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Bill Thayer

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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1841

Vol. II

(Born Pa.)

James Totten​a

(Ap'd Va.)


Born Sep. 11, 1818, Pittsburgh, PA.

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1837, to July 1, 1841, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Bvt. Second Lieut., 2d Artillery, July 1, 1841.

Served: in garrison at Ft. Columbus, N. Y., 1841‑42, — Ft. Adams,

(Second Lieut., 1st Artillery, Aug. 17, 1842)

R. I., 1842, — Ft. Columbus, N. Y., 1842, — and Ft. Trumbull, Ct., 1842‑46; on Recruiting service, 1846; in garrison at Ft. Columbus, N. Y., 1846‑47; in the War with Mexico, in garrison at Ft. Brown, Tex.,

(First Lieut., 2d Artillery, Mar. 3, 1847)

1847‑48; in garrison at Savannah and Augusta, Ga., 1848‑49; in Florida Hostilities against the Seminole Indians, 1849‑50; in garrison at Ft. Moultrie, S. C., 1850; on Coast Survey, Dec. 10, 1850, to Nov. 20, 1855;

(Captain, 2d Artillery, Oct. 20, 1855, to Nov. 12, 1861)

in garrison at Barrancas Barracks, Fla., 1855‑56, — and Ft. Monroe, Va., 1857; in quelling Kansas Disturbances, 1857‑58; in garrison at Ft. Monroe, Va., 1858; and on frontier duty at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., 1858, — Ft. Riley, Kan., 1858‑59, — Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., 1859‑60, — Ft. Smith, Ark., 1860, being engaged in expelling Squatters from the Indian Reserves in Kansas and Arkansas, — and in command of Little Rock Arsenal, Ark., 1860‑61 (evacuated, Feb. 8, 1861, to a superior Rebel force under Gov. Rector).​b

Served during the Rebellion of the Seceding States, 1861‑66: in guarding magazines, near Jefferson Barracks, Mo., Mar.‑Apr., 1861; in Defense of St. Louis Arsenal, Mo., Apr. to June, 1861, being engaged in the Capture of Camp Jackson, Mo., May 10, 1861; in Military Operations in Missouri, June to Nov., 1861, being engaged in the Occupation of Jefferson City, June 16, 1861, — Action of Boonville, June 17, 1861, —

(Bvt. Major, June 17, 1861,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services in Action at Boonville, Mo.)

in command of Expedition against the Rebels to Syracuse, June 19‑25, 1861, — in Pursuit of the enemy, with the Artillery of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Lyon's Army, July 3 to Aug. 10, 1861, participating in the Action at Dug Springs, Aug. 2, 1861, and Skirmish of Curran Post Office, Aug. 3, 1861, — Battle of Wilson Creek, in command of Battery, Aug. 10,

(Bvt. Lieut.‑Col., Aug. 10, 1861,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services
at the Battle of Wilson's Creek, Mo.)

1861, — Retreat to Rolla, Aug. 11‑20, 1861, — and as Chief of Artillery

(Major, 1st Missouri Volunteer Artillery, Aug. 19, 1861;
and Lieut.‑Colonel, Sep. 1, 1861)

 p90  in Major-General Fremont's movements in S. W. Missouri, Sep. 20 to Nov. 2, 1861; as Chief of Artillery of the Department of the Missouri,

(Major, Staff — Asst. Inspector-General, Nov. 12, 1861)

on the Staff of Major-General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Halleck, Nov. 23, 1861, to Feb. 19, 1862;

(Brig.‑General, Missouri Militia, in the Service of the United States, Feb. 20, 1862)

in command of the Central District of Missouri, Mar. 30 to Aug. 21, 1862, — and of Southwest Division of Missouri, Aug. 28 to Sep. 20, 1862; in command of Division of the Army of the Frontier, Oct., 1862, to Mar. 21, 1863, being engaged in several Actions, and in Pursuit of the enemy beyond the Boston Mountains, Ark.; as Inspector-General of the Department of the Missouri, May 28, 1863, to Aug. 6, 1864; and as Chief of Artillery, Aug. 30, 1864, to July 8, 1865, and Chief of Ordnance, Sep. 12, 1864, to July 8, 1865, of the Military Division of West Mississippi, being engaged (in command of the Siege Train) in the Siege of the Defenses of Mobile Bay, Mar.‑Apr., 1865, and Occupation of the city,

(Bvt. Colonel, Mar. 13, 1865,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services
during the Siege of Mobile, Ala.)

