Horatio Gouverneur Wright

Horatio Gouverneur Wright was born on March 6, 1820, in the village of Clinton, Connecticut. He attended the local schools and was appointed to West Point in 1837. He was graduated second in the Academy's class of 1841 and was posted to the Corps of Engineers. His duties until the beginning of the Civil War were all connected with this department and included ten years service in Florida and in the Dry Tortugas where he assisted in the construction of Forts Taylor and Jefferson. His first wartime service was an abortive effort to destroy the Norfolk Navy Yard dry dock before its evacuation by the Federals on April 20, 1861; he was captured during the operation by the Virginia state forces but was soon released. He acted as chief engineer of Samuel P. Heintzelman's division at the battle of First Manassas and joined the Port Royal expedition in the same capacity. He was made brigadier general of volunteers on September 16, 1861. In February, 1862, he led an expedition against the Florida coast and in June directed one of Henry W. Benham's two divisions at the disastrous repulse at Secessionville, South Carolina (although he remonstrated with his superior against making the assault). He was then assigned to command of the Department of the Ohio with headquarters in Cincinnati, remaining there until ordered east in May, 1863. Wright had been advanced to major general to rank from July 18, 1862, but the appointment was refused by the Senate on March 12, 1863, and revoked on the twenty-fourth. He was reappointed a year later on May 12, 1864, and confirmed. He led a division of Sedgwick's VI Corps at Gettysburg (where his casualties were nominal), at Rappahannock Bridge, and in the Mine Run campaign; then in May, 1864, he led his command into the Wilderness. Upon the death of John Sedgwick at Spotsylvania, Wright succeeded to command of the corps, remaining commander to the end of the campaign. In July he was sent with his corps to Washington to oppose Tubal Early's raid and that autumn took part in the famous Shenandoah campaign under Philip Sheridan. Wright was a steady and dependable subordinate, but, when an opportunity for greatness was thrust upon him at Cedar Creek as commander of the disorganized Union army during Sheridan's absence there was something lacking. When the guns were silent and the smoke had drifted away, it was Sheridan who had come upon the scene, revitalized the troops, and turned defeat into victory. Elements of Wright's corps were first over the Confederate works at Petersburg in April, 1865, and were present at Appomattox a week later. For a year after the war he commanded the Department of Texas, then returning to engineering duty. He was brevetted major general, U. S. Army, in March, 1865, and after muster out of the volunteer service reverted to his regular rank of lieutenant colonel of engineers. He was advanced to colonel in 1879 and the same year became brigadier general and chief engineer of the army. Meantime he had charge of a number of projects, including numerous river and harbor improvements and the completion of the Washington Monument. General Wright was retired for age on his sixty-fourth birthday, but continued to reside in Washington, where he died on July 2, 1899. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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