William Reading Montgomery

William Reading Montgomery was born on July 10, 1801, in Monmouth County, New Jersey. He entered West Point at the age of twenty and was graduated in 1825, ranking near the bottom of the class. Subsequently he served at various times on the Canadian border during the disturbances of 1838-46, in the Florida War of 1840-42, and in the occupation of Texas prior to the war with Mexico. He greatly distinguished himself as a captain of the 8th Infantry in the Mexican War and was brevetted major and lieutenant colonel for gallantry at Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, and Molino del Rey. In 1852 he received the full rank of major. In 1854-55 Montgomery was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, where he seems to have favored to some extent the Free State cause, thus rendering himself persona non grata to the proslavery faction. The latter are alleged to have procured his dismissal from the service on the charge of "appropriating a portion of the Military Reserve at Fort Riley, Kansas, to the uses of the Pawnee Association for a town site, he being interested in that Association." At the beginning of the Civil War he organized the 1st New Jersey Volunteers and became its colonel, although at the time he seems to have been a resident of Pennsylvania. At First Manassas the regiment formed a part of the Fourth (Reserve) Division of McDowell's army and was not on the field of battle. Shortly thereafter (August 9, 1861) Montgomery was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers to rank from May 17. His subsequent service was either administrative or spent in awaiting orders: he was military governor of Alexandria, Virginia, in the autumn of 1861, then commanded at Annapolis for a time, and from April, 1862, until March, 1863, was stationed at Philadelphia. For the last five months preceding the tender of his resignation (said to have been caused by failing health), General Montgomery was a member of a military commission which sat at Memphis. His resignation having been accepted as of April 4, 1864, he returned to private life. After a brief interval in which he dealt in wood mouldings in Philadelphia, he retired to his home in Bristol, Pennsylvania, where he died about midnight on the night of May 31-June 1, 1871. He is buried in St. James Churchyard, Bristol.

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