(Bvt. Brig.‑General, U. S. Army, Mar. 13, 1865,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services in the Field
during the Rebellion)

Apr. 12, 1865; in waiting orders, Aug. 15 to Dec. 2, 1865; as Inspector-General of the Military Division of the Atlantic, Aug. 15, 1865, to Aug. 27, 1866, and of the Department of the East, Aug. 27, 1866, to July 10, 1869,

(Lieut.‑Col., Staff — Asst. Inspector-General, June 13, 1867)

— and of the Military Division of the South, to Apr., 1870.

Dismissed, July 22, 1870,
for "Disobedience of Orders," "Neglect of Duty," and
"Conduct to the Prejudice of Good Order and Military Discipline."​c

Died, Oct. 2, 1871, at Sedalia, Mo.: Aged 53.

Buried, Crown Hill Cemetery, Sedalia, MO.

See Annual Association of Graduates, U. S. M. A., 1872, for an obituary notice.º

Thayer's Notes:

a He was the father of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Charles A. L. Totten.

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b While this summary is substantially correct, the truth is somewhat more finely shaded. As recorded by the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission (see the plaque at Little Rock Arsenal):

The Arsenal Crisis

The Civil War could have begun at this U. S. Arsenal. As other states seceded, rumors that reinforcements were heading for the Arsenal led around 1,000 militia from south and east Arkansas to demand the surrender of the garrison. On Feb. 12, 1861, Capt. James Totten, with no orders from his superiors, abandoned the Arsenal "to avoid the cause of Civil War." Little Rock's ladies gave him a sword to show their appreciation of his action. Two months later, Ft. Sumter was attacked.

Credit for the peaceful solution of the crisis at the arsenal goes equally to Capt. Totten, who did the reasonable thing, and to Gov. Rector, who used persuasion rather than force; at Fort Sumter alas, hotheads on both sides precipitated the States into an unnecessary war.

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c Lieut.‑Colonel Totten was dismissed for alcoholism. Here is a Report submitted to the Committee on Invalid Pensions of the U. S. House of Representatives, 45th Congress, 2d Session, in support of a private bill for the relief of his widow:

Julia H. Totten.

February 8, 1878. — Committed to the Committee of the Whole House and ordered to be printed.

Mr. Powers, from the Committee on Invalid Pensions, submitted the following

[To accompany bill H. R. 2519.]

The Committee on Invalid Pensions, to whom was referred the bill (H. R. 2519) granting a pension to Mrs. Julia H. Totten, widow of late Lieut. Col. James Totten, who was also Assistant Inspector-General of the United States Army, respectfully report:

That General James Totten was the husband of the memorialist. He graduated at the West Point Military Academy, and for thirty-one years continued in the service of his country in the Regular Army; but during the war of 1861 and 1862 was commissioned by the governor of Missouri a brigadier-general. During his thirty-one years of service it does not appear that he had more than six months of furlough. He was twice brevetted for extraordinary gallantry on the field of battle. As an artillery officer he had no superiors and few peers. For bravery and gallantry he was a model. In the history of the Mexican war his name is inscribed as one of the bravest of the brave. While in the service in the line of his duty in Florida, he contracted a pulmonary affection which lasted during life, and directly or indirectly induced his death. While in the service, in the war of 1861 and 1862, his comrades who were with him in the field attest the fact that he was incessantly suffering from a hacking cough; that he, while suffering from physical disease, insisted upon performing his duties in the field, when others in better physical health, of less daring spirit, would have found ample excuse to be relieved from service.

In consequence of his diseased condition he was compelled to use stimulants, which soon grew to a habit of inebriety, and in 1870 he was dismissed from the service on account of his intemperance, and soon after, in the year 1871, he died of phthisis pulmonalis, which the evidence shows was contracted in the service. He was a man of high honor and unquestioned integrity. He tried to struggle in the world for a living after his dismissal, but, in consequence of his ill health, he could not. He was taken up a stranger on the streets of a strange city by a kind friend. He soon died, and but for the strength of the friendship which was not alienated from this broken officer, he might have died a pauper. For his life's services, which are inscribed upon the pages of his country's history, his aged widow should receive a pension.

Your committee would, therefore, report the accompanying bill as amended, and earnestly recommended its passage.

This still leaves unanswered questions — among them, Where was his wife when he was roaming the streets homeless in the last year of his life? — but the mystery of the dry statement of his dismissal is cleared up.

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