Civil War General
Despite his complete lack of military experience, at the outbreak of the Civil War Wadsworth was commissioned a major general of the New York state militia. He served as a civilian volunteer aide-de-camp to Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell at the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861. McDowell recommended him for command and, on August 9, 1861, James Wadsworth was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers; in October, he received command of a brigade in McDowell's division of the Army of the Potomac.
From March to September 1862, Wadsworth commanded the Military District of Washington. During the preparations for Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, Wadsworth complained to President Abraham Lincoln that he had insufficient troops to defend the capital due to McClellan's plan to take a large number of them with him to the Virginia Peninsula. Lincoln countermanded McClellan's plan and restored a full corps to the Washington defenses, generating ill feelings between McClellan and Wadsworth. Seeing no prospects for serving in McClellan's army, Wadsworth allowed his name to be put into nomination for governor of New York against antiwar Democrat Horatio Seymour, but he declined to leave active duty to campaign and lost the election.
After McClellan left the Army of the Potomac, and after the serious Union defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Wadsworth was appointed commander of the 1st Division, I Corps, replacing Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, who had been promoted to command the V Corps. He was a dashing division commander, trim and vigorous at 56 years old, snow white hair with large white mutton chop sideburns, brandishing an officer's saber from the American Revolutionary War. He was widely admired in his new division because he spent considerable effort looking after the welfare of his men, making sure that their rations and housing were adequate. They were also impressed that he was so devoted to the Union cause that he had given up a comfortable life to serve in the Army without drawing pay.
Wadsworth's division's first test in combat under his command was at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863. He made a faltering start in maneuvering his men across the Rappahannock River below Fredericksburg and they ended up being only lightly engaged during the battle. His performance at the Battle of Gettysburg was much more substantial. Arriving in the vanguard of John F. Reynolds's I Corps on July 1, 1863, Wadsworth's division bore much of the brunt of the overwhelming Confederate attack that morning and afternoon. They were able to hold out against attacks from both the west and north, giving the Army of the Potomac time to bring up sufficient forces to hold the high ground south of town and eventually win the battle. But by the time the division retreated back through town to Cemetery Hill that evening, it had suffered over 50% casualties. Despite these losses, on the second day of battle, Wadsworth sent two regiments to reinforce the defense of Culp's Hill.
I Corps had been so significantly damaged at Gettysburg that, when the Army of the Potomac was reorganized in March 1864, its surviving regiments were dispersed to other corps. After an eight-month leave of absence, Wadsworth was named commander of the 4th Division, V Corps. This speaks well for his performance at Gettysburg because a number of his contemporaries were left without assignments when the army reorganized. At the start of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Overland Campaign, Wadsworth led his division at the Battle of the Wilderness. He was mortally wounded in the head on May 6, 1864, and captured by Confederate forces.
Wadsworth died two days later in a Confederate field hospital. He is buried in the Temple Hill Cemetery in Geneseo, New York. The day before he was wounded, he was promoted to major general of volunteers, but this appointment was withdrawn and he received instead a posthumous brevet promotion to major general as of May 6, 1864, for his service at Gettysburg and the Wilderness.
American Civil War General Officers
American Civil War General OfficersName:James Samuel Wadsworth
Birth Place:Geneseo, New York
Promotions:Promoted to Full Brig-Gen
Promoted to Brevet Major-Gen
Biography:JAMES SAMUEL WADSWORTH
Wadsworth, James S., brigadier-general, was born in Geneseo, Livingston county, N. Y., Oct. 30, 1807. He was the son of James Wadsworth, an extensive landowner and philanthropist of Geneseo, under whose care he received a thorough rudimentary education, after which he was sent to Harvard college and thence to Yale college, where he completed his studies. Soon after graduating he entered upon the study of law in Albany, finishing his course in the office of the great statesman and lawyer, Daniel Webster, and was admitted to the bar in 1833, but did not practice his profession, as the charge of his immense estate required his whole attention. A few years later Mr. Wadsworth turned his attention somewhat to local politics. A Federalist by education and a Democrat by
conviction, he early took part in the "Free Soil" movement that divided the Democracy of the state giving a zealous support to the presidential candidate of that party in 1848 and to the Republican candidates of 1856 and 1860.
Like his father, he manifested a deep and active interest in the cause of education. He founded a public library at Geneseo, was a liberal subscriber to the endowment of Geneseo, college aided in the establishment of the school district library system; and in every way did what lay in his power to relieve suffering and diffuse the benefits of our free institutions. Acting as a commissioner under an appointment from the legislature of New York to the Peace Convention held in Washington in 1861, when it became evident that war was inevitable he was prompt to offer his services to the government. When communication with the capital was cut off he chartered two ships upon his own responsibility, loaded them with provisions and proceeded with them to Annapolis, where they arrived most opportunely to supply the pressing necessities of the government.
