James Deering Fessenden
James Deering Fessenden, brother of General Francis Fessenden and son of William Pitt Fessenden, was born at Westbrook, Maine, September 28, 1833. He was graduated from Bowdoin College in the class of 1852, pursued law studies, and was admitted to the bar in 1856, becoming a member of his father's firm and showing great ability. Upon the outbreak of the war he recruited a company of riflemen who became part of the 2nd Regiment of U. S. Sharpshooters, an organization whose enlistment was not credited to any particular state or territory and which was commended repeatedly by the officers under whom it served. In March, 1862, Fessenden was assigned to the staff of General David Hunter, engaged in operations on the Carolina coast, and organized the first regiment of Negroes in the national service—an action subsequently disavowed by the government. As aide-de-camp with rank of colonel, he took part in Admiral Samuel F. DuPont's attack on Charleston in 1863. In the fall of that year he was ordered to duty with General Joseph Hooker (who was moving the XI and XII Corps to the western theater from the Army of the Potomac), on whose staff he served at the battles around Chattanooga and in the Atlanta campaign. Upon Hooker's relief from command Fessenden, at his own request, was ordered to report to General Philip Sheridan in the Shenandoah. He had meantime been made a brigadier general of volunteers to rank from August 8, 1864—a promotion difficult to justify except for the exalted political station of his father. At the battle of Cedar Creek he commanded a brigade of William Dwight's division of the XIX Corps. Thereafter he was in garrison at Winchester, Virginia, until the end of the war. After appearing in the grand review of the Union forces in Washington in May, 1865, he served in South Carolina and Georgia until he was mustered out in January, 1866. He had been brevetted major general of volunteers to rank from March 13, 1865. In the postwar years General Fessenden pursued his law practice; served three terms in the Maine legislature; and was a Federal register of bankruptcy for several years. He died in Portland on November 18, 1882, and was buried there.
Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.