Philip Kearny "One-Armed General" June 2, 1815 - September 1, 1862
Phil Kearny's mother died when he was nine years old, and he was raised by his wealthy grandfather in New York City. His uncle, Stephen W. Kearny, was a general in the U.S. Dragoons, and Phil, too, wanted a military career. But his grandfather was against the idea, and so Phil went to Columbia University, graduated in 1833, and became a lawyer.
After becoming a millionaire upon his grandfather's death (in 1837), Philip Kearny obtained a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Dragoons. After two years' dragoon service, he was sent to study cavalry tactics at France's Saumur Cavalry School; while there, he volunteered for service with the Chasseurs d'Afrique in Algeria. When Kearny returned to the United States, he served as a staff officer for Gen. Winfield Scott before fighting in the Mexican War. His left arm was amputated after he was wounded at Churubusco while leading a charge. After a few years spent fighting Indians in California, Phil Kearny resigned from the military as a captain in 1851, married, and took up residence in New Jersey. In 1859, he went to Europe again, this time to fight in the Italian War as a member of Napoleon III's Imperial Guard. His daring in leading charges against the Austrians was rewarded with the Legion of Honor.
Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, Kearny was well known and respected and probably had more combat experience than any other Union officer. He was made a Union army brigadier general commanding a New Jersey brigade. He fought in the Peninsular Campaign at Williamsburg and Seven Pines, and after the Seven Days' battles, he was made a major general commanding a III Corps division. He then fought at 2nd Bull Run and in the September 1, 1862, battle at Chantilly, VA. The action at Chantilly was fought in a driving rainstorm and Kearny mistakenly rode into Confederate lines. When called upon to surrender, he fled and was killed by a volley of rifle fire.
Fascinating Fact: Kearny's death was regretted by both blue and gray soldiers. Lee sent Kearny's horse and equipment to his widow, and his body was returned under a flag of truce.
Back to index page