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Civil War Soldiers - Halleck

Halleck, Henry W., major-general, U.S. Army, was born at Westernville, Oneida county, N. Y., Jan. 16, 1815. After a common-school education, received at Hudson academy, and a partial course at Union college, he entered the United States military academy July 1, 1835, graduating four years later third in a class of thirty-one. On July 1, 1839, he was appointed second lieutenant in the engineer corps of the army, and from his marked ability and skill as an instructor, while still a cadet, was retained as assistant professor of engineering at the academy until June 28, 1840. During the next year he acted as assistant to the board of engineers at Washington, D. C., and was thence transferred to assist in the construction of the fortifications in New York harbor. Here he remained several years, with the exception of time spent in 1845 on a tour of inspection of public works in Europe, receiving while absent a promotion to first lieutenant. At the outbreak of the war with Mexico, he was sent to California as engineer of military operations for the Pacific coast, and after a seven-months' voyage in the transport Lexington, reached Monterey, Cal., which he partially fortified as a port of refuge for the Pacific fleet, and a base for incursions into California by land. In his military capacity he accompanied several expeditions ; in that of Col. Burton into Lower California, he acted as chief of staff to that officer, and took part in the skirmishes of Palos Prietos and Urias, Nov. 19-20, 1847; with a few volunteers made a forced march to San Antonio, March 16, 1848, surprising a large Mexican garrison and nearly capturing the governor, and was engaged at Todos Santos on March 30. He was also aid-de-camp to Com. Shubrick in naval operations on the coast, among which was the capture of Mazatlan (of which for a time he was lieutenant-governor), and for "gallant and meritorious services," received the commission of captain by brevet, to date from May 1, 1847. As secretary under the military governments of Gens. Mason and Riley, he displayed "great energy, high administrative qualities, excellent judgment and admirable adaptability to his varied and onerous duties," and as a member of the convention, called to meet at Monterey, Sept. 1, 1849, to frame a constitution for the state of California, he was substantially the author of that instrument. On Dec. 21, 1852, he was appointed inspector and engineer of lighthouses; from April 11, 1853, was a member of the board of engineers for fortifications of the Pacific coast, receiving the promotion of captain of engineers on July 1, and retained all these positions until Aug. 1, 1854, when he resigned from the army to become the head of the most prominent law firm in San Francisco, with large interests and much valuable property in the state, with whose development and prosperity his name was identified. In 1860-61 he was major-general of the militia of California, and at the outbreak of the Civil war tendered his services to the government, and was appointed major-general of regulars at the urgent recommendation of Gen. Scott, his commission dating Aug. 19, 1861. On Nov. 18 he took command of the Department of Missouri, with headquarters at St. Louis, where his vigorous rule soon established order. After the victory at Shiloh Halleck took the field, having, March 11, 1862, succeeded to the command of the Department of the Mississippi, and the siege of Corinth took place under his personal direction. After the evacuation by the enemy, and in the midst of the fortification of Corinth against his return from the south, Halleck was visited by two assistant secretaries of war and one U. S. senator, to urge his acceptance of the office of general-in-chief, which had been tendered him, but which he declined until events in the Peninsular campaign forced his acceptance of the honor on July 23. From Washington, on Oct. 28, he wrote the letter which constitutes "the only official explanation of the final removal of McClellan from command, Nov. 7." After Gen. Grant became lieutenant-general of the army, Halleck remained at Washington as chief of staff from March 12, 1864, to April 19, 1865, and from April 22 to July 1 of the latter year was in command of the military division of the James with headquarters at Richmond. On Aug. 30 he took command of the division of the Pacific, from which he was relieved by Gen. George H. Thomas, and on March 16, 1869, was transferred to that of the South, with headquarters at Louisville, Ky. Gen. Halleck died at Louisville, Jan. 9, 1872.

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

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