Birney, William, 1819-1907

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William Birney was born May 28, 1819 on his father's plantation near Huntsville, Alabama. He grew up there and in Danville, Kentucky. Birney was educated at Centre College and Yale University and he practiced law in Cincinnati, Ohio. He then lived for five years in Europe, primarily on the Continent and in England. For two years, he was a professor of English literature at the college in Bourges. He took an active part in the revolutionary movement in France in 1848. He later wrote numerous articles for English and American newspapers. Returning to the United States in 1853, Birney established a newspaper, the Daily Register, in Philadelphia.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Birney entered the Union Army on May 22, 1861 as a captain in the 1st New Jersey Infantry Regiment. He first saw combat in the First Battle of Bull Run. Promoted to major of the 4th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, he participated in the battles of Second Bull Run, Chantilly, Fredericksburg, and, as a colonel, the Chancellorsville. In 1863–64, he was appointed as one of three superintendents in charge of enlisting colored troops into the Union army, and in that capacity organized seven regiments. He was named Colonel of the 22nd U.S. Colored Troops. On June 9, 1863, he was commissioned as a brigadier general of volunteers, to rank from May 22, 1863, and assigned to Maryland to recruit more black troops. In 1864, he marched his regiments to fight in South Carolina as a part of the Department of the South. They fared poorly, but did much better work in campaigns in Florida, including the Battle of Olustee.

Birney's brigade was transferred to Virginia and joined other black regiments to form the Third Division of the X Corps under the command of Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler. They suffered a serious defeat at the Battle of Chaffin's Farm, but were instrumental in several fights along the defenses of Richmond. In December 1864, the X Corps black regiments were combined with those of the XVIII Corps in the new all-black XXV Corps under Maj. Gen. Godfrey Weitzel. Birney's regiments became the 2nd Division of the XXV Corps, and participated in the last assaults during the Siege of Petersburg in early 1865. He then led his division in the pursuit of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia during the Appomattox Campaign. Birney was mustered out of the volunteer army on August 24, 1865.

On July 20, 1866, President of the United States Andrew Johnson nominated Birney for appointment to the grade of brevet major general of volunteers to rank from March 13, 1865 and the United States Senate confirmed the appointment on July 26, 1866.

Birney resided in Florida for several years after the war before moving north in 1874 to establish a law practice in Washington, D.C. He served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and as a school board trustee until 1886. He wrote profusely on the subjects of religion and history and authored a biography of his father, James G. Birney and His Times; the Genesis of the Republican Party, in 1890.

Birney died at his home in Forest Glen, Maryland on August 14, 1907, and was buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown (Washington, D.C.).

