Erasmus Darwin Keyes

Erasmus Darwin Keyes was a native of Massachusetts, born in the village of Brimfield on May 29, 1810. His father, a well-known doctor, moved to Kennebec County, Maine, while Keyes was young; he was appointed to West Point from that state and was graduated in the class of 1832. Keyes compiled a glittering military record—even though he did not serve in the Mexican War—in the years before the Civil War, as an instructor at the Military Academy. A favorite of General Winfield Scott, whose aide and military secretary he was on three different occasions, Keyes discharged duty in all three branches of the service, with promotion through grades to that of colonel, 11th Infantry in May, 1861. At the battle of First Manassas in July, he commanded a brigade of Tyler's division, whose conduct was no worse than that of other Federal troops, if no better. He was made a brigadier general of volunteers in August, third on the army list, to rank from May 17. When General George B. McClellan's big push against Richmond was organized in the spring of 1862, President Lincoln took it upon himself to name the corps commanders, and Keyes was assigned to the IV Corps, which he led in unexceptionable fashion during the Peninsular campaign. After the Army of the Potomac left the Peninsula, the IV Corps was left in the area as a part of General John Adams Dix's Department of Virginia. During the Gettysburg campaign in 1863, Keyes, who had been made a major general for his services, fell afoul of General Dix's strategic plan to demonstrate heavily against Richmond in order to divert Confederate re-enforcements from R. E. Lee's army which was in Pennsylvania. Keyes retired from a position near what is now Tallysville, Virginia, in the face of what Dix deemed to be inferior forces. In the ensuing exchange, Dix seems to have had the last word. Keyes resigned in May, 1864, and moved to San Francisco, where he soon became financially successful and prominent. He interested himself in mining, in grape culture, and in the savings and loan business. While on a trip to Europe with his wife, he died in Nice, France, on October 14, 1895. He was ultimately buried at West Point.

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