Stoneman, George, 1822-1894

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Stoneman was born on a family farm in Busti, New York, the first child of ten. His parents were George Stoneman Sr., a lumberman and justice of the peace, and Catherine Rebecca Cheney Aldrich. He studied at the Jamestown Academy and entered the United States Military Academy in 1842; his roommate at West Point was future Confederate General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. He graduated 33rd in his class of 60 cadets in 1846. His first assignment was with the 1st U.S. Dragoons, with which he served across the West and in California. He was the quartermaster of the Mormon Battalion, which marched from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to San Diego, California. He fought in the Yuma War and was responsible for survey parties mapping the Sierra Nevada range for railroad lines. After promotion to captain of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry in March 1855, he served mainly in Texas until 1861.

At the start of the Civil War Stoneman was in command of Fort Brown, Texas, and refused the order of Maj. Gen. David E. Twiggs to surrender to the newly established Confederate authorities there, escaping to the north with most of his command. Returning east, he was reassigned to the 1st US Cavalry and promoted to major on May 9, 1861. Stoneman then served as adjutant to General George McClellan during his campaign in Western Virginia during the summer. After McClellan became commander of the newly-formed Army of the Potomac, he assigned Stoneman as his chief of cavalry; Stoneman was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on August 13. Stoneman had a difficult relationship with McClellan as he desired to use the cavalry as a raiding and combat force, while McClellan merely envisioned it as an extension of the army signal corps. The Army of the Potomac's cavalry performed poorly in the Eastern Theater during the spring and summer of 1862, being soundly out-generaled and out-fought by Confederate cavalry.

On November 22, 1861, Stoneman married Mary Oliver Hardisty of Baltimore. They would have four children.

Stoneman was reassigned to the infantry and received command of the 1st Division of the III Corps on September 10 after its former commander, Maj. Gen Phil Kearny, had been killed a week earlier. The III Corps remained in Washington, D.C. during the Maryland Campaign. On October 30, Stoneman gained command of the corps. At Fredericksburg, it formed part of Maj. Gen Joe Hooker's Center Grand Division and helped drive back a Confederate assault during the battle. Following Fredericksburg, Joe Hooker became commander of the Army of the Potomac and decided to organize the cavalry into a single corps with Stoneman at its head.

The plan for the Battle of Chancellorsville was strategically daring. Hooker assigned Stoneman a key role in which his Cavalry Corps would raid deeply into Robert E. Lee's rear areas and destroy vital railroad lines and supplies, distracting Lee from Hooker's main assaults. However, Stoneman was a disappointment in this strategic role. The Cavalry Corps got off to a good start in May 1863, but quickly bogged down after crossing the Rapidan River. During the entire battle, Stoneman accomplished little, and Hooker considered him one of the principal reasons for the Union defeat at Chancellorsville. Hooker needed to deflect criticism from himself and relieved Stoneman from his cavalry command, sending him back to Washington, D.C., for medical treatment (chronic hemorrhoids, exacerbated by cavalry service), where in July he became a Chief of the U.S. Cavalry Bureau, a desk job. A large cavalry supply and training depot on the Potomac River was named Camp Stoneman in his honor.

In early 1864, Stoneman was impatient with garrison duty in Washington and requested another field command from his old friend Maj. Gen. John Schofield, who was in command of the Department of the Ohio. Although originally slated for an infantry corps, Stoneman assumed command of the Cavalry Corps of what would be known as the Army of the Ohio. On March 30, he was also promoted to lieutenant colonel in the regular army. As the army fought in the Atlanta Campaign under Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, Stoneman and his aide, Myles Keogh, were captured by Confederate soldiers on July 31, 1864, outside Macon, Georgia. However, the 5th Indiana Cavalry Regiment under Col. Thomas Butler made a valiant stand, allowing the rest of his forces to retreat. They were surrendered as well, despite protest by Col. Butler. Stoneman became the highest ranking Union prisoner of war, and he remained prisoner for three months.

Stoneman was exchanged relatively quickly based on the personal request of Sherman to the Confederates, and he returned to duty. In December 1864 he led a raid from East Tennessee into southwestern Virginia. He led raids into Virginia and North Carolina in 1865 took Salem, Martinsville, and other towns, destroyed Moratock Iron Furnace (a Confederate foundry), and at Salisbury attempted to free about 1,400 prisoners, but the prisoners had been dispersed by the time he arrived in Salisbury. In recognition of his service, he was brevetted major general in the regular army. His command nearly captured Confederate president Jefferson Davis during his flight from Richmond, Virginia. In June 1865 he was appointed commander of the Department of Tennessee and administered occupied Memphis. The Memphis riots broke out among the still rebellious citizens who were angry at the presence of African-American Federal soldiers in the military government. Stoneman was criticized for inaction and was investigated by a congressional committee, although he was exonerated.

In 1866 Stoneman became opposed to the radical policies of Reconstruction and joined the Democratic Party. As he administered the military government in Petersburg, Virginia, he established a reputation of applying more moderate policies than some of the other military governors in Reconstruction, which policies eased some of the reconciliation pain for white Virginians.

