Andrew A. Humphreys

This monument was erected by the State of Pennsylvania in honor of General Andrew A. Humphreys.  The monument is the central feature in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery, Virginia.  (Albert Leboux)

 (November 2, 1810 – December 27, 1883), was a career United States Army officer, civil engineer, and a Union General in the American Civil War. He served in senior positions in the Army of the Potomac, including division command, chief of staff, and corps command, and was Chief Engineer of the U.S. Army.

Andrew Atkinson Humphreys was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to a family with Quaker ancestry. His grandfather, Joshua, was the “Father of the American Navy,” who had served as chief naval constructor from 1794-1801 and designed the first U.S. warship, including the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) and her sister ships. Andrew’s father, Samuel designed and built the USS Pennsylvania, the largest and most heavily armed ship at the time. Samuel, like his father, was a chief naval constructor from 1826-1846. Andrew graduated from Nazareth Hall (predecessor to the present day Moravian College & Theological Seminary). Thereafter entering the United States Military Academy, more commonly known as West Point, at the age of seventeen. He graduated from the Academy on July 1, 1831. Upon graduation Humphreys joined the second artillery regiment at Fort Moultrie in South Carolina. Near the beginning of the Seminole Wars he followed his regiment in the summer of 1836 to Florida where he received his first combat experience, while also falling ill, having to leave by September. de Peyster, who rose to brevet major general for the New York Volunteer Army during the Civil War and later Civil War historian says:

After being reinstated in the engineer corps in 1844 Humphrey's was put in charge of the Central Office of the Coast Survey at Washington and appointed to Captain in 1848. During 1850 he was directed to commence surveys and investigate the Mississippi River Delta. Investigating the Mississippi River occurred in order to figure out what could prevent inundation and increase the depth of water on the bars. This work would take up ten years of Humphreys’ life, in which he would visit Europe. From 1853-1857 he also worked on the Pacific Railroad Surveys with Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis. Humphreys along with 100 plus men (soldiers, scientist and technicians) went into the west to find the most practical route for the First Transcontinental Railroad to be built upon. At the time right before the Civil War Humphreys was ranked among the upper echelon of American Scientist and gained membership to the American Philosophical Society.

After the outbreak of the Civil War, Humphreys was promoted (August 6, 1861) to major and became chief topographical engineer in Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac. Humphreys was put in this position for his achievements in life but also "those in power at Washington distrusted him because of his intimacy with Jefferson Davis before the war."  Initially involved in planning the defenses of Washington, D.C., by March 1862, he shipped out with McClellan for the Peninsula Campaign. He was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on April 28 and on September 12 assumed command of the new 3rd Division in the V Corps of the Army of the Potomac. He led the division in a reserve role in the Battle of Antietam. At the Battle of Fredericksburg, his division achieved the farthest advance against fierce Confederate fire from Marye's Heights, with Humphreys personally commanding from the very front of the line on horseback, and five of his seven staff were shot down. During the battle Humphreys himself had two of horses shot from under him and finding a third he continued to ride having his clothes pierced but leaving him unhurt. His corps commander, Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfield, wrote: "I hardly know how to express my appreciation of the soldierly qualities, the gallantry, and energy displayed by my division commanders, Generals George Sykes, Humphreys, and Charles Griffin." General Butterfield goes on to talk personally about Humphreys' actions: "General Humphreys personally led his division in the most gallant manner. His attack was spitirted, and worthy of veterans. Made as it was by raw troops, the value of the example set by the division commander can hardly be estimated." For an officer with little combat experience, he inspired his troops with his personal bravery.

At the Battle of Chancellorsville, Humphreys' division was attacked by Colquitt's brigade on the 3rd day of the battle. On May 23, 1863, Humphreys was transferred to the command of the 2nd Division in the III Corps, under Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles. When Meade assumed command of the Army of the Potomac just before the Battle of Gettysburg, he asked Humphreys to be his chief of staff, replacing Maj. Gen. Daniel Butterfield, who was considered to be too close politically to the previous commander, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker. Humphreys declined the opportunity to give up his division command. His new division immediately saw action at Gettysburg where, on July 2, 1863, Sickles insubordinately moved his corps from its assigned defensive position on Cemetery Ridge. Humphreys' new position was on the Emmitsburg Road, part of a salient directly in the path of the Confederate assault, and it was too long a front for a single division to defend. Assaulted by the division of Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws, Humphreys' three brigades were demolished; Sickles had pulled back Humphrey's reserve brigade to shore up the neighboring division (Maj. Gen. David B. Birney), which was the first to be attacked. Humphreys put up the best fight that could have been expected and was eventually able to reform his survivors on Cemetery Ridge, but his division and the entire corps were finished as a fighting force.

Humphreys was promoted to major general of volunteers on July 8, 1863, and finally acceded to Meade's request to serve as his chief of staff; he did not have much of a division left to command. He served in that position through the Bristoe and Mine Run campaigns that fall, and the Overland Campaign and the Siege of Petersburg in 1864. In November 1864, he assumed command of the II Corps, which he led for the rest of the siege and during the pursuit of Gen. Robert E. Lee to Appomattox Court House and surrender. On March 13, 1865, he was breveted brigadier general in the regular army and then on May 26, 1865, he was awarded brevet major general in the regular army for "gallant and meritorious service at the battle of Gettysburg" for the Battle of Sayler's Creek during Lee's retreat.

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