Samuel Davis Sturgis

Samuel Davis Sturgis was born in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, on June 11, 1822. He entered the Military Academy at the age of twenty and was graduated in the class of 1846. During the Mexican War he served as a lieutenant of dragoons and was captured and held prisoner for eight days while making a reconnaissance near Buena Vista. After that war he served in the West, was promoted to first lieutenant and captain, and took part in a number of Indian campaigns. The outbreak of the Civil War found him in command at Fort Smith, Arkansas, with a part of his regiment, the 1st Cavalry. Many of his officers defected to the Confederacy; however, Sturgis refused to surrender and managed to march his troops with much of the government property to Fort Leavenworth. He was promoted to major and at Wilson's Creek in August succeeded to command of the Federal forces after the fall of Nathaniel Lyon. The following March Sturgis was appointed brigadier general to rank from August 10, 1861, the day of the battle. After a tour of duty in the Washington defenses he was ordered to the front to support John Pope's Army of Virginia just prior to the battle of Second Manassas. While attempting to secure priority for the movement of his division on the railroad, he was told that he must wait his turn as other troops and supplies were going forward to support Pope; his reaction was the now famous observation, "I don't care for John Pope one pinch of owl dung!" He fought in the Maryland campaign, at Fredericksburg in charge of a IX Corps division, and at Sharpsburg, where Ferrero's brigade of his division finally carried Burnside's Bridge. Sturgis went west with the IX Corps in 1863 and later had a number of relatively unimportant commands in Tennessee and Mississippi. He also served as chief of cavalry of the Department of the Ohio. In June, 1864, he was routed by Nathan B. Forrest at the battle of Brice's Cross Roads, Mississippi—an encounter which terminated Sturgis' Civil War service. He was brevetted brigadier and major general, U. S. Army, in March, 1865, and was mustered out of the volunteers in August; whereupon he reverted to his regular rank of lieutenant colonel of the 6th Cavalry. On May 6, 1869, he became colonel of the 7 th Cavalry, whose lieutenant colonel was George Custer. Sturgis was stationed at a number of western forts during the two decades following the war and for four years was governor of the Soldiers' Home in Washington. He was retired for age in 1886 and died in St. Paul, Minnesota, on September 28, 1889. He was buried in 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.