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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1852

Vol. II

(Born N. Y.)

George L. Hartsuff

(Ap'd Mich.)


George Lucas Hartsuff: Born May 28, 1830, Tyre, NY.

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1848, to July 1, 1852, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Bvt. Second Lieut., 4th Artillery, July 1, 1852.

Served: in garrison at Ft. Columbus, N. Y., 1852; on frontier duty at Ft. Brown, Tex., 1852‑53; in Florida Hostilities against the Seminole Indians,

(Second Lieut., 2d Artillery, June 12, 1853)

1854‑56, being engaged on Topographical duty, Dec., 1854, to May, 1855, — and in a Skirmish near Ft. Drane, Fla., Dec. 20, 1855,

(First Lieut., 2d Artillery, Mar. 8, 1855)

where he was severely wounded; at the Military Academy, as Assistant Instructor of Artillery Tactics, Sep. 29, 1856, to June 14, 1859; on frontier duty at Ft. Mackinac, Mich., 1859‑60; on leave of absence, 1860‑61; and in garrison at Washington, D. C., 1861.

Bvt. Captain, Staff — Asst. Adjutant-General, Mar. 22, 1861.

 p485  Served during the Rebellion of the Seceding States, 1861‑66: as Asst. Adjutant-General of the Department of Florida, Apr. 13 to July 12, 1861, being engaged in the Defense of Ft. Pickens, Fla.; as Chief of

(Captain, Staff — Asst. Adjutant-General, Aug. 3, 1861)

Staff of Brig.‑General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Rosecrans, commanding Department of West Virginia, Aug. 8, 1861, to Mar. 29, 1862, being engaged in the Action of Carnifex Ferry, Sep. 10, 1861, — and Pursuit of Rebels under General Floyd, Sep., 1861; on Special duty in the War Department, Apr. 14 to May, 1862; in Operations in the Department of the Rappahannock,

(Brig.‑General, U. S. Volunteers, Apr. 15, 1862)

May to July, 1862; in the Northern Virginia Campaign, July to Aug.,

(Major, Staff — Asst. Adjutant-General, July 17, 1862)

1862, being engaged in the Battle of Cedar Mountain, Aug. 9, 1862, — and Battle of Manassas, Aug. 29, 1862; on sick leave of absence, Aug. 31 to Sep. 7, 1862; in the Maryland Campaign (Army of the Potomac), Sep., 1862, being engaged in the Battle of South Mountain, Sep. 14, 1862, — and Battle of Antietam, Sep. 17, 1862, where he was severely

(Bvt. Colonel, Sep. 17, 1862,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services at the Battle of Antietam, Md.)

wounded; on sick leave of absence, disabled by wound, Sep. 18 to Dec. 18, 1862; as Member of Board to Revise Rules and Articles of

(Major-General, U. S. Volunteers, Nov. 29, 1862)

War, and to prepare a Code for the Government of the Armies in the Field, Dec. 17, 1862, to Apr. 14, 1863; in command of 23d Army Corps, Apr. 27 to Nov., 1863, during Operations in Kentucky, and the Occupation

(Captain, 2d Artillery, May 23, 1863, to June 15, 1864)

of East Tennessee; awaiting orders, being incapacitated for field duty by reason of Antietam wound, Nov., 1863, to July, 1864; on Courts

(Lieut.‑Colonel, Staff — Asst. Adjutant-General, June 1, 1864)

Martial, July, 1864, to Jan., 1865; awaiting orders, Jan. to Mar. 13,

(Bvt. Brig.‑General, U. S. Army, Mar. 13, 1865,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services in the Campaign terminating with the Surrender of the Insurgent Army under General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.R. E. Lee)

1865; in command of the Bermuda front of the works for the Siege of

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

Petersburg (between James and Appomattox Rivers), Mar. 19 to Apr. 3, 1865, — of City Point and Petersburg, Apr. 3 to May, 1865, — and of the District of Nottoway, Va., May to Aug. 22, 1865; awaiting orders, Aug. 21 to Dec. 2, 1865; as Adjutant-General of the Military Division

(Mustered out of Volunteer Service, Aug. 24, 1865)

of the Gulf, Dec. 30, 1865, to May 1, 1866; and on leave of absence, May 1 to June 23, 1866.

