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George Stoneman Jr. (August 8, 1822 – September 5, 1894) was a United States Army cavalry officer, trained at West Point, where his roommate was Stonewall Jackson. In the Civil War he became Adjutant to George B. McClellan, who did not appreciate the use of centralized cavalry, and was therefore outperformed by the Confederates, who did.

George Stoneman Jr.
General George Stoneman.jpg
15th Governor of California
In office
January 10, 1883 – January 8, 1887
Lieutenant John Daggett
Preceded by George C. Perkins
Succeeded by Washington Bartlett
Personal details
Born (1822-08-08)August 8, 1822
Busti, New York
Died September 5, 1894(1894-09-05) (aged 72)
Buffalo, New York
Political party Democratic
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1846–1871
Rank Union Army major general rank insignia.svg Major General
Commands III Corps
Cavalry Corps
Battles/wars American Civil War

At Chancellorsville, under Joseph Hooker, Stoneman failed in an ambitious attempt to penetrate behind enemy lines, getting bogged down at an important river crossing. Hooker's sharp criticism of Stoneman may have been partly aimed at deflecting the heavy blame being directed at himself for the loss of this major battle that most generals believed to be winnable.

While commanding cavalry under William Tecumseh Sherman in Georgia, Stoneman was captured, but soon exchanged. During the early years after the American Civil War, Stoneman commanded occupying troops at Memphis, Tennessee, who were stationed at Fort Pickering. He had turned over control of law enforcement to the civilian government by May 1866, when the Memphis riots broke out and the major black neighborhoods were destroyed. When the city asked for help, he suppressed the white rioting with use of federal troops. He later moved out to California, where he had an estate in the San Gabriel Valley. He was elected as governor of California, serving between 1883 and 1887. He was not nominated a second time.


Early lifeEdit

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 United States 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 was the quartermaster of the Mormon Battalion, which marched from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to San Diego, California. He fought in the Yuma War and was responsible for survey parties mapping the Sierra Nevada range for railroad lines. After promotion to captain of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry in March 1855, he served mainly in Texas until 1861.

Civil War serviceEdit

Union Cavalry General George Stoneman

At the start of the Civil War Stoneman was in command of Fort Brown, Texas, and refused the order of Maj. Gen. David E. Twiggs 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 Maj. Gen. 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 Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart seriously outperformed their Union counterparts.

On November 22, 1861, Stoneman married Mary Oliver Hardisty of Baltimore. They eventually had four children.

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: Maj. Gen. 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.

Union General George Stoneman & staff, 1863.

Stoneman's RaidsEdit

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 Hooker considered him one of the principal reasons for the Union defeat at Chancellorsville.[1] Hooker needed to deflect criticism from himself and relieved Stoneman from his cavalry command, sending him back to Washington, D.C., for medical treatment (chronic hemorrhoids, exacerbated by cavalry service),[2] where in July 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 Maj. Gen. 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 Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, Stoneman and his aide, Myles Keogh, were captured by Confederate soldiers outside Macon, Georgia,[3] becoming the highest ranking Union prisoner of war. He was a prisoner for three months.

Stoneman was exchanged relatively quickly based on the personal request of Sherman to the Confederates, and he returned to duty. In December 1864 he led a raid from East Tennessee into southwestern Virginia. He led raids into Virginia and North Carolina in 1865 took Salem, Martinsville, and other towns, destroyed Moratock Iron Furnace (a Confederate foundry) and at Salisbury attempted to free about 1,400 prisoners, but the prisoners had been dispersed by the time he arrived in Salisbury. In recognition of his service, he was brevetted major general in the regular army. 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. The Memphis riots broke out among the still rebellious citizens who were angry at the presence of African-American Federal soldiers in the military government. Stoneman was criticized for inaction and was investigated by a congressional committee, although he was exonerated.

Postbellum politicsEdit

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 policies eased some of the reconciliation pain for white Virginians.

