John White Geary

Compliments Find-a-grave

John White Geary was born December 30, 1819, at Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania. He attended Jefferson College at Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, for a time, but was forced to leave upon the death of his father. For several years he pursued various activities: teaching school, clerking in a store, studying civil engineering and law, gaining entrance to the bar, and surveying in Kentucky. From the age of sixteen he had been a militia lieutenant and with the outbreak of the Mexican War was elected lieutenant colonel of the 2nd Pennsylvania Infantry and took part in Winfield Scott's advance from Vera Cruz to Mexico City. He was later advanced to colonel of his regiment. In the interval between the close of the contest with Mexico and the bombardment of Sumter, Geary organized the postal service in California, served as first mayor of San Francisco, and for some months was territorial governor of strife-torn Kansas. He threw his influence on the side of the antislavery faction in Kansas and his administration was not wholly satisfactory, resulting in his resignation in March, 1857, and his retirement to his farm in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. On June 28, 1861, he was made colonel of the 28th Pennsylvania Infantry and joined the command of General N. P. Banks at Harpers Ferry. Geary distinguished himself in several engagements, was wounded at Bolivar Heights, captured Leesburg in March, 1862, and was commissioned brigadier general of volunteers on April 25. Twice wounded at Cedar Mountain where he commanded the 2nd Brigade of Christopher C. Augur's 2nd Division of Banks's II Corps, he returned to duty in time to command the 2nd Division of the XII Corps at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. Transferred to the west with the XI and XII Corps, he fought at Wauhatchie and Chattanooga and, after the XI and XII were consolidated into the XX Corps, commanded its 2nd Division in the "March to the Sea," and then served as military governor of Savannah. He was brevetted major general to rank from January 12, 1865, "for fitness to command and promptness to execute." Upon his return to Pennsylvania in 1866, he was elected governor on the Republican ticket (although he had been a lifelong Democrat) and served two terms, from January 1867 until January 1873. Eighteen days after the expiration of his second term he was suddenly stricken and died in Harrisburg. He was buried there in Harrisburg Cemetery.

Previous Page

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