James Brewerton Ricketts

James Brewerton Ricketts, born June 21, 1817, was a native of New York City. He was appointed to West Point in 1835 and was graduated in the class of 1839. Ricketts pre-Civil War career as an officer of artillery was unexceptionable, and he received no brevet promotions in the Mexican War, although he took part in the battles of Monterey and Buena Vista. He was made captain in 1852, and at First Manassas on July 21, 1861, he commanded a battery attached to Franklin's brigade of Heintzelman's division. During this battle he was shot four times and was taken prisoner by the Confederates; he was not exchanged until January, 1862. Ricketts was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on April 30, 1862, to rank from the day of the battle "for gallant and meritorious conduct" and was assigned to the command of a division of McDowell's corps, which he commanded at Cedar Mountain (where he covered N. P. Banks's withdrawal) and at Second Manassas.

At Sharpsburg, Ricketts had two horses killed and was badly injured when the second one fell on him. When he recovered sufficiently for duty, he was appointed to the Fitz John Porter court-martial, and as a result his reputation has suffered as has that of certain of the other members who were patently self-servers.

He did not return to the field until March, 1864, when he was assigned to a division of Sedgwick's VI Corps, which he led through Grant's Overland campaign against Richmond. In July, 1864, his command, numbering 3,350 muskets, was hurried North to oppose Jubal Early's raid on Washington. Ricketts arrived at the Monocacy River in time to bear the brunt of the Confederate assault and to delay Early for a vital twenty-four hours. Lew Wallace, his superior on the field, recorded that the division "fought magnificently"; of the total Union loss of 677 men, Ricketts' division lost 595. He then engaged in Philip Sheridan's Shenandoah campaign; and at Cedar Creek in October, while temporarily commanding the corps, Ricketts was wounded by a bullet through his chest which disabled him for life. Nonetheless, he returned to command of his division two days before R. E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Ricketts was brevetted major general of volunteers on August 1, 1864, and in the Regular Army as of March 13, 1865. On January 3, 1867, he was retired from active service as a major general for disability from wounds received in battle; however, he continued to do court-martial duty until 1869. He lived in Washington until his death on September 22, 1887; 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.