On July 28, 1866, Stoneman was promoted to colonel in the regular army and assigned command of the 21st US Infantry.

He also commanded federal troops at Fort Pickering at Memphis. He had turned police power over to the local civil government, whose officials had said they were ready to manage it. But the local government requested him to suppress white rioting in May 1866, after three days of violence that left many blacks dead and wounded, and much of their property destroyed. His actions were investigated by Congress, and he was exonerated.

Stoneman mustered out of volunteer service on September 1, 1866 and reverted to the regular army rank of colonel. He took command of the Department of Arizona, First Military District, headquartered at Drum Barracks. He was a controversial commander in that role because of his dealings with Indian uprisings and was relieved of command in June 1871. Although out of active duty, Stoneman remained on the army's roster until he officially retired in 1882 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 64.

Stoneman was a First Class Companion of the California Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.

Stoneman moved to California, the place of which he had dreamed since his service as a young officer before the war. He and his wife settled in the San Gabriel Valley on a 400-acre (160 ha) estate called Los Robles, which is now a California Historical Landmark. He was appointed as a state railroad commissioner, serving from 1876 to 1878.

In 1882, Stoneman was elected governor of California as a Democrat and served a single four-year term. He was not renominated by his party for a second term. Some time later his house was destroyed by fire, an event rumored to be the work of his political enemies. Stoneman was broken financially by the disaster and was in poor health.

He returned to New York State for medical treatment. He died following a stroke in Buffalo, New York, on September 5, 1894, at age 72. He is buried in the Bentley Cemetery in Lakewood, New York.

Stoneman's raids into North Carolina and Virginia in the last weeks of the war were memorialized by songwriter Robbie Robertson of The Band, in the 1969 song "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down".

Virgil Caine is the name, and I served on the Danville train,

Till Stoneman's cavalry came and tore up the tracks again ...

Stoneman is not mentioned in the 1971 recording of the song by Joan Baez, in which she substitutes "so much cavalry" for "Stoneman's cavalry". Baez told Kurt Loder of Rolling Stone magazine that she had learned the song by listening to the track on The Band's album. Having never seen the printed lyrics, she sang the words as she (mis)heard them.

Stoneman Avenue in Alhambra, California, was named in his honor. Camp Stoneman, near Pittsburg, California, was the place from where many soldiers shipped out to the Pacific Theater in World War II and the Korean War, and is remembered by Stoneman Elementary School. Stoneman Elementary School in San Marino, California, is built on Stoneman's Los Robles Ranch Property. In 1885 California, which owned Yosemite at the time, built a luxury hotel with accommodations for 150 guests near the present location of Curry Village and named the hotel Stoneman House. The adjoining Stoneman Meadow takes its name from the hotel. The nearby Stoneman Bridge takes its name from the meadow. The hotel burned to the ground in 1896. Stoneman Lake in Arizona is also named in his honor. General George Stoneman Business Park, the site of the Southern Tier Brewery, is located on the Stoneman family farm in the town of Busti, New York.

