Orlando Bolivar Wilcox

Medal of Honor citation:

Rank and organization: Colonel, 1st Michigan Infantry.
Place and date: At Bull Run, Va., July 21, 1861.
Entered service at: Detroit, Mich.
Birth: Detroit, Mich.
Date of issue: March 2, 1895.

Led repeated charges until wounded and taken prisoner.

Civil War Union Brigadier General, Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. Born in Detroit, Michigan, he graduated 8th in the United States Military Academy class of 1847. After his graduation,he served in garrisons in Mexico, New Mexico Territory, Massachusetts, and Florida. In 1857 he resigned his commission, returned to his hometown, and became a lawyer. Reenlisting in military service on May 1, 1861, with the rank of Colonel of the 1st Michigan Volunteer Infantry, he led the regiment at First Bull Run, where he was wounded and captured. In Confederate prisons for more than a year, he was released on August 19, 1862, receiving his commission as Brigadier General the same day. Assigned a division of the Army of the Potomac's IX Corps, he directed it at the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam. When Major General Ambrose Burnside, the corps commander, succeeded to command of the army, he led the corps during the December 1862 Fredericksburg Campaign. Early in 1863 the IX Corps was transferred to the West, assigned to the Army of the Ohio. During 1863 and part of 1864, he commanded the corps 3 times. He also served briefly as commander of the District of Central Kentucky. The IX Corps in spring 1864 returned to Virginia, where he led his division at the Battle of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg. When General Burnside resigned after the disastrous Battle of the Crater, on July 30, Major General John G. Parke, the corps's Chief of Staff, not himself, assumed command. Despite his excellent record, he had never been promoted to Major General. He stayed at divisional command until the surrender at Appomattox. Brevetted Major General in the volunteer and Regular service, he was mustered out in January 1866, returning to his legal practice in Detroit. In July, however, the army was enlarged, and he was reappointed as Colonel of the 29th United States Infantry. He remained in the army for 21 years. Because of his performance as commander of the Department of Arizona, the town of Willcox, Arizona, was named after him. He retired in 1887 and, 8 years later, Congress awarded him the Medal of Honor for his performance at First Bull Run. He died in Coburg, Ontario, Canada, of acute bronchitis. His MOH citation reads "Led repeated charges until wounded and taken prisoner". (bio by: Ugaalltheway)

Courtesy of find-a-grave


Orlando Bolivar Willcox was born in Detroit, Michigan, on April 16, 1823. Destined for a career in the army, he was graduated from West Point in 1847. He was briefly detailed to garrison duty in Mexico City and Cuernavaca at the close of the Mexican War and then was on duty at various points including stations in New Mexico, Massachusetts, and Florida. Willcox resigned his commission in 1857 to practice law in Detroit, but returned to the army in 1861 as colonel of the 1st Michigan Infantry. At the battle of First Manassas he was wounded and captured while in command of a brigade of Heintzelman's division; he remained a prisoner for more than a year, part of the time as a hostage for Rebel privateers men whom the Federal authorities had threatened to hang as pirates. On the day of his release (August 19, 1862), he was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers to rank from the date of the battle in which he had been captured the previous year and given command of the 1st Division to Ambrose E. Burnside's IX Corps. He led a division, and sometimes the corps itself, at Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Knoxville, and during Grant's Overland campaign against Richmond in the summer of 1864. When Burnside left the Army of the Potomac after the debacle at The Crater in August, Willcox might presumably have been his logical successor in command of the corps, but John G. Parke, who was chief of staff of the corps and a major general, received the post, and Willcox continued to command his division until the close of the war. He was brevetted major general in both the Regulars and volunteers and in 1895 was awarded the Congressional medal for "most distinguished gallantry" at the battle of Manassas thirty-four years before. He was mustered out of service in January, 1866, and returned to Detroit to resume his law practice, but upon the enlargement of the Regular Army in July was reappointed as colonel of the 29th Infantry. He transferred to the 12th Infantry in 1869 and served at San Francisco almost continuously until 1878, when he assumed command of the Department of Arizona during a period when the Apache warfare was at its height. He remained in this post until 1882 and as a consequence of his service here the town of Willcox, Arizona, was named for him. In 1886 he was promoted to brigadier general, U. S. Army, and in 1887 was retired. Two years later he did a tour of duty as governor of the Soldiers' Home at Washington. General Willcox remained in Washington for a time, but in 1905 moved to Coburg, Ontario, where he died on May 10, 1907, at the age of eighty-four; he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He was the author of two novels published under the pseudonym "Major Walter March."

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

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