William Wallace Burns

William Wallace Burns was born in Coshocton, Ohio, on September 3, 1825. At seventeen he was appointed to the Military Academy, from which he was graduated in 1847, ranking twenty-eighth in a class of thirty-eight. This class numbered future Confederate division commander Henry Heth as its bottom man. Posted to the infantry, Burns served during the Mexican War on recruiting duty, then spent several years at various Indian posts in the West and Southwest. In 1858 he accepted a staff commission as commissary of subsistence with rank of captain. In the first months of the Civil War, he acted as George B. McClellan's chief commissary in the West Virginia campaign. He was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers on September 28, 1861, and in the Peninsular campaign the following spring commanded a brigade of John Sedgwick's division of the II Corps, during which he was wounded and favorably mentioned by McClellan. On sick leave for some months, he commanded the 1st Division of the IX Corps at the battle of Fredericksburg. Burns evidently preferred administration to field command, for on March 20, 1863, he resigned his volunteer commission and reverted to his staff rank of major and commissary. He served as chief commissary in the Department of the Northwest until the close of the war and later discharged with distinction the same duties in various Southern departments. General Burns was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the commissary service in 1874 and to colonel in 1884. Meantime he had been brevetted brigadier general for gallant and meritorious services. He was retired on September 3, 1889, and died at Beaufort, South Carolina, April 19, 1892. 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.