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Edward William Hooper papers, 1862-1866. Houghton Library
referencedIn Frederick M. Dearborn collection of military and political Americana, Part III: The Civil War: The Union, 1804-1915. Houghton Library
referencedIn Loomis family. Loomis-Wilder family papers, 1790-1912 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States Commandery of the State of Massachusetts Civil War collection, 1724-1933 (inclusive);, 1861-1912 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Century Company records, 1870-1924 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn James G. Birney papers 1816-1884 1820-1856 Birney, James G. papers William L. Clements Library
referencedIn Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762 - 1984 Series: Carded Records Relating to Civil War Staff Officers, 1890 - 1912 File Unit: Birney, William -- Brigadier General National Archives at Washington, D.C
referencedIn Loomis-Wilder Family papers, 1790-1912 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn James Gillespie Birney Papers, 1830-circa 1895, (bulk 1830-1850) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Loomis family. Loomis-Wilder family papers, 1790-1912 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Brown family. Additional papers, 1805-1963 (inclusive), 1832-1908 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Brown family. Papers, 1802-1963 (inclusive), 1833-1908 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762 - 1984 Series: Letters Received, 1863 - 1894 File Unit: Consolidated File for Colonel William Birney National Archives at Washington, D.C
referencedIn Smithsonian Institution. Office of the Secretary. Correspondence, 1863-1879 Smithsonian Institution Archives
referencedIn Additional papers, (inclusive), (bulk), 1805-1963, 1832-1908 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Elizur Wright Papers, 1793-1935, (bulk 1830-1885) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Robert Carter letters from various correspondents, 1851-1898 (inclusive), 1851-1862 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762 - 1984 Series: Letters Received, 1863 - 1917 File Unit: Consolidated Military Officer's File of General William Birney, 4th New Jersey Infantry Regiment National Archives at Washington, D.C
creatorOf Birney, James Gillespie, 1792-1857. James Gillespie Birney papers, 1830-circa 1895 (bulk 1830-1850). Library of Congress
referencedIn Salmon P. Chase Papers Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Wright, Elizur, 1804-1885. Elizur Wright papers, 1793-1935 (bulk 1830-1885). Library of Congress
creatorOf Wagner, George Emil, 1842-1904. Papers of George E. Wagner [manuscript], 1861-1904. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Philip Case Lockwood memorial collection of Civil War portraits and autographs, 1862-ca. 1886. Houghton Library
creatorOf William L. Clements Library. James G. Birney papers, 1816-1884, bulk 1820-1856. William L. Clements Library
referencedIn Garrison family papers, 1801-1948 (inclusive), 1840-1907 (bulk). Houghton Library
creatorOf Birney, William, 1819-1907. Letter, 1862 October 31. University of California, Santa Barbara, UCSB Library
Role Title Holding Repository
contributorOf Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762 - 1984 Series: Letters Received, 1805 - 1889 File Unit: 1864 - Birney, William - File No. B1723 National Archives at Washington, D.C
contributorOf Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762 - 1984 Series: Letters Received, 1863 - 1917 File Unit: Birney, William - Maryland - 1864 National Archives at Washington, D.C
referencedIn Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762 - 1984 Series: Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the Civil War, 1899 - 1927 File Unit: [New Jersey] Birney, William M - 4th Infantry, Company F&S National Archives at Washington, D.C
referencedIn Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762 - 1984 Series: Letters Received, 1863 - 1917 File Unit: Birney, William - New York - 1863 National Archives at Washington, D.C
referencedIn Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762 - 1984 Series: Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the American Civil War, 1890 - 1912 File Unit: Birney, William - Age [Blank], Year: 1863 - 2d US Colored Infantry, Bel-Bro National Archives at Washington, D.C
referencedIn Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762 - 1984 Series: Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the Civil War, 1899 - 1927 File Unit: [New Jersey] Birney, William - 1st Infantry, Company C National Archives at Washington, D.C
contributorOf Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762 - 1984 Series: Letters Received, 1805 - 1889 File Unit: 1864 - Birney, William - File No. B1406 National Archives at Washington, D.C
contributorOf Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762 - 1984 Series: Letters Received, 1805 - 1889 File Unit: 1865 - Birney, William - File No. B426 National Archives at Washington, D.C
referencedIn Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762 - 1984 Series: Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the American Civil War, 1890 - 1912 File Unit: Military Service Record of William Birney, United States Colored Troops: Brigade Band National Archives at Washington, D.C
Relation Name
associatedWith Birney, James Gillespie, 1792-1857. person
associatedWith BROWNE FAMILY family
associatedWith Brown family. family
associatedWith Brown family. person
associatedWith Carter, Robert, 1819-1879 person
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Centre College (Danville, Ky.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Century Company corporateBody
associatedWith Chase, Salmon P. (Salmon Portland), 1808-1873. person
associatedWith Corcoran Art Gallery corporateBody
associatedWith Dearborn, Frederick M. (Frederick Myers), b. 1876 person
correspondedWith Dellenbaugh, Frederick Samuel, 1853-1935 person
correspondedWith Garrison family. family
correspondedWith Henry, Joseph, 1797-1878 person
associatedWith Hooper, Edward William, 1839-1901 person
correspondedWith Lockwood, Philip Case, 1844-1897 person
associatedWith Loomis family. family
associatedWith Loomis family. family
associatedWith Loomis Family. family
associatedWith Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Commandery of the State of Massachusetts, collector. corporateBody
associatedWith Online Archive of California. corporateBody
leaderOf United States. Army. Colored Infantry Regiment, 2nd (1863-1866) corporateBody
memberOf United States. Army. New Jersey Infantry Regiment, 1st (1861-1865) corporateBody
leaderOf United States. Army. New Jersey Infantry Regiment, 4th (1861-1865) corporateBody
memberOf United States. Army of the James corporateBody
associatedWith Wagner, George Emil, 1842-1904. person
associatedWith William L. Clements Library. corporateBody
correspondedWith Wright, Elizur, 1804-1885. person
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Yale University. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Cincinnati OH US
Danville KY US
Philadelphia PA US
Florida FL US
Republic of France 00 FR
Washington City DC US
Huntsville AL US
Virginia VA US
Petersburg VA US
New Haven CT US
Montgomery County MD US
South Carolina SC US
Subject
Appomattox Campaign, 1865
Bull Run, 1st Battle of, Va., 1861
Bull Run, 2nd Battle of, Va., 1862
Chancellorsville, Battle of, Chancellorsville, Va., 1863
Chantilly, Battle of, Va., 1862
Civil War, 1861-1865
Educational institutions
Fredericksburg, Battle of, Fredericksburg, Va., 1862
Olustee, Battle of, Olustee, Fla., 1864
Petersburg, Siege of, 1864-1865
Occupation
Authors
Journalism
Lawyers
Professors (teacher)
Soldiers
Activity

Person

Birth 1819-05-28

Death 1907-08-14

Male

Americans

English

Information

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