Henry Warner Slocum was a lawyer, politician, and Civil War general who fought in both the eastern and western theaters of the war.
Henry Slocum was born at Delphi Falls, New York on September 24, 1827. (His tombstone, however, shows 1826.) He was the sixth of eleven children of Matthew and Mary Ostrander Slocum. He studied at both the State Normal School in Albany and the Cazenovia Seminary in Madison County before receiving a Public School Teacher’s Certificate.
In 1848 Slocum was appointed by his congressman to the United States Military Academy and became part of the West Point Class of 1852. Some notable classmates included George Anderson, George Crook, and George Hartsuff. Slocum ranked 7th out of 43 graduating cadets. His roomate was Philip Sheridan, who he tutored in math. Sheridan gave Slocum credit in his memoirs for helping him graduate from the Academy.
Early Army Career
With graduation, on July 1 1852 Slocum became a brevet second lieutenant in the First United States Artillery. He was sent to Florida and served against the Seminole Indians before being assigned to the garrison of Fort Moultrie at Charleston, South Carolina. He was promoted to first lieutenant on March 3, 1855. During his time at Charleston Slocum studied law and in 1854 married Clara Rice. He and Clara had a daughter, Caroline.
The summer of 1855 was unusually hot in the south, and both Clara and Caroline became sick. Slocum was notified that his artillery company would be moving back to Florida. In October Caroline died. Less than two weeks later, on October 31, 1856, Slocum resigned his commission. The couple would eventually have six children, of whom four would survive to adulthood.
Civilian Life Before the War
Slocum and his wife moved to Syracuse, New York, where he was admitted to the bar and practiced law. He was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1858. In 1859 Slocum was appointed colonel in the New York Militia, serving as an artillery instructor. In 1860 he became County Treasurer of Onandage County.
Battle of Manassas
With the outbreak of the Civil War Henry Slocum volunteered to recruit a regiment of light artillery but was turned down by the governor. Instead he recruited the 27th New York Infantry Regiment, who then elected him as its colonel. The regiment was mustered in for two years service on June 15, 1861. In July it left for Washington, where it became part of Hunter’s Division in McDowell’s Army of Northeast Virginia. The regiment had barely arrived when McDowell began his advance, culminating in the Battle of Manassas on July 21. The regiment lost 130 men, and Slocum was badly wounded in the thigh but escaped capture.
Slocum was in the hospital or recovering from his wound in Syracuse until September 10, 1861. On August 9, 1861, he was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers. When he returned to the army he was given command of a brigade of three New York and one Maine regiments (a Pennsylvania regiment was added later) in Franklin’s Division of the Army of the Potomac.
When McClellan launched the Army of the Potomac on the Peninsular Campaign in March of 1862 Slocum’s brigade had become part of the 1st Division of the 1st Corps. In April the division was transferred to the Department of the Rappahannock, but returned to the Army of the Potomac on May 18 as the First Division of the newly created Sixth Corps. Franklin took command of the corps, and Slocum took over the division.
Seven Days Battles
Battle of Gaines’s Mill, June 27, 1862
Battle of Glendale, June 30, 1862
Battle of Malvern Hill, July 1, 1862
Henry Slocum was promotd to Major General of Volunteers on July 4, 1862. After McClellan’s failed Peninsular Campaign the Sixth Corps returned to the Washington area. One brigade was advanced to Manassas and was badly battered and routed by “Stonewall” Jackson’s men on August 26, but the remainder of the division remained in reserve in the Washington defences.
Crampton’s Gap (Battle of South Mountain), Sep. 14, 1862
Battle of Antietam, Sep. 17, 1862 – Slocum’s Division was largely in reserve and not engaged. It arrived on the fied at midday and supported the battered survivors of Greene’s Division.
On October 20 Henry Slocum was given command of the Twelfth Corps, which had lost its previous commander, Joseph Mansfield, at Antietam. The corps was assigned to guard the Upper Potomac around Harpers Ferry until April of 1862, and did not take part in the Battle of Fredericksburg. At the end of April Slocum moved his command to the Rappahannock to take part in Hooker’s Chencellorsville Campaign.
Battle of Chancellorsville, May 2‑4, 1863 – Slocum’s 12th Corps suffered heavy casualties. Afterwards Slocum was one of the leading generals pushing to have Hooker replaced. But when Hooker was replaced just before the Battle of Gettysburg it was not by Slocum, who was the senior corps commander in the Army of the Potomac. Instead the the position went to George Meade, who was probably viewes as a more aggressive general than the by-the-book lawyer Slocum.
Battle of Gettysburg, July 1‑3, 1863 – Slocum commanded the Right Wing of the Army of the Potomac and played a major role in the battle. He was criticized for being slow to reach the battlefield, although he sent his badly-needed troops on ahead. When he did arrive on the evening of July 1 he was the senior commander on the field, taking over from Hancock until Meade arrived after midnight.
