George Sykes

George Sykes was born October 9, 1822, at Dover, Delaware. After preliminary studies in the local schools he was appointed to West Point in 1838 and was graduated four years later in a class which was to contribute no less than twelve corps and army commanders to the Union and Confederate causes. Following his graduation he served in the Florida War, in barracks at various points in the South and West, in the Mexican War (where he won a captain's brevet for gallantry), and on the Indian frontier in New Mexico and Texas. Sykes was promoted major, 14th Infantry, in 1861 and at the battle of First Manassas (Bull Run) commanded a battalion of Regulars which gave the best performance on the Union side, covering the panic-stricken retreat of the volunteers. Sykes became a brigadier general of volunteers on September 28, 1861, and during George B. McClellan's campaign on the Peninsula directed first a brigade and then a division of Porter's V Corps—nine of the eleven regiments of his division were Regular troops. His command fought hard in the second battle of Bull Run, but was only lightly engaged at Sharpsburg, where Porter was held in reserve, and at Fredericksburg. Sykes was advanced to the grade of major general on November 29, 1862. At Chancellorsville, he was not involved in the rout of the Federal right and his casualties were less than three hundred men. He succeeded George G. Meade in command of the V Corps, after Meade was named commander of the Army of the Potomac, and at Gettysburg he played a crucial part in support of Sickles' III Corps position and the left of the Union line. Later that year he took part in the Rappahannock and Mine Run campaigns, where Meade found him too slow when aggressive action was demanded. Sykes was relieved in December, 1863, and in the spring went to the Department of Kansas, where he remained until the close of the war. In 1866 he reverted to his regular rank of lieutenant colonel, 5th Infantry, becoming colonel, 20th Infantry, in 1868. He then commanded his regiment at a number of duty stations from Minnesota to Texas. General Sykes died at Fort Brown (Brownsville), Texas, on February 8, 1880, and was buried at West Point. Although a bulldog on defense, he seems to have been uninspired and uninspiring when initiative and boldness were called for; hence his nickname in the Old Army, "Tardy George."

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