who informed him that there were more Northern born generals who fought for the South. Initially, I believed him until I researched the situation myself. 
       After finding the answer, I realized that it should have been obvious to me all along. There were 33 Northern born Confederate Generals. There were 35 Southern born Federal generals that served during the Civil War. There were 583 generals commissioned during the Civil War on the Federal side and 425 Confederate generals commissioned during the war. Percentage wise, that puts the Confederacy in the lead, but number wise, it places the Federal army in the lead. Here is a complete list of the Southern born Federal generals and why they served the North.

Montgomery Cunningham Meigs

       There were nine Federal generals born in the South who grew up on Northern soil before the war. They were Montgomery C. Meigs (Georgia, grew up in Pennsylvania), Jacob Ammen (Virginia, grew up in Ohio), David B. Birney (Alabama, grew up in Kentucky), William Birney (Alabama, grew up in Kentucky), James W. Denver (Virginia, grew up in Ohio), Benjamin M. Prentiss (Virginia, grew up in Illinois), William T. Ward (Virginia, grew up in Kentucky), Louis D. Watkins (Florida, grew up in Washington, D.C.), and Joseph R. West (Louisiana, grew up in Pennsylvania). 

George Henry Thomas

       There were 11 Southern born Federal generals that were in the old army before the war began and refused to leave the army in which they had served their entire adult lives. These officers were Philip St. George Cooke (Virginia, father of Confederate General John R. Cooke and father-in-law of Confederate General Jeb Stuart), John W. Davidson (Virginia), Alexander B. Dyer (Virginia), Alvan C. Gillem (Tennessee), Andrew J. Hamilton (Alabama), William S. Harney (Tennessee), John Newton (Virginia), George D. Ramsey (Virginia), Winfield Scott (Virginia, the hero of the Mexican War), William R. Terrill (Virginia, his brother James B. Terrill became a general in the Confederate Army), and George Henry Thomas (Virginia, possibly the best Federal general of the entire war).

U.S. President Andrew Johnson

       Eight Federal Generals fought for the North because they opposed secession and remained loyal to the Union. They were William B. Campbell (Tennessee), Samuel P. Carter (Tennessee), Edmund J. Davis (Florida), Lawrence P. Graham (Virginia), Isham N. Haynie (Tennessee), William Hays (Virginia), Andrew Johnson (Tennessee, became president of the United States, Lincoln assigned him military governor of Tennessee with the rank of brigadier general), and James G. Spears (Tennessee).

John C. Fremont

       There were five Southern born Union generals that moved North when they reached adulthood and remained loyal when the war began. They were Thomas T. Crittenden (Alabama, moved to Indiana), John C. Fremont (Georgia, moved to Missouri), Stephen A. Hurlbut (South Carolina, moved to Illinois), Solomon Meredith (North Carolina, moved to Indiana and commanded the famed Iron Brigade), and John D. Stevenson (Virginia, moved to Missouri). 
       There was one more Federal general who had been born in the South, but was loyal to the Union because he served in the Federal Navy before the war. He was John B. McIntosh (Florida,  made New Jersey his home, he was the brother of Confederate General James M. McIntosh). 
       I will be the first to admit that I was shocked by the numbers. I knew George Thomas was born in Virginia and fought for the Union. I also knew about Winfield Scott. I'd heard about William R. Terrill and Stephen A. Hurlburt, but was truly surprised to learn that Andrew Johnson was commissioned a general by Abraham Lincoln. It just goes to show that a historian can always learn something new when he digs deep enough.


  1. These gentlemen remembered that they gave their solemn pledge to defend the Constitution of the United States when they became Officer’s. They knew in their hearts that the concept of the United States of American is more important then a single state and pitting state loyalties against the Union was no different then being another Benedict Arnold.

  2. Not that I agree at all with "The General" above, but it does remind us that we all need to keep our minds open and be able to learn. Always.

  3. I think the true Benedict Arnold would be a person who fights against what they believe. Just because you took an oath to something doesn't mean you have to blindly follow orders. Ask the people of Nazi Germany where this type thinking got them. I have never understood why we can't honor all these men, on both sides. Robert E. Lee, John F. Reynolds, Thomas J. Jackson, Winfield S. Hancock were some of the greatest men this country has produced. Why do we have to try to paint one side as pure and innocent and the other as nothing but evil?

  4. [Irony Alert]
    I have never understood why the United States can't honor Benedict Arnold.

    1. I can't understand why no slave owner in the history of the world is considered evil, except the Southern slave owner. In my book, slavery is evil regardless of race or location.

    2. What perverted histories have you been reading, that praise all slave holders save the Southron?

    3. We have. His leg, he lost due to wounds received at the Battles of Saratoga in 1777, was buried with full military honors.