"Hugh" Judson Kilpatrick

Hugh Judson Kilpatrick (he dropped the "Hugh" upon admission to West Point) was born near Deckertown, New Jersey, January 14, 1836, the son of a farmer. He seems to have had little but a primary education in the local schools, but entered the Military Academy in 1856 and was graduated in the May class of 1861. Kilpatrick early recognized that the path to promotion lay in the volunteer service, and on May 9, 1861, he became a captain of the 5th New York Infantry. At the skirmish of Big Bethel in June, billed as the first "battle" of the war, he became the first Regular officer to be wounded in action. In September, 1861, he became lieutenant colonel of the 2nd New York Cavalry, colonel in December, 1862, and on June 14, 1863, brigadier general of volunteers. In the meantime he successively commanded his regiment, a brigade, and later a division of cavalry in the Army of the Potomac, taking a creditable part in virtually every important cavalry action in the eastern theater, including Beverly Ford, Stoneman's raid, and Gettysburg. In February, 1864, while commanding the 3rd Cavalry Division, he undertook the celebrated raid on Richmond which was to free the Union prisoners there, but which resulted in a fiasco and the death of one-legged Colonel Ulric Dahlgren. In April, General Ulysses S. Grant sent him south to take charge of a cavalry division in William T. Sherman's forces, and he was badly wounded at Resaca in the opening operations of the Atlanta campaign. He returned to duty in late July, guarded Sherman's communications, and raided and took part in several heavy skirmishes with his schoolmate, Joe Wheeler. Kilpatrick, nicknamed "Little Kil" and "Kil-Cavalry" (the latter because of the used-up condition of his horses), was a controversial and anomalous figure. He neither drank nor played cards but was a notorious Don Juan; it is recorded that he escaped from the embrace of an itinerant Southern belle in his underwear when Confederate General Wade Hampton surprised his headquarters at dawn during the Carolina campaign. He was much given to fictitious description of his own feats, vain, and careless of the truth. Nevertheless, Sherman in November, 1864, asserted, "I know that Kilpatrick is a hell of a damned fool, but I want just that sort of man to command my cavalry in this expedition." He accompanied the "March to the Sea" and the campaign which ended in North Carolina with the surrender of the army under General Joseph E. Johnston. Kilpatrick was brevetted major general, U. S. Army, in March and made major general of volunteers on June 19, 1865. At the end of the year he resigned both his regular and volunteer commissions to become minister to the Republic of Chile by appointment of President Johnson, serving until 1868. He switched his politics twice, was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress in 1880, and the following year was reappointed to the Chilean ministry by President Arthur. At this time Chile and Peru were engaged in a war, and Kilpatrick became embroiled in a diplomatic controversy with General Stephen Hurl-but who was his counterpart in Lima, presumably because he himself had a Chilean wife. In any event, by coincidence, the embattled diplomats both died at their posts, Kilpatrick in Santiago, December 4, 1881, and Hurlbut in Lima the following year; the former's remains ultimately came to rest at West Point.

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