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Civil War Soldiers - Birney

Birney, David B., major-general, U.S. Army, was born in Huntsville, Ala., May 29, 1825, being a son of James G. Birney, the abolition leader. He studied law in Cincinnati, O., where his father published a newspaper, then moved with his parents to Bay City, Mich., and later to Philadelphia, where he was practicing law at the outbreak of the Civil war. Giving up his profession, he recruited, largely at his own expense, the 23d Penn. volunteer regiment, of which he was made at first lieutenant-colonel and afterwards colonel, being promoted from this rank to brigadier-general and major-general of volunteers. He fought bravely at Yorktown, Williamsburg, Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, and, upon the death of Gen. Berry, succeeded him as commander of the division. In the battle of Gettysburg he commanded the 3d corps after Gen. Sickles was wounded, and on July 23, 1864, was made commander of the 10th corps. He returned home with greatly impaired health, and on Oct. 18, 1864, died of disease contracted while in the service.

Source: The Union Army: A History of Military Affairs in the Loyal States 1861-1865, Volume 8 Biographical, 1908

Birney, William, brigadier-general, U.S. Army, was born in Huntsville, Ala., in 1819, the second son of James G. Birney, and was like his father a strong abolitionist. He was educated at Centre and Yale colleges, and spent five years in study in Europe. While in France, in 1848, he took an active part in the revolution and was appointed, on competitive examination, professor of English literature in the college at Bourges. Entering the military service of the United States as captain, in 1861, he rose through all the grades to the brevet rank of major-general of volunteers, and during the last two years of the war commanded a division. In 1863, having been commissioned by the war department to organize colored troops, he enlisted, equipped, and sent to the field, seven regiments of colored troops, in doing which, he liberated the slaves from the slave prisons in Baltimore, thus freeing a large number of slaves belonging to Confederate officers. The result of his operations was to hasten the abolition of slavery in Maryland. After the defeat of the Union troops at Olustee, Fla., being placed in command of that district, he succeeded in regaining possession of the principal parts of the state and of several Confederate strongholds. He took part in numerous skirmishes and the principal battles in Virginia, including the first and second Bull Run, Petersburg, Fredericksburg, Chantilly and Chancellorsville. After the war he spent four years in Florida, and then removed to Washington where he practiced his profession, becoming attorney for the District of Columbia.

Source: The Union Army: A History of Military Affairs in the Loyal States 1861-1865, Volume 8 Biographical, 1908

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