James Samuel Wadsworth

James Samuel Wadsworth was born on October 30, 1807, in Gen-eseo, New York. His father was becoming one of the largest owners of cultivated lands in the state, and young Wadsworth's life was dedicated from boyhood to the private and public responsibilities which he would inherit. He spent two years at Harvard, studied law, and was admitted to the bar, although he had no intention of practicing. He went into politics because he felt it incumbent upon him to do so and, although first a Democrat, was one of the organizers of the Free-Soil party which joined the Republican fold in 1856. In 1861 he was a member of the Washington peace conference, an unofficial gathering of Northern and Southern moderates whose aim was to avert war. When conflict became inevitable, he immediately offered himself and his fortune to the Union cause. Having no pretensions, he served as a volunteer aide to Irvin McDowell at First Manassas. McDowell then recommended his appointment as brigadier general and his commission as such was forthcoming on August 9, 1861. Wadsworth had neither formal military training nor any illusions about himself, but, on the other hand, he had the habit of command and the experience of a lifetime on the frontier and the farm to draw on. He became military governor of the District of Columbia in March, 1862, and because he saw no prospect of field duty with George B. McClellan in the Peninsular campaign he allowed his supporters to run him for governor of New York on the Republican ticket. The Democrats scored large gains in this off-year election, and Wadsworth was one of the casualties. Following the battle of Fredericksburg in December, 1862, Wadsworth was assigned to the command of the 1st Division of John F. Reynolds' I Corps. The command was not significantly engaged at Chancellorsville, but at Gettysburg, Wadsworth's division, as well as the remainder of the corps, fought like heroes to stave off disaster while the rest of the Army of the Potomac was being brought into action. Reynolds was killed, and the I Corps itself was so decimated that its regiments were subsequently distributed, along with those of the III Corps, to other units when the Army of the Potomac was reconstituted for Grant's Overland campaign in the spring of 1864. At this juncture Wadsworth was assigned to the command of a division of Warren's V Corps—a tribute to his soldierly qualities considering the number of brigade and division commanders rendered supernumerary by the reorganization of the army. At the Wilderness on May 6, 1864, while leading his men in an attempt to repel an assault, he was shot off his horse, a bullet entering the back of his head and lodging in his brain. He was taken to a Confederate field hospital where he died two days later without regaining consciousness. General Wadsworth's remains were later recovered under a flag of truce and are now buried in Temple Hill Cemetery, Geneseo.  He was posthumously promoted to major general to rank from the day he was mortally wounded.

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