Charles Henry Van Wyck

Charles Henry Van Wyck, descendant of an old Dutch Long Island family, was born May 10, 1824, in Poughkeepsie, New York, but grew up in Bloomingburg where his father was a physician. He was graduated first in the class of 1843 from Rutgers, studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1847, and in 1850 was elected district attorney of Sullivan County, serving by reelection until 1856. Originally a Democrat of the Barnburner persuasion, he subsequently embraced Republicanism and in 1858 was elected to Congress, where he remained until March 3, 1863. Meantime, he recruited the 56th New York Infantry (also known as the "Tenth Legion") and was commissioned its colonel on September 4, 1861. Van Wyck was not present with his command during the early battles on the Virginia Peninsula in 1862, and in the battles of the Seven Days, when Van Wyck was shown to be present, the regiment's chronicler reports it was "not closely engaged." In December, 1862, he and his regiment were sent to South- Carolina, where they were stationed at various points in the vicinity of Charleston during the balance of the war, first under General Henry M. Naglee in the XVIII Corps and later in the X Corps. In January, 1865, he was given command of a brigade in the Department of the South and, after the evacuation of Charleston by the Confederates, remained with the Union occupation forces until August, 1865. On September 27, 1865, he was appointed a full-rank brigadier general of volunteers, one of the last four made in the course of the war. General Van Wyck was again elected to Congress from New York in 1866 and in 1868, but in 1874 he moved to Nebraska City, Nebraska, where he had acquired property in 1857. He immediately became engaged in politics: he was a member of the constitutional convention of 1875, a three-term member of the state senate (1876-80), and the following year was sent to the U. S. Senate by the legislature. An early advocate of the direct election of Senators, he introduced a constitutional amendment to make this possible during his term in office. His interest therein became marked when, although an overwhelming favorite on the Nebraska senatorial preferential ballot for reelection to the Senate, he was rejected by the legislature, which elected a conservative party hack to succeed him. Subsequently General Van Wyck espoused the cause of Populism, but was unsuccessful in successive campaigns for governor and the state senate. He died in Washington, D. C, on October 24, 1895, and was buried in Milford, Pennsylvania, the home of his wife.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.