Brig. Gen. Samuel Davis Sturgis (b. 1822, d. 1889). A solid soldier and officer Sturgis proofed to be no match for Nathan Bedford Forrest. Born at Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, Sturgis graduated from West Point in 1846 and was assigned to the cavalry. He fought in the Mexican-American War during which he was captured while on reconnaissance mission near Buena Vista. The sectional crisis of 1861 found him at an outpost in Arkansas as cavalry captain. He managed to safe his men and equipment from advancing state troops and was promoted to major. In that capacity he served in Gen. Nathaniel Lyon’s Missouri campaign that ended at Wilson’s Creek on August 10, 1861. Command of the Union troops fell to Sturgis when Lyon was killed in the battle and the new commander managed to retreat with most of the force at hand. For his actions he was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers in March of 1862 although it was dated back to the battle’s day. Serving in the defence of Washington he was sent to support Gen. John Pope in August during the campaign that ended with the great Northern defeat at Second Bull Run. Sturgis did not arrive in time to participate in the battle due to a transport delay. He did not mind according to a famous remark on the Union commander: "I don't care for John Pope one pinch of owl dung." When the Army of the Potomac was reorganized for the Maryland campaign Sturgis received command of a division in the IX corps. He led it with distinction in the battle of South Mountain. At Antietam on September 17 his division took Burnside Bridge in piecemeal attacks but was unable to further advance thus allowing the Confederates to rebuild their line – due to a chain of Union mistakes the Southerners could even recross the Potomac two days later into Virginia. The Federals would have to make a harder river crossing three months later at Fredericksburg. Sturgis and his men were part of the force that attacked frontally Marye’s Heights and were repulsed with great loss. However, Sturgis was breveted to major general for his conduct. The next year he was sent west and took command of the Department of the Ohio. In Gen. William T. Sherman’s Atlanta campaign he got the task to protect the advancing armies supply lines. Those were threatened by Forrest’s cavalry. In June, Sturgis got orders to advance on Tupelo, Mississippi to force Forrest to stay away from Tennessee. The Confederate – though outnumbered – chose to ambush the Union invaders. He managed to surprise Sturgis’ cavalry with its back to a river. When the Union troops broke their retreat turned into a rout when they found only one bridge on their line of retreat. The Federals lost four times as many men than the Confederates (1500 prisoners alone). Sturgis was blamed for the defeat and put out of active command for the remainder of the war. After the conflict he stayed in the army nevertheless, reverted to lieutenant colonel. In 1869 he became commander of the 7th Cavalry and was promoted to colonel. His lieutenant colonel was George A. Custer whom Sturgis disliked. Sturgis was not with his men when Custer made his last stand at Little Big Horn but lost a son in the fight. Sturgis retired in 1886 and died three years later. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. His son and his grandson Samuel became both generals in the US Army.
Teaches: Disciplined, Resilient
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