He also commanded federal troops at Fort Pickering at Memphis. He had turned police power over to the local civil government, whose officials had said they were ready to manage it. But the local government requested him to suppress white rioting in May 1866, after three days of violence that left many blacks dead and wounded, and much of their property destroyed. His actions were investigated by Congress, and he was exonerated.

Stoneman 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. He was relieved of his command in May 1871.


Official portrait of Governor George Stoneman

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 (160 ha) estate called Los Robles, which is now a state historical landmark.[4] He was appointed as a state railroad commissioner, serving from 1876 to 1878.

In 1882, Stoneman was elected governor of California as a Democrat and served a single four-year term. He was not renominated by his party for a second term. Some time later his house was destroyed by fire, an event rumored to be the work of his political enemies. Stoneman was broken financially by the disaster and was in poor health.

He returned to New York State for medical treatment. He died following a stroke in Buffalo, New York, on September 5, 1894, at age 72. He is buried in the Bentley Cemetery in Lakewood, New York.

Legacy and honorsEdit

Stoneman's raids into North Carolina and Virginia in the last weeks of the war were memorialized by songwriter Robbie Robertson of The Band, in the 1969 rock and roll song "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"

Virgil Caine is the name, and I served on the Danville train,

Till Stoneman's cavalry came and tore up the tracks again ....

Stoneman is not mentioned in the 1971 recording of the song by Joan Baez, in which she substitutes "so much cavalry" for "Stoneman's cavalry". Baez told Kurt Loder of Rolling Stone magazine that she had learned the song by listening to the track on The Band's album. Having never seen the printed lyrics, she sang the words as she (mis)heard them.[5]

Stoneman Avenue in Alhambra, California, was named in his honor. Camp Stoneman, near Pittsburg, California, was the place from where many soldiers shipped out to the Pacific Theater in World War II and the Korean War, and is remembered by Stoneman Elementary School.[6] Stoneman Elementary School in San Marino, California, is built on Stoneman's Los Robles Ranch Property. In 1885 California, which owned Yosemite at the time, built a luxury hotel with accommodations for 150 guests near the present location of Curry Village and named the hotel Stoneman House. The adjoining Stoneman Meadow takes its name from the hotel. The nearby Stoneman Bridge takes its name from the meadow. The hotel burned to the ground in 1896.[7] Stoneman Lake in Arizona is also named in his honor. General George Stoneman Business Park, the site of the Southern Tier Brewery, is located on the Stoneman family farm in the town of Busti, New York.

General Stoneman's name is engraved on the Sonoma Veterans Memorial Park Star of Honor due to his time there before the Civil War.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sears, p. 440.
  2. ^ Gerleman, p. 1874.
  3. ^ Seibert, David. "Stoneman Raid". GeorgiaInfo: an Online Georgia Almanac. Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved 7 November 2016. 
  4. ^ California State Parks, Office of Historic Preservation (2012). "Governor Stoneman Adobe, Los Robles". State of California. Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  5. ^ Loder, Kurt (1983-04-14). "Joan Baez: The Rolling Stone Interview". Rolling Stone (393). 
  6. ^ Stoneman Elementary School
  7. ^ Hutchings' guide Yo Semite Valley and Big Trees (1895) and One Hundred Years in Yosemite (C.P. Russell, 1947)


  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead. 
  • Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Gerleman, David J. "George H. Stoneman Jr." In Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History, edited by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000. ISBN 0-393-04758-X.
  • Sears, Stephen W. Chancellorsville. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. ISBN 0-395-87744-X.
  • Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964. ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

  Media related to George Stoneman at Wikimedia Commons

Political offices
Preceded by
George C. Perkins
Governor of California
Succeeded by
Washington Bartlett
Military offices
Preceded by
Samuel P. Heintzelman
Commander of the III Corps (Army of the Potomac)
October 30, 1862 – February 5, 1863
Succeeded by
Daniel E. Sickles