Edwin Vose Summer

Edwin Vose Sumner, the oldest active corps commander in the Civil War, was born on January 30, 1797, in Boston. His antecedents date back to the very beginning of settlement in Massachusetts. He was commissioned directly into the army in 1819 and adhered to his oath of allegiance until his death, despite the fact that one son-in-law would command Stonewall Jackson's Second Corps artillery in the Army of Northern Virginia and become Robert E. Lee's secretary, and another was a relative of General Joseph E. Johnston. On the other hand, two of his sons became general officers in the U. S. Army: both were appointed in the regular service in 1861 and fought throughout the Civil War with marked distinction. Sumner, who was known as "Bull Head" in the old army because a musket ball was alleged to have once bounced off his head, had a long and distinguished army career which began soon after the close of America's second war with Britain at which time he was appointed a lieutenant of the 2nd Infantry. He became captain of dragoons in 1833 and major in 1846, meantime serving chiefly on the Indian frontier. Sumner was greatly distinguished in Mexico, receiving the brevets of lieutenant colonel and colonel and a regular promotion to lieutenant colonel in 1848. He continued to serve in the West and became colonel of the 1st Cavalry in 1855. The following year he was involved in the Kansas troubles as commanding officer at Fort Leavenworth. In 1861 upon the dismissal of General David E. Twiggs from the service, Sumner was appointed to succeed him as one of the three Regular Army brigadiers. He had previously been Lieutenant General Winfield Scott's choice to accompany President-elect Lincoln from Springfield to Washington. When the corps organizations were established in the Army of the Potomac, Sumner was given command of the II Corps, which he led in the Peninsular campaign of 1862. He was wounded twice and extolled by George B. McClellan for "extreme gallantry" as well as "judgment and energy" during this campaign. He was brevetted major general, U. S. Army, for services at the battle of Seven Pines on May 31, 1862, and advanced to major general of volunteers on July 16 to rank from May 5. At the battle of Sharpsburg in September he was subjected to some criticism for not having put all his men into action and for having been at the head of his leading division, like a colonel of cavalry, instead of in the rear where he could properly supervise operations. At Fredericksburg he commanded the "Left Grand Division" of the army, consisting of his own and the IX Corps, but upon the accession of Joseph Hooker to command of the army, Sumner asked to be relieved. Assigned to the Department of Missouri, he died while en route there at Syracuse, New York, on March 21, 1863, and was buried in Oak-wood Cemetery, Syracuse.

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