William High Keim

William High Keim was born near Reading, Pennsylvania, on June 25, 1813. He attended Mt. Airy Military Academy in his native state, and accordingly took a great interest in the militia in subsequent years, rising through the various grades until he was commissioned major general on April 20, 1861. Meantime he was elected mayor of Reading in 1848 and a Democratic member of Congress, to fill a vacancy, in 1858. He was not a candidate for reelection, but in 1860 was made surveyor general of Pennsylvania, an office which he occupied until his death. Keim was second in command to Major General Robert Patterson of the Pennsylvania militia, which was sent to the Shenandoah Valley to oppose and hold the forces of the Confederate Joseph E. Johnston at Winchester, while Irvin McDowell's troops assailed P. G. T. Beauregard on the Manassas plains. Through the alleged supineness of Patterson, Johnston was able to transfer his entire force to Beauregard's front, with the result that the ensuing battle of First Bull Run became a Union disaster. Much contemporary obloquy was heaped on the venerable Patterson; to what extent blame should attach to Keim is moot. In any event, the Pennsylvania volunteers, together with Patterson and Keim, were mustered out on July 21, 1861. The latter, however, was appointed a brigadier general of United States volunteers on December 20, 1861. During the opening operation of General George B. McClellan's Peninsular campaign in the spring of 1862 Keim commanded the 2nd Brigade of Casey's division of Keyes' IV Corps. On May 8, 1862, following the battle of Williamsburg, Virginia, Keim wrote a report which he characterized as "owing to severe indisposition . . . imperfect. . . ." He had contracted what one of his biographers describes as "camp fever" and ten days later died in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was buried in Charles Evans Cemetery, Reading.

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