Isaac Jones Wistar

Cremated remains of Gen. Wistar inside the Wistar Institute of Anatomy (downtown Philadelphia).

Isaac Jones Wistar was born on November 14, 1827, in Philadelphia. He was educated at Haverford College, studied law, and commenced practice in his native city. At the outbreak of the Civil War he recruited a company of volunteers of which he was elected captain. This unit became a part of the 71st Pennsylvania, dubbed the "California Regiment" because former California Senator Edward D. Baker of Oregon had raised the force in Philadelphia by special authority of President Lincoln. Wistar was made its lieutenant colonel and was commanding it at Ball's Bluff in October, 1861, when Baker, who was commanding the "Philadelphia brigade," was killed in one of the more abortive actions of the war. Wistar succeeded Baker as colonel, with commission from November 11, 1861, and reportedly took part in the Peninsular campaign of 1862 in Sedgwick's division of Sumner's II Corps, although at Seven Pines the regiment was recorded under the command of its major and during the Seven Days battles its lieutenant colonel. At Sharpsburg the 71st Pennsylvania was in Howard's brigade, and the latter states in his report of the battle that Wistar "with his right arm nearly useless from a former wound, had his left disabled." In May, 1863, he was assigned to command of the reserve brigade of Getty's division at Suffolk, having been commissioned brigadier general on March 16 to rank from the preceding November 29. He remained in this general area, participating in a series of minor operations, until the beginning of the Richmond campaign. In early May, 1864, he was in command of a brigade of W. F. Smith's XVIII Corps, Army of the James, which took part in the unfortunate movement that resulted in the bottling up of Benjamin F. Butler on the Bermuda Hundred Neck, but on May 18 Wistar was succeeded in command by Colonel Griffin Stedman (after whom the famous Fort Stedman was later named). At this juncture Wistar disappears from the Official Records and on September 15, 1864, his resignation was accepted by the War Department. In the years after the war he again practiced law and became prominent in the coal business. He also won distinction as a writer and speaker on penology. General Wistar died in Claymont, Delaware, on September 18, 1905, and was buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia.

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