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THE FIRST COMMANDER OF THE NINTH CORPS.
Y a singular good fortune, not paralleled by any other
corps in the Army of the United States, the relations of the Ninth Corps with its leading officers were unchanged during the continuance of the War of the Rebellion. General Ambrose Everett Burnside was its first commander, and from the date of the organization of the Corps until his retirement from the service, General Burnside's history was identified with its own. Many of the officers and men who composed it were those who fought the battles of Roanoke Island and Newbern. They were with their General at South Mountain and Antietam. They were a part of the Army of the Potomac when the heights of Fredericksburg were assailed. They followed their leader to the deliverance of East Tennessee. They again became a portion of the Army of the Potomac in the closing campaign of the war, and the ensanguined fields of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg bore witness to their united valor. The career of the Corps and its story are inseparable from those of him who, in the early days of the war, led the First Rhode Island Regiment to the relief of Washington. Several of the privates and officers of that regiment were afterwards officers in the Corps. They followed the fortunes of the man whom they had learned to love, from the first to the last, and with undeviating fidelity. It becomes necessary, therefore, before entering upon the history of the Ninth Corps, as a distinct organization, to sketch, in the preliminary chapters of this volume, the early life of General Burnside, and to give some account of the operations which he conducted in Virginia and North Carolina.
In the year 1813, a party of friends from South Carolina joined the great caravan of emigrants that were rapidly filling the great fields of the west. Belonging to this party were a Mr. Edgehill Burnside and Miss Pamelia Brown, with others of their acquaintances and neighbors. The emigrants settled in what was then Indiana Territory, in that section which afterwards became Union County. In the veins of Mr. Burnside flowed the blood of those heroic men who, at Bannockburn and Flodden Field and on many a well fought field in both hemispheres, have proved that the Scotch are among the best soldiers in the world. His parents were born in Scotland, and, removing to America in the latter part of the last century, settled in South Carolina. Here their son was born and educated. Here he remained until the tide of emigration bore him away upon its surface to the West. Having decided to fix his residence in Indiana, he selected a fine place near what is now the town of Liberty, and there proceeded to establish his home. There, soon after his arrival, he was married to Miss Brown. His subsequent success in gaining the confidence and esteem of his fellow citizens, attests a character industrious, faithful and trustworthy. Following the profession of the law, he acquired a respectable reputation as a counsellor, was largely employed in the administration of estates, and enjoyed an extensive and lucrative practice. He is found afterwards and for several years, honorably and creditably
filling the offices of clerk and judge of the county Probate Court.
Into this family, Ambrose the fifth child-was born on the 23d day of May, 1824. He was carefully nurtured, and received his elementary education in the best schools of the neighborhood. There are glimpses of a boyhood ardent, affectionate and adventurous--of high hopes, of generous ambition, of honorable spirit-early evincing a love for military sports and studies, and for any enterprise that had the spice of romance or danger. As he grew up, other children were added to the family—a son and daughter. The farm had become cultivated and comfortable. The family had grown to be one of the most prominent and respected in Eastern Indiana. Mr. Burnside had received abundant testimonials from his neighbors and friends of their confidence and regard. The children were enjoying that training which would fit them for future usefulness and honor.
But as the older sons and daughters were entering upon an active course of life, misfortunes came. Mr. Burnside lost his property in some unprofitable business transaction, and it almost seemed as though the days which had been so bright and prosperous were to end in poverty. But if material possessions were lost, there were resources of character which could not fail. The children—both girls and boys—at once set themselves to work to help their father out of his pecuniary troubles. Ambrose engaged himself to a trader in the town, who carried on a country store, held the office of postmaster, and also followed the business of a tailor. But
Burnside was not destined for a long continuance in this situation.
His father had already desired that one of his sons should be educated at West Point, and Ambrose was selected for the position. It is a pleasing evidence of the esteem in which Mr. Burnside was held, that all the members of the Legislature of . Indiana united in a recommendation to Hon. Caleb. B. Smith, the member of Congress having the appointment, to give young Burnside the coveted privilege. Mr. Smith accordingly
acceded to the request, and at the commencement of the academical year 1842, Ambrose Everett Burnside was enrolled among the cadets in the military service of the United States.
His life at West Point was similar to that of his fellow students. He numbered among his classmates Orlando B. Willcox, Ambrose P. Hill, Romeyn B. Ayres, Otis H. Tillinghast, Charles Griffin, and Henry Heth, all of whom have won distinction upon one side or the other in the course of the war. Among the other classes are found the names of Ulysses S. Grant, Fitz John Porter, Charles P. Stone, Barnard E. Bee, Wm. L. Crittenden, Geo. B. McClellan, Thomas J. Jackson, Geo. F. Evans, John G. Foster, Darius N. Couch, John G. Parke, and Jesse L. Reno. Upon the academic staff were Professor Mahan, Wm. S. Rosecrans, Israel Vogdes, Joseph G. Totten, and E. D. Keyes. The friendships then formed continued until later life, and helped to enhance the enjoyment of a soldier's life in the camps of the Union army, and to mitigate the pains of hostile encounter with those whom the civil war made temporary enemies. During the term of study, the war with Mexico broke out, and the young men partook of the general excitement of the nation. In 1847, young Burnside graduated in the artillery—the eighteenth in rank in a class of thirty-eight members. His commission, as brevet Second Lieutenant in the 2d Artillery, was dated July 1, 1847, and on the 8th of September, 1847, he was promoted to a full second lieutenancy, and assigned to the 3d Artillery. Immediately upon his graduation, Lieutenant Burnside
proceeded to the seat of war. On his arrival at Vera Cruz, he was put in command of an escort to a baggage train, and sent into the interior. Although the route was in the nominal possession of the United States Army, the Mexicans, by a species of guerilla warfare for which they are famous, had succeeded in disabling and cutting off several trains that had previously been sent out. The duty was hazardous, and the post responsible. But the young officer handled his command with great address and skill, carried it safely through, and won the hearty commendation of his superiors. Before he reached the Capital, however, the battles in front of the city of Mexico had been fought, and the war was virtually at an end. He was thus deprived of the opportunity which he wished of engaging, to any great extent, in the active operations of the armies in the field. When peace was proclaimed, and the army had returned home, Lieutenant Burnside was ordered to Fort Adams, Newport, R. I., where, by his eminently social qualities, and his frank, urbane, and honorable bearing, he gained many friends, and laid the foundation of that remarkable esteem with which he has long been regarded in the State of Rhode Island.
In the year 1849, Lieutenant Burnside was transferred from the agreeable duty of the post at Fort Adams and ordered to New Mexico, to join Bragg's famous battery, of which he was now appointed First Lieutenant. It was found that the country was not favorable for the operations of light artillery. Bragg's command was reorganized as cavalry, and Lieutenant Burnside, as second in command to Capt. H. B. Judd, was assigned to the duty of mail escort upon the Plains. The service was very perilous and exciting, but the young officer bore himself with so much coolness and bravery as to elicit warm encomiums for his conduct. He reached New Mexico on the 1st of August, and immediately entered into active service. On the 21st of that month, while stationed near Los Vegas with a force of twenty-nine men, he came in contact with a company of Indian warriors more than double his own command in number, drawn up at the head of a ravine to dispute his progress. He immediately determined to attack them; and, after a single discharge of their rifles, his men, led by their gallant commander, charged with sabres, and swept the Apaches like chaff before them. In this brief and brilliant engagement, eighteen Indians were killed, nine were taken prisoners, forty horses and all the supplies of the band were captured, and the whole party was completely dispersed. The