Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Stoneman was born on a family farm in Busti, New York, the first child of ten. His parents were George Stoneman, Sr, a lumberman and justice of the peace, and Catherine Rebecca Cheney. He studied at the Jamestown Academy and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1846; his roommate at West Point was future Confederate General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. His first assignment was with the 1st U.S. Dragoons with which he served across the West and in California. He fought in the Indian Wars and was responsible for survey parties mapping the Sierra Nevada range for railroad lines.
At the start of the Civil War Stoneman was in command of Fort Brown, Texas , and refused to surrender to the newly established Confederate authorities there, escaping to the north with most of his command. Returning east, he served as a major of the 1st U.S. Cavalry and then adjutant to George B. McClellan in western Virginia. As the cavalry was being organized in the Army of the Potomac, he commanded the Cavalry Reserve and then the Cavalry Division, with the title Chief of Cavalry. He was promoted to brigadier general on August 13, 1861. He did not relate well to McClellan, who did not understand the proper use of cavalry in warfare, relegating it to assignment in small units to infantry brigades. This organization fared poorly in the Peninsula Campaign and the Seven Days Battles of 1862, where the centralized Confederate cavalry under J.E.B. Stuart ran rings around their Union counterparts.
After the Peninsula, Stoneman was an infantry commander, commanding a division in the II Corps and the III Corps. At the Battle of Fredericksburg, Stoneman commanded the III Corps. He was promoted to major general of volunteers on November 29, 1862. However, following Fredericksburg a new commanding general took over the Army of the Potomac: Joseph Hooker. Hooker had a better understanding of the strategic value of a centralized Cavalry Corps and he named Stoneman to lead it. The centralized corps could undertake long raids into enemy territory, destroying supplies, and gathering intelligence about the enemy forces. They were not subject to the commanders of small infantry units.
The plan for the Battle of Chancellorsville was strategically daring. Hooker assigned Stoneman a key role in which his Cavalry Corps would raid deeply into Robert E. Lee's rear areas and destroy vital railroad lines and supplies, distracting Lee from Hooker's main assaults. However, Stoneman was a disappointment in this strategic role. The Cavalry Corps got off to a good start in May, 1863, but quickly bogged down after crossing the Rapidan River. During the entire battle, Stoneman accomplished little and he must be considered one of the principal reasons for the Union defeat the Chancellorsville. At least that is the version that Joseph Hooker promulgated widely, always on the lookout for a scapegoat. On the positive side, the cavalry troopers had developed into a cohesive force with good morale and did not consider themselves to be vastly inferior to their Confederate counterparts, as they had in the past. Regardless, Hooker needed to deflect criticism from himself and relieved Stoneman from his cavalry command, sending him back to Washington, D.C., for medical treatment, where he became a Chief of the U.S. Cavalry Bureau, a desk job. A large cavalry supply and training depot on the Potomac River was named Camp Stoneman in his honor.
In early 1864, Stoneman was impatient with garrison duty in Washington and requested another field command from his old friend general John Schofield, who was in command of the Department of the Ohio. Although originally slated for an infantry corps, Stoneman assumed command of the Cavalry Corps of what would be known as the Army of the Ohio. As the army fought in the Atlanta Campaign under General William T. Sherman, Stoneman and his aide were humiliated to be captured by Confederate soldiers outside Macon, Georgia, becoming the highest ranking Union prisoner of war.
Stoneman was exchanged relatively quickly based on the personal request of Sherman to the Confederates and he returned to duty. He led raids into Virginia and North Carolina in 1865 and his command nearly captured Confederate president Jefferson Davis during his flight from Richmond, Virginia. In June 1865, he was appointed commander of the Department of Tennessee and administered occupied Memphis. There, riots broke out among citizens who were angry at the presence of black federal soldiers in the military government. Stoneman was criticized for inaction and was investigated by a congressional committee, although he was exonerated.
In 1866, Stoneman became opposed to the radical policies of Reconstruction and joined the Democratic Party. As he administered the military government in Petersburg, Virginia, he established a reputation of applying more moderate policies than some of the other military governors in Reconstruction, which eased some of the reconciliation pain for Virginians. He mustered out of volunteer service in September, 1866, and reverted to his regular army rank of lieutenant colonel. He took command of the Department of Arizona, First Military District , headquartered at Drum Barracks. He was a controversial commander in that role because of his dealings with Indian uprisings and he was relieved of his command in May, 1871.
Stoneman moved to California, the place of which he had dreamed since his service as a young officer before the war. He and his wife settled in the San Gabriel Valley on a 400-acre estate called Los Robles, which is now a state historical landmark. He was a state railroad commissioner from 1876 to 1878. In 1882 he was elected governor of California and served a single four-year term. He was not renominated by his party for a second term. After his house was destroyed by fire, an event rumored to be the work of his political enemies, Stoneman was broken financially and in poor health. He returned to New York State for medical treatment. He died following a stroke in Buffalo, New York, and is buried in the Bentley Cemetery in Lakewood, New York.
- Virgil Caine is the name, and I served on the Danville train,
- Til Stoneman's cavalry came and tore up the tracks again...
- Eicher, John H., & Eicher, David J.: Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3
- Biography from the State of California
- Online biography
| Preceded by:|
|Governors of California|| Succeeded by:|
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details