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CDV, General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick

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The first Regular U.S. Army officer to be wounded in action during the Civil War, June 1861

Colonel 2nd New York Cavalry

He was wounded again in the 1864 Atlanta, Georgia campaign

United States Minister to Chile

From the personal collection of Surgeon & General Bernard John Dowling Irwin. Irwin has the distinct honor of being the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in U.S. military history by date of action, February 13, 1861


(1836-81) Born near Deckertown, New Jersey, he graduated in the West Point class of May 1861, and only a month after graduating from the academy he had the distinction of being the first Regular U.S. Army officer to be wounded in action during the Civil War, this coming at the battle of Big Bethel, Va., which took place on June 10, 1861, on the Virginia Peninsula, near Newport News. In September 1861, he became the lieutenant colonel, and in December, colonel of the 2nd New York Cavalry. He successively commanded his regiment, a brigade, and later a division of cavalry in the Army of the Potomac, playing a creditable role in virtually every important cavalry action in the eastern theater of war, including Beverly Ford, Stoneman's raid, and Gettysburg. He was promoted to brigadier general, June 14, 1863. In February 1864, he commanded the celebrated Richmond raid which was to free the Union prisoners there, but instead resulted in a fiasco and the death of Colonel Ulric Dahlgren, the son of Admiral John A. Dahlgren. Sent south by General U.S. Grant, he was wounded in the early part of the Atlanta campaign, at Resaca, Ga. He returned to duty in late July 1864 to finish that campaign which included several raids and skirmishes against his old classmate, General Joseph Wheeler. He then took part in Sherman's March to the Sea, and the 1865 Carolina's campaign. General William T. Sherman was quoted as saying, "I want just that sort of man to command my cavalry in this expedition!" Kilpatrick was an early member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, a military society composed of officers who had served in the Union armed forces. He was appointed United States Minister to Chile, by President Andrew Johnson, and served from 1866-70. He became active in politics as a Republican, and in 1880, was an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Congress from his home state of New Jersey. In March 1881, in recognition of Kilpatrick's service to the Republican Party, in New Jersey, as well as a consolation prize for his defeat for a House seat, President James A. Garfield appointed Kilpatrick once again to the post of Minister to Chile. Kilpatrick died, on December 4, 1881, shortly after his arrival in the Chilean capital of Santiago. He was only 45 years old. His remains were returned to the United States in 1887, and were interred at the West Point Cemetery, United States Military Academy.

Wet plate, albumen carte de visite photograph, mounted to 2 3/8 x 4 card. Half view, seated pose, wearing a double breasted frock with rank of brigadier general. He is holding his slouch hat on his lap, and you can see the stripes on his trousers. Maj. Genl. J. Kilpatrick, U.S.A. is written in period ink on the front mount. Back mark: C.D. Fredricks & Co., 587 Broadway, New York. Written in period ink in Irwin's hand on the reverse is, Maj. Genl. Judson Kilpatrick, U.S.A. Cavalry. Died Oct. 1881. 45. Genl. B.J.D. Irwin album, No. 129. The card mount is very slightly trimmed. Very fine image. Rare. (because of the provenance).

History of United States Surgeon & General Bernard John Dowling Irwin

Surgeon & General Irwin was the first United States Medal of Honor Recipient by date of action, February 13, 1861.

(1830-1917) Born in County Roscommon, Ireland, he immigrated with his parents to the United States in the 1840s. He attended New York University from 1848 to 1849, and then served as a private in the New York Militia. In 1850, he entered Castleton Medical College, and he later transferred to New York Medical College, where he graduated in 1852.

He served as a surgeon and physician at the State Emigrant Hospital on Ward's Island, NYC, until his appointment as assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army in 1856. He was an assistant army surgeon during the Apache Wars, and was the first Medal of Honor recipient chronologically by date of action. His actions on February 13, 1861, at Apache Pass, Arizona, are the earliest for which the Medal of Honor was awarded! The citation on his medal of honor reads; "Voluntarily took command of troops and attacked and defeated hostile Indians he met on the way. Surgeon Irwin volunteered to go to the rescue of 2d Lt. George N. Bascom, 7th U.S. Infantry, who, with 60 men, was trapped by Chiricahua Apaches under Cochise. Irwin and 14 men, not having horses, began the 100-mile march riding mules. After fighting and capturing Indians, recovering stolen horses and cattle, he reached Bascom's column and helped break his siege."

Cochise, the Apache Indian chief, and a group of Apache warriors were accused of kidnapping a boy and a small group of U.S. soldiers in the Arizona Territory after the Army had captured Cochise's brother and nephews. When the Army refused to make a prisoner exchange, Cochise killed his prisoners. Soldiers then killed Cochise's brother and nephews. 2nd Lieutenant George Nicholas Bascom led a group of 60 men from the 7th U.S. Infantry after Cochise but was soon besieged, prompting a rescue mission by the army. In response to the siege of Bascom and his men, Irwin set out on a rescue mission with 14 men of the 1st U.S. Dragoons. He was able to catch up with the Apaches at Apache Pass in present day Arizona. He strategically placed his small unit around Cochise and his men, tricking the Apache leader into thinking that he had a much larger army with him. The Apaches fled and Bascom and his men were saved. Bascom and his men joined Irwin and together they were able to track Cochise into the mountains & rescued the young boy that Cochise had captured.

The Medal of Honor did not exist during the time of the "Bascom Incident," and would not be established until a year later in 1862. However, the actions of Irwin were well remembered, and he was awarded the Medal of Honor just prior to his retirement. Irwin's actions were the earliest for which the Medal of Honor was awarded, predating the outbreak of the American Civil War.

Irwin subsequently served with the Union army during the Civil War, and was promoted to captain in August 1861, and the next year was appointed medical director under Major General William "Bull" Nelson. He improvised one of the first field hospitals used by the U.S. Army at the Battle of Shiloh, on April 7, 1862. He was captured during the Battle of Richmond, Ky., while attempting to save the wounded General Nelson. He was promoted to major in September 1862, and after his release from a Rebel prison he became medical director in the Army of the Southwest. From 1863 to 1865, he was superintendent of the military hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and in March of 1865, he was brevetted to the rank of colonel. He was a companion of the California Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, and the Order of the Indian Wars of the United States. After the Civil War, Irwin served as a senior medical officer at several U.S. army posts, including West Point from 1873 to 1878. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in September 1885, to colonel in August 1890, and to brigadier general in April 1904. He died in Ontario, Canada, on December 15, 1917, and is buried in the West Point Cemetery, at the U.S. Military Academy, New York.

His son George LeRoy Irwin, graduated from West Point in 1889, and served in World War I, becoming a Major General in the U.S. Army.

His grandson Stafford LeRoy Irwin, graduated from West Point in 1915, and served in World War II, and became a Lieutenant General in the U.S. Army.

His daughter, Amy Irwin Addams McCormick, was a nurse with the American Red Cross and served during World War I.

General Irwin was an admirer and collector of photographs, and he put together a very large, and superb collection of Union and Confederate images. Interestingly, he collected photographs of both Rebel and Yankee alike. I have owned several famous military photograph albums before and never came across one that collected images from both sides of the rebellion. He numbered each individual image, and wrote a brief historical notation on each one. The collection was split up by another dealer, and by the time I found out about it, I was still very fortunate to be able to acquire about one third of his superb Civil War image collection. Each image is rare because it is "one of a kind" having come from the Irwin collection!

The image of B.J.D. Irwin pictured here is a copy photograph from the "Find a Grave" website and is used here for illustration purposes only.



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