Served: on temporary duty under the orders of Major-General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Meade, June 23 to Oct. 1, 1866; and as Adjutant-General of the Department of the Gulf, Nov. 3, 1866, to Mar. 19, 1867, — and of the Fifth Military District (Louisiana and Texas), Mar. 26, 1867, to May 1, 1868; on temporary duty at New York city, June 1, 1868, to Apr. 23, 1869; and as Adjutant-General of the Department of Missouri, to June 29, 1871.

Retired from Active Service, June 29, 1871, as Major-General,
for Disability from Wounds received in Battle.

Died, May 16, 1874, at New York city: Aged 44.

Buried, West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY.

 p486  Biographical Sketch.

Major-General George L. Hartsuff was born in Tyre, N. Y., on the 28th of May, 1830.

"With his parents," says General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.James B. Fry, "he became a resident of Michigan in the 12th year of his age. Through his own personal efforts he secured an appointment as Cadet in 1848, and graduated in 1852, — Number 19 in a class of forty-three members, — and was appointed Brevet Second Lieutenant, Fourth Artillery. He at once joined his company at Fort Brown, Texas, and from that time on his life was one

" 'Of most disastrous chances;

Of moving accidents by flood and field;

Of hair-breadth 'scapes i' the imminent deadly breach."

"An unsurpassed physique, and the most temperate habits, enabled him to overcome the effects of many diseases and wounds which would have carried another to the grave.

"Soon after his arrival at Fort Brown, he was attacked with yellow fever, which he resisted even through its most malignant and generally fatal stage, — black-vomit. From Texas he went to a field of greater hardship and danger in the Everglades of Florida. Though still a Second Lieutenant, he was immediately placed in command of his company, and was in addition assigned to duty as acting Topographical Engineer, and kept busily engaged in reconnoitering, with the special object of establishing a military road through the Big Cypress Swamp. His maps of these reconnoissances were the only ones used in subsequent operations against the Indians in that region. While prosecuting his surveys, with a party of only ten men and two wagons, and under a treaty of peace with the Indians, he was attacked at daylight on the morning of Sep. 20, 1855, by forty of the treacherous savages. Their first fire killed, wounded, and scattered his little force, leaving but two men on their feet, and these both wounded. With these two, and under such cover as his wagon afforded, the brave Lieutenant fought until so badly crippled himself, by two wounds, that he was unable to use a weapon, when, after having shot two Indians with his own pistol, he effected his escape, almost miraculously, by dragging himself through the high grass into a pond, and sinking his body out of sight in the water. The Indians, perhaps awed by his gallantry and the mystery of his disappearance, quickly left the field with the plunder they had acquired. Refreshed by his immersion in the pond, but driven from it in about three hours by the alligators attracted by his blood, he began what turned out to be one of the most wonder­ful feats on record. It was Thursday morning. The nearest white man was at the Fort, fifty-five miles distant. Lieutenant Hartsuff, binding and from time to time rebinding his own wounds as best he could, compelled to lie most of the time on his back, blistered by the hot sun, and lacerated by thorns and briers, concealing himself during the day, and dragging his suffering body inch by inch during the night, remained until Saturday night, continuously without food and without water from the time he left the pond where he first took refuge. He was then found by the troops sent out in search of him, fifteen miles from the place of attack, exhausted, with his name and a brief account of the disaster written on a small piece of paper with his own blood, pinned on his wounded breast. He recovered rapidly, and as he thought at the time fully, from his wounds, and took the field against the same Indians with the first expedition sent out in the following spring. He knew that the bullet in his chest remained there, and a post mortem examination developed the fact that the inflammation from which he died seized upon and spread from the cicatrix in the lung resulting from this wound.

 p487  "He served as Assistant Instructor of Artillery Tactics at the Military Academy, from Sep. 29, 1856, to June 14, 1859, when at his own request he joined his company at Fort Mackinac, and soon thereafter encountered the adventure which, of all in his event­ful life, left the most painful memories with him.

