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Andrew Atkinson Humphreys (November 2, 1810 – December 27, 1883), was a career United States Army officer, civil engineer, and a Union General in the American Civil War. He served in senior positions in the Army of the Potomac, including division command, chief of staff, and corps command, and was Chief Engineer of the U.S. Army.

Early life

Humphreys was born in Philadelphiamarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, to a family prominent in naval architecture; his grandfather, Joshua, designed "Old Ironsides", the USS Constitutionmarker. Andrew graduated from Nazareth Hall (predecessor to the present day Moravian Collegemarker & Theological Seminary), and, thereafter, from the United States Military Academymarker in 1831 and spent much of the next thirty years as a civil engineer in the Army. He saw combat in the artillery in the Seminole Warsmarker. Much of his service involved topographical and hydrological surveys of the Mississippi River Deltamarker.

Civil War

After the outbreak of the Civil War, Humphreys was promoted (August 6, 1861) to major and became chief topographical engineer in Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac. Initially involved in planning the defenses of Washington, D.C.marker, by March 1862, he shipped out with McClellan for the Peninsula Campaign. He was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on April 28 and on September 12 assumed command of the new 3rd Division in the V Corps of the Army of the Potomac. He led the division in a reserve role in the Battle of Antietammarker. At the Battle of Fredericksburgmarker, his division achieved the farthest advance against fierce Confederate fire from Marye's Heights; his corps commander, Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfield, wrote: "I hardly know how to express my appreciation of the soldierly qualities, the gallantry, and energy displayed by my division commanders, Generals George Sykes, Humphreys, and Charles Griffin." For an officer with little combat experience, he inspired his troops with his personal bravery. Historian Larry Tagg wrote:

Although respected by his men for his bravery under fire, Humphreys was not well liked by them. In his mid-fifties, they considered him an old man, despite his relatively youthful appearance. His nickname was "Old Goggle Eyes" for his eyeglasses. He was a taskmaster and strict disciplinarian. Charles A. Dana, the Assistant Secretary of War, called him a man of "distinguished and brilliant profanity."

At the Battle of Chancellorsvillemarker, Humphreys' division did little, principally because most of his soldiers were near the ends of their enlistments. On May 23, 1863, Humphreys was transferred to the command of the 2nd Division in the III Corps, under Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles. When Meade assumed command of the Army of the Potomac just before the Battle of Gettysburgmarker, he asked Humphreys to be his chief of staff, replacing Maj. Gen. Daniel Butterfield, who was considered to be too close politically to the previous commander, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker. Humphreys declined the opportunity to give up his division command. His new division immediately saw action at Gettysburg where, on July 2, 1863, Sickles insubordinately moved his corps from its assigned defensive position on Cemetery Ridge. Humphreys' new position was on the Emmitsburg Road, part of a salient directly in the path of the Confederate assault, and it was too long a front for a single division to defend. Assaulted by the division of Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws, Humphreys' three brigades were demolished; Sickles had pulled back Humphrey's reserve brigade to shore up the neighboring division (Maj. Gen. David B. Birney), which was the first to be attacked. Humphreys put up the best fight that could have been expected and was eventually able to reform his survivors on Cemetery Ridge, but his division and the entire corps were finished as a fighting force.

Humphreys was promoted to major general of volunteers on July 8, 1863, and finally acceded to Meade's request to serve as his chief of staff; he did not have much of a division left to command. He served in that position through the Bristoe and Mine Run campaigns that fall, and the Overland Campaign and the Siege of Petersburgmarker in 1864. In November 1864, he assumed command of the II Corps, which he led for the rest of the siege and during the pursuitmarker of Gen. Robert E. Lee to Appomattox Court Housemarker and surrender. On March 13, 1865, he was brevet brigadier general in the regular army for "gallant and meritorious service at the battle of Gettysburg", and then to major general for the Battle of Sayler's Creekmarker during Lee's retreat.


After the war, Humphreys commanded the District of Pennsylvania. He became a permanent brigadier general and Chief of Engineers in 1866, a position he held until June 30, 1879, when he retired, serving during this period on lighthouse and other engineering boards. In retirement, Humphreys studied philosophy. He was one of the incorporators of the National Academy of Sciencesmarker. Humphreys's published works were highlighted by his 1867 Report on the Physics and Hydraulics of the Mississippi River, which gave him considerable prominence in the scientific community. He also wrote personal accounts of the war, published in 1883: From Gettysburg to the Rapidan and The Virginia Campaign of '64 and '65. He died in Washington, D.C., and is buried there in the Congressional Cemeterymarker.

See also



  1. Official Records, Series I, Vol. XXI, p. 402.
  2. Eicher, p. 309.

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