Union XII Corps

      General Joseph K. Mansfield                      General Henry Warner Slocum                General Alpheus S. Williams                     General John W. Geary


Major General John White Geary

Brigadier General John White Geary, Commander, 2d Division, Union XII Corps, 2d Division, Union XX Corps“

GEARY, John White, soldier, b. near Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland co., Pa., 30 Dec., 1819; d. in Harrisburg, Pa., 8 Feb., 1873. His father was of Scotch-Irish descent. The son entered Jefferson college, but, on account of his father's loss of property and sudden death, was compelled to leave and contribute toward the support of the family. After teaching he became a clerk in a commercial house in Pittsburgh, and afterward studied mathematics, civil engineering, and law. He was admitted to the bar, but never practised his profession. After some employment as civil engineer in Kentucky, he was appointed assistant superintendent and engineer of the Alleghany Portage railroad. When war was declared with Mexico, in 1846, he became lieutenant-colonel of the 2d regiment of Pennsylvania volunteer infantry, and commanded his regiment at Chapultepec, where he was wounded, but resumed his command the same day at the attack on the Belen gate. For this service he was made first commander of the city of Mexico, and colonel of his regiment. He was appointed in 1849 to be first postmaster of San Francisco, with authority to establish the postal service throughout California. He was the first American alcalde of San Francisco, and a "judge of the first instance." These offices were of Mexican origin, the" alcalde" combining the authority of sheriff and probate judge with that of mayor, and the judge of the first instance presiding over a court with civil and criminal as well as admiralty jurisdiction. Col. Geary served until the new constitution abolished these offices. In 1850 he became the first mayor of San Francisco. He took a. leading part in the formation of the new constitution of California, and was chairman of the territorial Democratic committee. In 1852 he retired to his farm in Westmoreland county, Pa., and remained in private life until 1856, when he was appointed territorial governor of Kansas, which office he held one year. He then returned to Pennsylvania, and at the beginning of the civil war raised the 28th Pennsylvania volunteers. He commanded in several engagements, and won distinction at Bolivar Heights, where he was wounded. He occupied Leesburg, Va., in March, 1862, and routed Gen. Hill. On 25 April, lS62, he received the commission of brigadier-general of U. S. volunteers. He was severely wounded in the arm at Cedar Mountain, 9 Aug., 1862, and in consequence could not take part in the battle of Antietam. At the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg he led the 2d division of the 12th corps. The corps to which Gen. Geary's regiment was attached joined the Army of the Cumberland, under Gen. Hooker's command, to aid in repairing the disaster at Chickamauga, and he took part in the battles of Wauhatchie and Lookout Mountain, in both of which he was distinguished. He commanded the 2d division of the 20th corps in Sherman's march to the sea, and was the first to enter Savannah after its evacuation, 22 Dec., 1864. In consideration of his services at Fort Jackson he was appointed military governor of Savannah, and in 1865 he was promoted to be major-general by brevet. He was elected governor of Pennsylvania in 1866, and held this office until two weeks before his death. During his administration the debt of the commonwealth was reduced, an effort to take several millions from the sinking fund of the state bonds was prevented, a disturbance at Williamsport quelled, and a bureau of labor statistics established by the legislature, 12 April, 1872. Gov. Geary possessed great powers of application and perception, force of will, and soundness of judgment, and was popular among his troops. The general assembly has erected a monument at his grave in Harrisburg. See “Gov. Geary's Administration in Kansas," by John H. Gihon (Philadelphia, 1857).”

Source: Wilson, James Grant, & Fiske, John (Eds.). Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography. New York: Appleton, 1888, 1915.

Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001.

Tinkom, Harry Marlin. John White Geary, Soldier-Statesman. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1940.

U.S. War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. 128 vols. Washington, DC: GPO, 1881-1901. Series 1.

Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964.