"Returning to his post from a tour of duty, he was a passenger on the Lake steamer 'Lady Elgin,' which was filled with an excursion party, some three hundred or more, in pursuit of pleasure. During a dark and stormy autumn night the steamer collided with a schooner, and went down. This was an occasion for Hartsuff's heroism, and it was not lost. He was one of the first in providing the women with life-preservers, and in doing all else that promised them a chance for escape, and was one of the last to leave the wreck. When all that he could do for others had been done, he leaped into the dark waves, swam until he found a piece of the wreck to aid him, and was rescued, after spending eleven hours in the water. About four fifths of those on board were lost. The scenes of agony which he witnessed on this occasion were so harrowing that it was only with the greatest pain Hartsuff ever recurred to them. The immediate shock of this disaster had hardly passed away when he was ordered with his company to Washington, and began his part in the great conflict which, while it increased his glory, multiplied his wounds and trials.

Appointed Assistant Adjutant-General in March, 1861, he was sent in that capacity with the secret expedition to Fort Pickens, one of the first military enterprises of the war. As if specially required in the very earliest fields of activity, he was transferred thence to West Virginia, as Adjutant-General to General Rosecrans, where he rendered most valuable services in organizing, instructing, and disciplining the raw levies just taking the field, as well as in leading them in action.

"Appointed Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Apr. 15, 1862, and Major-General of Volunteers, Nov. 29, 1862, his distinguished career is written in detail in the history of the war. His services in command of a Brigade in the disastrous campaign of 1862 in Virginia, and his physical condition at the time, furnish such a marked illustration of his character that they may be given in full as presented by Major-General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.McDowell, in the form of evidence under oath. He says:

'Whilst I was in command of the Department of the Rappahannock, General Hartsuff joined me in command of a Brigade. He served under me at Warrenton Junction, at Fredericksburg, on the trying march to and from Front Royal; and after I was placed in the Army of Virginia in command of the Third Army Corps, he continued with me in command of a Brigade in Ricketts' Division. He was in the Battle of Cedar Mountain, and contributed, with the rest of the Division, in saving the Second Corps, which had been defeated, from destruction. He continued with his command during General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pope's retreat from Cedar Mountain, and held the advanced post at Rappahannock River. He was posted on the enemy's side of the river, and held them in check till he was withdrawn, on account of the flood in the river, which destroyed our communications. He then went with his command to Warrenton, and out on the road to Waterloo Bridge, where he was relieved by order, and went to Alexandria. During these battles, these severe forced marches on the retreat, and the trying service he performed whilst our small force was holding the whole army of General Lee in check, General Hartsuff was so ill from some disease of the stomach that, as I was informed by his Brigade Surgeon, he was unable to retain any food; yet he never asked to be excused from any duty, and as our position was one calling for the exertion of every one, he was excused from no duty, but remained constantly in the field at the head of his Brigade. I had frequent occasion to see him and speak to him, and knew him to be suffering from illness which kept him a large part of the time on his  p488 back, and which would have soon broken down any ordinary constitution. His medical officer at last, when he had fallen back to Warrenton, came to me of his own accord, and represented that he could not keep up General Hartsuff any longer; that he had been many days without food, and would soon sink under the disease if he could not be sent from the exposures of the field; that the General would not ask to be relieved, and would die at his post. The Surgeon implored me to interfere, and order that he, General Hartsuff, should go to the rear. As he was no longer able to do any duty, and was sacrificing himself to a point of honor, I gave the order for his relief.'

Hartsuff was absent on account of this sickness one week, then, being just able to ride, he rejoined his command, and led it in the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam. He was severely, for a time it was thought mortally, wounded in the latter fight, but within three months he threw aside his crutches, and applied for light duty, and, leaning upon his cane, he was appointed member of a Board to perform the important labor of revising the Rules and Articles of War, and the Regulations, and establishing a code for the government of armies in the field. As soon as he could dispense with his cane, though his wound was not closed, he applied for active service, and was sent to East Tennessee, and placed in command of the 23d Army Corps. Here he found that even his marvelous strength and endurance had been overtasked, and that his open wound was growing worse, and he was compelled by his medical director to the rest which alone would save his life.

"Hoping and feeling that after a little repose he could fight on to the end, it was with profound surprise and mortification that he found himself ordered before a Retiring Board. This, though he knew it not, was a blessing in disguise, for, while it did not really injure him, it brought to light in the strong form of testimony the truth of a character which will stand for ages a worthy model in the profession of arms.

"He was not at that time retired. The Board avoided, as they expressed it, the 'danger of doing injustice to a gallant and distinguished officer, or hurt to the service by the loss to the active list of one who has heretofore adorned it in a remarkable degree, and who may have at an early day the opportunity to add to the valuable service he has already rendered.'

