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Robert Christie Buchanan (March 1, 1811 – November 29, 1878) was an American military officer who served in the Mexican–American War and then was a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. In a career that spanned more than forty years, Buchanan held numerous commands (including several forts) and received multiple citations for bravery and distinguished service.

Robert C. Buchanan
Robert C. Buchanan
Nickname(s) "Old Buck"
Born (1811-03-01)March 1, 1811
Baltimore, Maryland
Died November 29, 1878(1878-11-29) (aged 67)
Washington, D.C.
Place of burial Rock Creek Cemetery, Petworth, Washington, D.C.
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1830–1870
Rank Union Army colonel rank insignia.png Colonel
Union Army major general rank insignia.svg Brevet Major General
Commands held District of Southern Oregon and Northern California
1st Brigade, 2nd Division, V Corps
1st U.S. Infantry
Department of Louisiana
Fort Porter
Battles/wars Black Hawk War
Second Seminole War
Mexican War
American Civil War


Family and early lifeEdit

Buchanan was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the nephew by marriage of President John Quincy Adams. Buchanan was of Scottish ancestry. His grandfather, Andrew, served in the American Revolution as a brigadier general in the Maryland Militia. His mother was the sister of John Quincy Adams' wife.

Early military careerEdit

Buchanan received his appointment to United States Military Academy at West Point during Adams' administration and graduated from in 1830. (His mother's sister was Louisa Adams, the First Lady.) He was soon assigned to the 4th U.S. Infantry as a brevet second lieutenant. His assignments included service in the Black Hawk War (he was in charge of gunboats during the Battle of Bad Axe) and against the Seminoles, as well as in the removal of the Cherokees to the Indian Territory. He was promoted to captain during his service in Florida.[1]

Buchanan participated in the Mexican War in command of the Maryland Volunteers. He was in the Battle of Chapultepec, the Battle of Palo Alto, the Battle of Resaca de la Palma, the Battle of Molino del Rey, and the capture of Mexico City. For his service in Mexico, Buchanan was twice brevetted in recognition of his gallantry in action. In 1847 Buchanan became a veteran member of the Aztec Club of 1847 – a military society of officers who had served in the Mexican War.

After the war, Buchanan was assigned to various posts and recruiting duty. In 1853, the 4th Infantry was assigned to the Pacific coast in northern California. He established Fort Humboldt which served as a buffer between settlers, prospectors and Native Americans. Under his command was Captain Ulysses S. Grant. When Grant's drinking allegedly began to affect his duties, Buchanan allegedly asked for and received Grant's resignation from the Army.[2]

In 1855, Buchanan was promoted to major. He commanded the District of Southern Oregon and Northern California from Fort Humboldt, and participated in the Rogue River Wars in Oregon.

Civil WarEdit

Buchanan was stationed in San Francisco, California, at the beginning of the Civil War. He was ordered east, and his regiment was placed in the defenses surrounding Washington, D.C... He was given command of brigade in Skye's division, serving there until the Spring of 1862. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the regular army on September 9, 1861 and given command of a brigade in what became the Army of the Potomac.[3]

In the summer of 1862 Buchanan served with distinction in Seven Days Battles and was twice brevetted.[4] He participated in the Peninsula Campaign, including the Battle of Yorktown, and the Seven Days Battles, including the Battle of Gaines' Mill, the Battle of Glendale, and the Battle of Malvern Hill. He then fought in the Northern Virginia Campaign in the Second Battle of Bull Run.[5]

Buchanan, by then nicknamed "Old Buck" by his men, commanded the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, V Corps during the Maryland Campaign (part of Brigadier General George Sykes's Regulars). At Antietam, Buchanan strongly protested a decision to halt his advance on what he maintained was a weakly defended portion of the enemy line. In his opinion, his Regulars could have and should have carried Cemetery Hill, defended primarily by artillery with only the depleted Virginia brigade of Richard B. Garnett in support.