Slocum commanded the Right Wing of the army, defending Culp’s Hill. When he was ordered to bring his troops to the left flank to help stop Longstreet’s attack on July 2 he made sure he left behind one brigde (commanded by George Greene) who held Culp’s Hill almost single handed during the fighting on the 2nd. Loss of this critical hill would have been every bit as bad as losing Little Round Top on the opposite flank, but it rarely gets the exposure.
At the famous late night council of war at the Leister Farmhouse on July 2 Slocum recommended that the army should “Stay and fight it out.” The quote is inscribed on the base of Slocum’s equestrian statue at Gettysburg. (see below)
Pursuit of Lee to Warrenton, Va., July, 1863
In September Slocum’s Twelfth Corps along with the Eleventh Corps was transferred to the Western Theater under the command of Major General Joseph Hooker. Slocum despised Hooker and had tried to have him removed after Chancellorsville, and absolutely refused to serve under him. He threatened to resign if forced to do so. A deal was struck where Slocum would have independent command of a division guarding the Nachville & Chattanooga Railroad and later, from April until August of 1864, of the District of Vicksburg.
Hooker himself would resign when presented with having to serve under Oliver Howard, a former subordinate. When he did in August of 1864 Slocum was given command of the Twentieth Corps, which combined the former Eleventh and Twelfth Corps. He led it through the march through Georgia and the capture of Atlanta on September 2, 1864.
March to the Sea
Commanding the Army of Georgia, Nov. 11, 1864, to June 9, 1865
“March to the Sea,” with numerous Actions and Skirmishes from Atlanta to Savannah, Ga., Nov. 16 to Dec. 13, 1864
Surrender of Savannah, Dec. 21, 1864;
Invasion of the Carolinas, Jan. 15 to Apr. 26, 1865,
Passage of Salkahatchie Swamps, and of Saluda, Broad, Catawba, Pedee, and Cape Fear Rivers, Feb.‑Mar., 1865
Battle of Averysborough, Mar. 16, 1865
Battle of Bentonville, Mar. 20‑21, 1865
Occupation of Goldsborough, Mar. 23 to Apr. 10, 1865
Capture of Raleigh, Apr. 13, 1865
Surrender of Johnston’s Army at Durham Station, N. C., Apr. 26, 1865
March to Richmond, Va. and Washington, D. C., Apr. 28 to May 24, 1865
After Johnston’s surrender, Slocum led the Army of Georgia during the Grand Review of the Armies in Washington in May 1865. Afterward, he returned to New York on leave June 9‑29, 1865, before briefly commanding the Department of the Mississippi from June 29 to September 16, 1865.
Henry Slocum resigned from the army on September 28, 1865. On July 28, 1866 he was offered the rank of Colonel, and command of the 31st Infantry Regiment, but he declined.
Postwar Civilian Life
Slocum returned to New York and settled in Brooklyn, resuming his legal and political career. In 1865 he ran as a Democrat for Secretary of State for New York, but wasn’t elected. In November of 1868 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives representing New York’s Third District. Slocum served from March 4, 1869 until March 3, 1873 but decided to not be a candidate in 1872. In 1870 he was appointed to the Board of Visitors to the U. S. Military Academy.
He again returned to New York and founded the Brooklyn Crosstown Railroad (later the Brooklyn and Coney Island Railroad Company). In 1876, Slocum was appointed president of New York’s Department of City Works, holding the office until 1878.
In 1883 Slocum was again elected to the House of Representatives, serving from March 4, 1883 to March 4, 1885. In 1893, he retired from his position as president of the Brooklyn and Coney Island Railroad Company. He also served as the President of the Board of Trustees of the New York State Soldiers’ Home at Bath until April, 1894, and was a member of the Board of the Gettysburg Monuments Commission. He was one of the commissioners of the Brooklyn bridge, which he felt should be free to the public.
In the spring of 1894, Slocum made a trip to upstate New York to rent a vacation lodge. On returning home he complained of chest pains. His doctor diagnosed congestive heart failure and pneumonia. For two weeks he was bedridden. During the night of April 13, he began gasping for air. In spite of the doctor’s work, Slocum died early in the morning of April 14, 1894 at the age of 67, his wife and four surviving children at his side.
Slocum’s funeral was at the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn. His wife was too upset to attend, but it was otherwise filled Union veterans. Slocum’s pallbearers included Generals Howard (who delivered the eulogy), Butterfield, Sickles, Fitz John Porter, and 93 year old General George Greene, who had held Culp’s Hill at Gettysburg.
He is buried in Green Wood Cemetery overlooking Brooklyn.
On September 19, 1902, the State of New York dedicated an equestrian memorial to General Slocum at Gettysburg. On the base is the quote, “Stay and fight it out” – Slocum’s words from the Gettysburg Council of War at Meade’s Headquarters.