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Gouverneur Kemble Warren

Gouverneur Kemble WarrenBorn: 8-Jan-1830
Birthplace: Coldspring, NY
Died: 8-Aug-1882
Location of death: Newport, RI
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Island Cemetery, Newport, RI

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Military

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Union Army General

Military service: Union Army

The American soldier Gouverneur Kemble Warren was born at Coldspring, New York, on the 8th of January 1830, and entered West Point in 1846, graduating in 1850. He was assigned to the engineers, and for several years was employed in survey work in the West, where he took part in some expeditions against the Indians. In 1859 he was made assistant instructor in mathematics at West Point. But two years later, at the outbreak of the Civil War, the scientific subaltern was made lieutenant-colonel of volunteers and posted to the newly raised 5th New York Volunteer Infantry. He was fully equal to the task, for his regiment was very soon brought into a state of marked efficiency. In August he was promoted colonel. He commanded a brigade of the V. corps at Gaines's Mill, Second Bull Run and Antietam, and was shortly afterwards promoted brigadier-general of Volunteers. During the Fredericksburg campaign he was on the engineer staff of the Army of the Potomac, but after Chancellorsville he was appointed chief of engineers in that army, and in that capacity rendered brilliant services at Gettysburg, his reward being promotion to major-general U.S.V. and the brevet of colonel in the regular army. When the Army of the Potomac was reorganized in the spring of 1864 Warren returned to the V. corps as its commander.

His services in the Wilderness and Petersburg campaigns proved his fitness for this large and responsible command, but his naturally lively imagination and the engineer's inbred habit of caution combined to make him a brilliant but somewhat unsafe subordinate. He would have become one of the great chiefs of staff of history, or even a successful army commander, but he sometimes failed where a less highly gifted man would have succeeded. He was at his best when the military situation depended on his exercising his initiative, as on the first day in the Wilderness, in which his action saved the army, at his worst when, as on the 10th of May before Spottsylvania, he was ordered to attempt the impossible. On the latter occasion both Ulysses S. Grant and George Gordon Meade threatened to relieve him of his command, and Humphreys, the chief of staff of the army, was actually sent to control the movements of the V. corps.

Similar incidents took place in the later stages of the campaign, and at last, at the critical moment preceding the battle of Five Forks, Philip Henry Sheridan, who was in charge of the operations, was authorized by Grant to relieve Warren of his command if he thought fit. The thoughtful Warren and the eager, violent Sheridan were ill-matched. At the outset the V. corps, being no longer composed of the solid troops of 1862 and 1863, fell into confusion, which Warren exerted himself to remedy, and in the event the battle was an important Union victory. But after it had ended Sheridan sent for Warren and, with no attempt to soften the blow, relieved him of his command. A court of inquiry was subsequently held, which entirely exonerated Warren from the reckless charges of apathy, almost of cowardice, which Sheridan brought against him. Shortly after Five Forks Warren resigned his volunteer commission, and received the brevet of brigadier-general in the regular army. After the war he was employed, in the substantive rank of major (1879 lieutenant-colonel) of engineers, in survey work and harbor improvements. General Warren died on the 8th of August 1882 at Newport, Rhode Island. A statue to his memory was erected at Round Top, on the field of Gettysburg, on the sixth anniversary of his death.

    University: US Military Academy, West Point (1850)



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