Charles Griffin was a career soldier in the United States Army. He fought in the Eastern Theater of the Civil War, advancing to command a corps in the Army of the Potomac.

General Charles Griffin pictured as a Captain

Early Life

Griffin was born on December 18, 1825, in Granville, Ohio, the son of Apollos Griffin. He attended Kenyon College before receiving an appointment to the United States Military Academy in 1843. He graduated with the West Point Class of 1847, ranking 23rd out of 38 cadets in a class that included Romeyn Ayres, Ambrose Burnside, A.P. Hill, John Gibbon and Henry Heth. On graduation he was commissioned on July1, 1847 as a Brevet Second Lieutenant in the 2nd United States Artillery. He headed to Mexico, joining his regiment for the end of the war, and participating in the March on Puebla.

Between the Wars

Charles was promoted to First Lieutenant in 1849 and was stationed in New Mexico Territory. He served against the Navajo at Fort Defiance and Fort McHenry,  In 1857 he brought troops west from Carlisle Barracks to Fort Leavenworth, and was in garrison at Fort Independence, Massachusetts, Fort Snelling, Minnesota and Fort Riley, Kansas.  After a brief leave of absence he returned to West Point on September 11, 1860 as Assistant Instructor of Artillery.

The Secession Crisis was in full development by this time, and Griffin formed the West Point Battery from the Academy’s enlisted men. The battery would be officially designated as Battery D, 5th United States Artillery.

Griffin took a quick absence from the army to marry Sallie Carroll on December 10, 1861.

Civil War

Griffin was ordered to Washington with the West Point Battery at the end of January. He was promoted to captain in the Second Artillery on April 25, then transferred to the 5th Artillery on May 14. Griffin and the battery were engaged at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21. He was given a promotion to Brevet Major for “Gallant and Meritorious Service” in the battle.

He continued to command the battery until June of 1862, when Griffin was commissioned as a Brigadier General of Volunteers and given command of the Second Brigade, First Division of the Fifth Corps. The brigade consisted of four regiments from four different states: Massachusetts, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania. Another Massachusetts regiment was added in September. Griffin would temporarily move up to division command as needed, and even briefly commanded the Ffith Corps at the beginning of February 1863.

Griffin’s Brigade saw action in the:

Penninsular Campaign 1862

Battle of Mechanicsville, June 26, 1862
Battle of Gaines’s Mill, June 27, 1862
Battle of Malvern Hill, July 1, 1862
Action of Malvern Hill, Aug. 5, 1862

Northern Virginia Campaign 1862

Second Battle of Manassas, Aug. 30, 1862 (in reserve)

Maryland Campaign 1862

Battle of Antietam, Sep. 17, 1862 (lightly engaged)
Skirmish at Shepardstown, Sep. 19, 1862
March to Falmouth, Va., Nov., 1862

Rappahannock Campaign 1862-1863

Battle of Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862
Battle of Chancellorsville, May 2‑4, 1863

Griffin was on sick leave from May 15 to July 2, returning to his command as the Battle of Gettysburg was underway. When he arrived some of his men took him from his horse and carried him to his tent on their shoulders.

Gettysburg Campaign 1863

Battle of Gettysburg, July 2-3 1863

Mine Run Campaign 1864

He returned to sick leave from October 24 to November 3, 1863, and was then placed on court-martial duty until April 3, 1864. When he returned to the Army of the Potomac at the beginning of the Overland Campaign he was given command of the First Division of the Fifth Corps.

Overland Campaign 1864

Battle of the Wilderness, May 5‑6, 1864. Griffin was given a promotion to Brevet Lieutenant Colonel in the Regular Army for “Gallant and Meritorious Service” in the battle.
Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, May 9‑20, 1864
Battle of Jericho Ford, May 23, 1864
Battle of Bethesda Church, June 1‑4, 1864
Assault of Petersburg, June 18, 1864
Siege of Petersburg, June 18 to July 20, 1864, and Aug. 9, 1864, to Mar. 29
Battles on the Weldon Railroad, Aug. 18‑21, 1864. Griffin was given a promotion to Brevet Colonel in the Regular Army for “Gallant and Meritorious Service” in the battle.

Griffin was given a promotion to Brevet Major General in the Volunteer Army for “Conspicuous Gallantry” and for “Faithful Services” in the battles of the Overland Campaign.

Peebles’ Farm, Sep. 30, 1864
Movement to Hatcher’s Run, Oct. 27‑28, 1864
Destruction of Weldon Railroad to Meherrin River, Dec. 7‑10, 1864
Action of Hatcher’s Run, Feb. 7‑8, 1865
White Oak Ridge, Mar. 29‑31, 1865
Battle of Five Forks, Apr. 1, 1865.
Griffin took over Fifth Corps command when Sheridan relieved Gouverneur Warren during the battle.

Appomattox Campaign 1865

Pursuit of Rebel Army Apr. 3‑9
Appomattox Court House, Apr. 9, 1865
Griffin was one of the Commissioners to carry into effect the stipulations for the surrender.

Griffin was promoted to Major General in the Volunteer Army on July 12, 1865.


Commanded the District of Maine, August 10 – December 28, 1865

Griffin mustered out of the Volunteer Service on January 15, 1866. On July 28, 1866 he was appointed colonel of the 35th Infantry Regiment. On November 28, 1866 he was given command of the District of Texas. For ten days (September 5-15, 1867) he commanded the Fifth Military District.

Charles Griffin was just about to leave for New Orleans to take over the district from General Sheridan when he contracted Yellow Fever in Galveston. He died on September 15, 1867, at the age of 41, survived by his wife, Sallie. Griffin was buried in Oak Hill Cemetary in the District of Columbia.