"He was, however, subjected to the hardship and injustice of a delay of three months, and required at the end of that time to appear again before the Retiring Board. The result was the same; he was not found unfit for the duty he was so anxious to perform. His place, however, had been filled by another. This was the one thing more necessary to prove his heroism, and he proved it by writing the following letter:—

" 'New York City, June 18, 1864.

" 'Sir, — On the 23d of April last, I reported myself able to perform active duty. On the same day an order issued for my re-examination by the Retiring Board at Wilmington, Del. The Board found me not incapacitated for active service, which finding being approved by the Secretary of War, I again asked for an immediate assignment to duty. Pending action on these applications, I have the honor to request permission to proceed to the Army of the Potomac for the purpose of witnessing the operations now taking place there, as I am unwilling voluntarily to lose the experience I might gain thereby. I might besides make myself of service as an Aide-de‑Camp to General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant or in some other useful capacity, which I would be very willing to do.

" 'Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

(Signed) " 'Geo. L. Hartsuff, Major-General, Volunteers.

" 'To the Adjutant-General, U. S. A., Washington, D. C.'

 p489  "The poet could have no fitter example than this for his verse when he wrote:—

'What makes a hero? Not success, not fame,

Inebriate merchants and the loud acclaim

Of glutted avarice, caps tossed up in air,

Or pen of journalist with flourish fair,

Bells pealed, stars, ribands, and a titular name,

These, though his rightful tribute, he can spare:

His rightful tribute, not his end or aim,

Or true reward, for never yet did these

Refresh the soul or set the heart at ease.

What makes a hero? An heroic mind

Expressed in action, in endurance proved;

And if there be pre-eminence of right,

Derived thro' pain well suffered to the height

Of rank heroic, 't is to bear unmoved,

Not toil, not risk, not rage of sea or wind,

Not the brute fury of barbarians blind,

But worse, — ingratitude, and poisonous darts

Launched by the country he had served and loved:

This with a free, unclouded spirit pure,

This in the strength of silence to endure,

A dignity to noble deeds imparts

Beyond the gauds and trappings of renown,

This is the hero's complement and crown;

This missed, one struggle had been wanting still,

One glorious triumph of the heroic will,

One self-approval in his heart of hearts.'

"Such a man as this could not be kept out of the field, and when he joined the Army of the Potomac, of course, a suitable place was found for him. He was assigned to, and commanded with his accustomed gallantry and ability, the Bermuda Hundred front of the lines about Petersburg. After Lee's surrender, he was placed in command of the District of Nottoway. As at the beginning of the war he was noted among the inexperienced patriots, before all of whom alike lay the broad field of duty and glory, so was he conspicuous among heroes and great captains at the close of the mighty struggle.

"When the war ended, and he, like others, was mustered out of the Volunteer service, he resumed his duties in the Adjutant-General's Department of the Regular Army, and performed them with marked ability and fidelity, until borne down by suffering, which love of country and pride in his profession enabled him to resist as long as the nation was in danger, having been brought to the very verge of death five times in direct and immediate consequence of the performance of military duty, with many scars, and with two bullets in his body received in battle; without ever having been in arrest or subjected to a reprimand; with a reputation, in short, free from spot or blemish. He was at his own request, on the 29th of June, 1871, placed, 'with the full rank of Major-General, upon the list of retired officers of that class in which the disability results from long and faithful service, or from wounds or injury received in the line of duty.'

"Hartsuff was essentially a positive man. A rigid disciplinarian, he exacted only the strict obedience from his subordinates which he rendered to his superiors.

"He was as clear in his judgment and as earnest in his convictions as he was efficient and indomitable in the performance of his duties and the execution of his designs.

"As the steep hill, adding to the weight of the burden the spirited horse must bear, only makes him hasten his pace, so the difficulties of life aroused in Hartsuff an irresistible desire to overcome them instantly and effectually, and thus he always appeared, not only active, but, within his proper sphere, aggressive.

"He was a profound student of Philosophy, a lover of truth for its own sake. Untrammeled by denominational dogmas, he yet possessed the  p490 deepest religious convictions. While he stood in devotional awe before that grand mystery, the first step in the solution of which he has now taken through the grave, he understood and rigidly lived up to the practical religion of love, charity, and kindness for his fellow-men."

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Page updated: 6 Mar 13