Philip Kearny

Statue honoring General Kearny located in Newark, New Jersey's Military Park.

Philip Kearny was born in New York City, June 2, 1815, the scion of great wealth and social position, and the nephew of General Stephen W. Kearny of Mexican War fame. In his early years he attended private schools, was graduated from Columbia University in 1833, studied law, and traveled widely. In 1836 he inherited a million dollars from his grandfather and at once embraced the military career which had been his goal since boyhood. A superb horseman, Kearny was commissioned second lieutenant in his uncle's regiment, the 1st Dragoons, in 1837. In 1839 he attended the French Cavalry School at Saumur, saw action with the Chasseurs d'Afrique in Algiers in 1840, and after his return to the United States acted as aide-de-camp successively to Generals Alexander Macomb and Winfield Scott, the generals-in-chief of the army. In 1846 his company served as escort for Scott during the advance on Mexico City, and at Churubusco his left arm was shattered, necessitating amputation. For his gallant conduct here he was brevetted major. After later service in California he resigned from the army in 1851 and went around the world. Following several years spent on his New Jersey estate, Kearny went abroad again in 1859 and served in Napoleon Ill's Imperial Guard during the Italian War. He is said to have taken part in every cavalry charge at Magenta and Solferino with the reins clenched in his teeth. When the Civil War broke out, Kearny hurried home and offered his services. He was among the first brigadier generals of volunteers appointed (August 7 to rank from May 17, 1861) and was assigned to command a brigade of New Jersey regiments in Franklin's division. During the course of the Peninsular campaign in the spring of 1862, he rose to the command of a division of Samuel P. Heintzelman's III Corps and was made a major general as of July 4, 1862. At the close of the campaign of Second Manassas, during the indecisive engagement of Chantilly (Ox Hill) on September 1, 1862, Kearny inadvertently rode into the Confederate lines and was killed instantly by a rifle ball as he wheeled and spurred off. The originator of the "Kearny patch," the forerunner of the corps badges later developed by General Daniel Butterfield, Kearny was termed by General Scott "the bravest man I ever knew, and a perfect soldier." His remains, forwarded under a flag of truce by General Robert E. Lee, were first buried in Trinity Churchyard, New York City, but in 1912 were removed to 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.