Buchanan was appointed brigadier general of volunteers on November 29, 1862, but his appointment expired on March 4, 1863, having not been confirmed by the U.S. Senate.[3] Historian Ezra Warner suggests that Buchanan's association with Fitz John Porter was the reason for the Senate's inaction on the nomination. Since the expired brigadier general appointment was Buchanan's only volunteer appointment, he reverted to his Regular Army grade of lieutenant colonel and brevet colonel and was not in the volunteer force.[6] Shortly after this appointment, and before its expiration, Buchanan commanded regulars and fought at the Battle of Antietam and at the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862.[4]

Buchanan then went on recruiting duty and two months later was placed in command of the defenses of Fort Delaware, a prisoner of war facility, March–April, 1863.[3][7] He then was assistant provost marshal general at Trenton, New Jersey, April 29, 1863–November 8, 1864. On February 8, 1864, he was promoted to colonel of the 1st U.S. Infantry Regiment through seniority.[7][8]

For his service at the Battle of Malvern Hill, Buchanan was appointed brevet brigadier general, U.S. Army, to rank from March 13, 1865.[9] In recognition of Buchanan's service at the Battle of Second Bull Run and the Battle of Fredericksburg, on June 30, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Buchanan for appointment to the grade of brevet major general, U.S. Army, to rank from March 13, 1865, and the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on July 25, 1866.[10]


After the war, as colonel in the Regular Army, Buchanan was placed in command of the 1st U.S. Infantry at New Orleans and helped enforce Reconstruction activities with his men. He subsequently commanded the Department of Louisiana, and then served in the Freedmen's Bureau. A further nomination of Buchanan to brigadier general, October 15, 1868, was tabled by the U. S. Senate and not acted upon.[3]

He retired from the Army on December 31, 1870.[3] At the time of his retirement, he was in command of Fort Porter in New York.

Robert C. Buchanan died in Washington, D.C., on November 29, 1878 and is buried at the Rock Creek Cemetery.[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Warner, 1964, p.48
  2. ^ There is some controversy as to whether this occurred. Buchanan had a reputation as a martinet and had a previous run-in with Grant when they were both at Jefferson Barracks. When Grant was assigned to staff as a quartermaster, he had little dealings with Buchanan. That is, until he went back to line as a company commander and was again under Buchanan's command. It is known that Grant was extremely unhappy at Fort Humboldt. There may have been any number of reasons for Grant's resignation: chafing under Buchanan's petty rules, loneliness, boredom, and/or depression. (Jean Edward Smith, Grant New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001 ISBN 0-684-84926-7 pp.83-88; Lloyd Lewis, Captain Sam Grant Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 1950, pp. 108, 296; Geoffrey Perret, Ulysses S. Grant: Soldier and President New York: Random House 1997 ISBN 0-679-44766-0 pp. 41-42, 101-102; William S. McFeely Grant: A Biography New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 1981 ISBN 0-393-01372-3 pp. 52-53; William B. Hesseltine Ulysses S. Grant New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. 1957 reprint, pp. 10, 15; Brooks D. Simpson Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph over Adversity 1822–1866 Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 2000 ISBN 0-395-65994-9 pp. 21, 59, 61).
  3. ^ a b c d e Eicher, 2001, p.151.
  4. ^ a b Warner, 1964, p.49
  5. ^ Cullum biography of Buchanan
  6. ^ Warner, 1964, p.616
  7. ^ a b c Warner, 1964, pp. 48–49.
  8. ^ The overlap is not contradictory as many officers were on detached service during the Civil War.
  9. ^ Warner, 1964, pp. 48–40 and Eicher, 2001, p. 151 give this information in their texts but Eichers's list of brevet major general, USA, appointments gives an earlier nomination date and no confirmation date for Buchanan's brevet brigadier general appointment.
  10. ^ Eicher, 2001, p. 706


External linksEdit