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J.W. Forsyth

J.W. Forsyth

Federal (USA)


James William Forsyth

(1834 - 1906)

Home State: Ohio

Education: US Military Academy, West Point, NY, Class of 1856;Class Rank: 28

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: Army of the Potomac

Before Antietam

He was admitted to the US Military Academy at West Point in July 1851, graduated on 1 July 1856, and was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the 9th United States Infantry. He was posted to Fort Bellingham and San Juan Island, Washington Territory (1856-61) and promoted to First Lieutenant on 15 March 1861. He transferred to the 18th US Infantry in May 1861 and trained troops in Ohio. He was promoted to Captain on 24 October 1861 and was acting Colonel of the 64th Ohio Volunteer Infantry into February 1862, then was assigned as staff officer to General McClellan.

On the Campaign

He was Acting Assistant Adjutant General (AAAG) on General McClellan's staff to 15 September, then assigned to General Mansfield, Twelfth Army Corps. After General Mansfield's death on 17 September 1862 at Antietam, he was transferred to the staff of the Provost Marshal General of the Army of the Potomac.

The rest of the War

He continued with the Provost Marshal into May 1863, then served as AAAG of the Regular Brigade on the Tennessee Campaign to April 1864. He was honored by brevet to Major, USA for his actions at Chickamauga, GA in September 1863.

He was appointed Major of Volunteers in the Staff Corps on 7 April 1864 and promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 19 April, assigned as Major General Philip Sheridan's Chief of Staff. He was brevetted again, to Lieutenant Col, USA and Brigadier General of Volunteers for his service in Virginia in October 1864.

After the War

He received two further brevets, to Colonel (for Five Forks, VA) and Brigadier General, USA (for the War) in April 1865. He continued on staff duty in the Department of the Gulf into 1866 and was mustered out of the Volunteers on 15 January 1866.

Continuing in Regular Army service, he was appointed Major, 10th US Cavalry on 28 July 1866, and served in headquarters and staff posts to March 1869, when he rejoined then-Lieutenant General Sheridan. He travelled to Europe with the General 1869-73 then returned to the West. He was appointed acting Lieutenant Colonel of the First US Cavalry on 4 April 1878 and commanded them on the Bannock Campaign that year. He was promoted to Colonel of the 7th US Cavalry on 11 June 1886 and commanded at Fort Riley, KS to November 1890; while there he established the light artillery and cavalry schools.

He commanded the US troops in the massacre of Hunkpapa and Miniconjou Sioux at Wounded Knee, SD on 29 December 1890, and was afterward relieved of command by General Nelson Miles, but was cleared of any wrongdoing and restored to his post, probably by Secretary of War Redfield Proctor.

He was promoted to Brigadier General, USA on 9 November 1894 in command of the Department of California, and to Major General on 11 May 1897, retiring from active service two days later.

References & notes

His military history from Cullum's Register;1 his Cullum number is 1738. Personal details from family genealogists. His gravesite is on Findagrave. His picture from a photograph of February 1863, now at the Library of Congress.

He married Elizabeth Dennison (1845-1888), daughter of former Ohio Governor (1860-62) and US Postmaster General (1864-66) William Dennison, in October 1867 and they had 4 children.

More on the Web

His papers are in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University [finding aid (PDF)].


08/08/1834; Maumee, OH


10/24/1906; Columbus, OH; burial in Green Lawn Cemetery, Columbus, OH


1   Cullum, George Washington, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the US Military Academy, 2nd Edition, 3 vols., New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1868-79, Vol. II, pp. 658-59; Vol. IV, pp. 103-04  [AotW citation 27754]