Robert Sanford Foster


Robert Sanford Foster was born in Vernon, Indiana, on January 27, 1834. After a common school education he went to Indianapolis at the age of sixteen and learned the trade of tinner. With the outbreak of the Civil War he at once enlisted and on April 22, 1861, was mustered in as a captain of the 11th Indiana, a ninety-day regiment which saw limited service in western Virginia. In June, Foster transferred to the 13th Indiana as major and fought at Rich Mountain. He was promoted, successively, to lieutenant colonel and colonel and commanded the regiment in James Shields' division during the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1862. He was ordered to the Peninsula and then to Suffolk, where his command was opposed to James Longstreet's in the spring of 1863. Foster was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers to rank from June 12, 1863. During Quincy A. Gillmore's siege operations against the city of Charleston in the fall and winter of 1863, Foster commanded a brigade stationed in the harbor at Folly Island. After a short period of duty in Florida in the spring of 1864, the brigade was returned to southeastern Virginia, where for a time Foster acted as chief of staff of Gillmore's X Corps in the Army of the James. From then until the end of the war Foster served gallantly on the Petersburg front, commanding first a brigade and then a division in the X Corps (merged into the XXIV Corps in December, 1864). On April 2, 1865, his division and that of General John W. Turner made repeated assaults on Fort Gregg, the hinge of the shattered Confederate line, at a cost of 714 casualties. (The Confederate position had to be held at all costs to enable Long-street to organize an inner line to protect the withdrawal of Robert E. Lee's array). Having earned the brevet of major general, Foster resigned in September, 1865, after serving as a member of the military commission which tried the Abraham Lincoln conspirators. He declined a lieutenant colonelcy in the Regular Army in 1866 and until his death on March 3, 1903, resided in Indianapolis. He was city treasurer for five years, United States Marshal for Indiana from 1881 to 1885, and for many years president of the city board of trade. General Foster was buried in Crown Hill Cemetery.

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