Commencing his military career as a volunteer aide to Gen. McDowell at the first battle of Bull Run, upon the recommendation of that general, Wadsworth was appointed brigadier-general of volunteers in Aug., 1861, and in March, 1862, became military governor of the District of Columbia. In the election of governor of New York in Nov., 1862, Gen. Wadsworth was the Republican candidate, but was defeated by Mr. Seymour. In the following December he was assigned to the command of a division in the Army of the Potomac. At Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville he displayed great military skill, and at Gettysburg his division saved the first day. Upon the reorganization of the Army of the Potomac for the campaign of 1864, Gen. Wadsworth was assigned to the command of the 4th division, 5th corps, at the head of which he bravely met his death, in the battle of the Wilderness on May 6, 1864.
Source: The Union Army, vol. 8
Birth: 30 Oct 1807 - Geneseo, Livingston, New York, USA 2 3 4 5 6 Death: 6 May 1864 - Wilderness, Nicholas, West Virginia, USA 2 4 Burial: User ID #: AFN #:
1. Residence 5, 1850 in Geneseo, Livingston, New York
2. Residence 6, 1860 in Geneseo, Livingston, New York
Father: James Wadsworth (1768-1844) 1 Mother: Naomi Wolcott (1777-1831) 1
Spouses and Children
1. *Mary Craig Wharton (24 Aug 1814 - 30 Jun 1874) 1 Marriage: 11 May 1834 - , , New York, USA Children: 1. Charles Frederick Wadsworth (1836-1899) 1 7 8 2. Cornelia Wadsworth (1839-1921) 1 3. Craig Wharton Wadsworth (1841-1872) 1 4. Nancy Wadsworth (1843- ) 1 5. James Wolcott Wadsworth (1846-1926) 1 8 9 10 11 6. Elizabeth Wadsworth (1848-1930) 1
1 Ancestry.com, Public Member Trees (Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2006.Original data - Family trees submitted by Ancestry members.Original data: Family trees submitted by Ancestry members.), This information comes from 1 or more individual Ancestry Family Tree files. This source citation points you to a current version of those files. Note.
2 Edmund West, comp, Family Data Collection - Individual Records (Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2000.), Birth year: 1807; Birth city: Geneseo; Birth state: NY.
3 Edmund West, comp, Family Data Collection - Births (Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2001.)
4 Historical Data Systems, comp, American Civil War General Officers (Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 1999.Original data - Data compiled by Historical Data Systems of Kingston, MA from the following list of works. Copyright 1997-2000. Historical Data Systems, Inc. PO Box 35 Duxbury, MA 0).
5 Ancestry.com, 1850 United States Federal Census (Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005.Original data - United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Seventh Census of the United States, 1850. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1850. M432,), Year: 1850; Census Place: Geneseo, Livingston, New York; Roll: M432_524; Page: 383; Image: 161.
6 Ancestry.com, 1860 United States Federal Census (Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2004.Original data - United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Eighth Census of the United States, 1860. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1860. M653, 1), Year: 1860; Census Place: Geneseo, Livingston, New York; Roll: M653_778; Page: 438; Image: 444.
7 Ancestry.com, Two hundred and fifty years of the Wadsworth family in America : containing an account of the family reunion, at Duxbury, Mass. (Online publication - Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005.Original data - Wadsworth, Horace Andrew,. Two hundred and fifty years of the Wadsworth family in America : containing an account of the family reunion, at Duxbury, Mass., Sept. 13, 1881,).
8 Ancestry.com, U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 (Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2007.Original data - Passport Applications, 1795-1905; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1372, 694 rolls); General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59; National Arc).
9 Ancestry.com, Who's who in New York City and State : a biographical dictionary of contemporaries. (Online publication - Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005.Original data - Who's who in New York City and State : a biographical dictionary of contemporaries.. New York: W.F. Brainard, 1911.Original data: Who's who in New York City and State : a b).
10 Ancestry.com, New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2006.Original data - Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls); Records of the U.S. Customs Service, R), Year: 1922; Arrival: , ; Microfilm serial: T715; Microfilm roll: T715_3085; Line: ; List number: .
11 Ibid, Year: 1889; Arrival: , ; Microfilm serial: M237; Microfilm roll: M237_530; Line: ; List number: .