General Stoneman's name is engraved on the Sonoma Veterans Memorial Park Star of Honor due to his time there before the Civil War.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Gibson, Horatio Gates. Letter : Knoxville, Tenn., to George Stoneman, Knoxville, Tenn., 1865 July 12. Texas Christian University
referencedIn United States. Army. 1st Military District, Richmond. List of local officials appointed by authority of Brevet Major General George Stoneman, 1867-1869. Library of Virginia
creatorOf Stoneman, George, 1822-1894. Special Order no.71, 14 September 1865, Nashville, Tennessee, issued to Henry A. Colvin. University of Tennessee, John C. Hodges 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
creatorOf Stoneman, George, 1822-1894. Autograph signature : [n.p., n.d.]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Photographic Portrait File The Huntington Library
referencedIn Butler, Benjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin), 1818-1893. Letter, 1869 March 29, Washington, D.C., John A. Rawlins, [Washington, D.C.]. Dartmouth College Library
referencedIn Robinson, Elmer E., 1894-1982,. Americana, 1765-1969. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn French, Almira Litchfield, b. 1875. Litchfield-French papers, 1862-1918, bulk 1862-1899. William L. Clements Library
creatorOf Bacon, Henry Douglas, 1813-1893. Henry Douglas Bacon papers, 1853-1880. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Stoneman, George, 1822-1894. [Map of Poolesville, Maryland and vicinity showing the position of Union brigades] / sketched by Genl. Stoneman, Oct. 24th, 62. HCL Technical Services, Harvard College Library
referencedIn Halleck, H. W. (Henry Wager), 1815-1872. H.W. Halleck papers, 1843-1896 (bulk 1862). Library of Congress
referencedIn Approved Pension File for Mary O. H. Stoneman, Widow of Major General George Stoneman, U.S. Volunteers (WC-440083) United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Smith, Samuel Francis, 1808-1895. Samuel Francis Smith papers, 1835-1957. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Wood, Newel P. Newel P. Wood Letters, 1864. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn Altschuler, Constance Wynn. Constance Wynn Altschuler collection, 1965-1996. Arizona State University Libraries
referencedIn Philip Case Lockwood memorial collection of Civil War portraits and autographs, 1862-ca. 1886. Houghton Library
referencedIn Woodward, Ashbel, 1804-1885. Ashbel Woodward biography collection, undated. Connecticut Historical Society
creatorOf McAllister, John A. (John Allister), 1822-1896,. Civil War Manuscripts, 1854-1868. Porterville Public Library
creatorOf Shorb, James De Barth. Papers of James De Barth Shorb, 1794-1957 (bulk) 1870-1910. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Gen. Joseph Hooker letter, Gen'l, 3rd Army Corps, n.p, 1862 May 10 John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
referencedIn Hunter, John Harrison, 1830-. Papers of John Hunter Harrison [manuscript], 1842-1888 (bulk 1861-1865). University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Lewis, John A. (John Alexander), 1841-1918. John A. Lewis papers, 1865-1970 1865-1918 (bulk dates). University of Kentucky Libraries
referencedIn Powell, Donald M. Papers relating to a new edition of Notes of travel through the Territory of Arizona, by John H. Marion, 1965. University of Arizona Libraries
creatorOf Stoneman, George, 1822-1894. Autograph despatch signed : Fortress Monroe, Va., to Lt. E.V. Sumner, 1862 Apr. 19. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Hooker, Joseph, 1814-1879. Letter, 1862 May 10, Head Quarters, Hooker's Division, 3rd Army Corps, Williamsburgh [sic], Va., to C[hauncey] McKeever, Ass't Adjt. Gen'l, 3rd Army Corps, n.p. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library
referencedIn Stoneman Family Papers, 1891-1920 The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens Manuscripts Department
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 H. W. Halleck Papers, 1843-1896, (bulk 1862) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Stoneman, George, 1822-1894. Signature of George Stoneman, undated. Library of Congress
creatorOf Stoneman, George, 1822-1894. George Stoneman letter : Sacramento, Calif. to E.L. Sullivan, San Francisco, Calif. : ALS, 1883 May 18. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Stevens, John Austin, 1795-1874. Papers, 1811-1885. Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Litchfield-French papers, 1862-1918, 1862-1899 William L. Clements Library
creatorOf Gilchriese, John D. John D. Gilchriese collection of documents relating to Southern California, 1852-1882. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Stuart, Jeb, 1833-1864. Letter to Robert E. Lee [manuscript], 1862 October 12. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Stoneman, George, 1822-1894. George Stoneman autobiographical statement : San Francisco : ms, [1888?]. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Viars family : Papers, 1861-ca. 1913 1861-1865. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn Ord, Edward Otho Cresap, 1818-1883. Letters, 1854-1885. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Portraits of University of California individuals and groups, ca. 1850-[ongoing] Bancroft Library
referencedIn Douglas Gunn Papers, 1873-1889 San Diego History Center Document Collection
referencedIn Frederick M. Dearborn collection of military and political Americana, Part III: The Civil War: The Union, 1804-1915. Houghton Library
referencedIn Tuttle, Dennis, fl. 1863-1865. Letter, 1863 April 26. Indiana Historical Society Library
referencedIn Stoneman family. Stoneman family papers, 1891-1920. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Altschuler, Constance Wynn. person
associatedWith Bacon, Henry Douglas, 1813-1893. person
associatedWith Bancroft, Hubert Howe, 1832-1918. person
associatedWith Bosqui, Edward, 1832-1917. person
associatedWith Butler, Benjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin), 1818-1893. person
associatedWith California. Governor (1883-1887 : Stoneman) corporateBody
associatedWith Colvin, Henry A. person
associatedWith Dearborn, Frederick M. (Frederick Myers), b. 1876 person
associatedWith French, Almira Litchfield, b. 1875. person
associatedWith Gibson, Horatio Gates. person
associatedWith Gilchriese, John D. person
associatedWith Gunn, Douglas person
correspondedWith Halleck, H. W. (Henry Wager), 1815-1872. person
associatedWith Hooker, Joseph, 1814-1879. person
associatedWith Hunter, John Harrison, 1830- person
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Jamestown Academy (Jamestown, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Lewis, John A. (John Alexander), 1841-1918. person
associatedWith Lockwood, Philip Case, 1844-1897 person
associatedWith McAllister, John A. (John Allister), 1822-1896, person
associatedWith Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Commandery of the State of Massachusetts, collector. corporateBody
associatedWith Ord, Edward Otho Cresap, 1818-1883. person
associatedWith Powell, Donald M. person
memberOf Railroad Commission of the State of California corporateBody
associatedWith Robinson, Elmer E., 1894-1982, person
associatedWith Shorb, James De Barth. person
associatedWith Smith, Samuel Francis, 1808-1895. person
associatedWith Stevens, John Austin, 1795-1874. person
associatedWith Stoneman family. family
associatedWith Stoneman Family family
associatedWith Stuart, Jeb, 1833-1864. person
associatedWith Sullivan, E. L. person
associatedWith Sumner, Edwin Vose, 1835-1912, person
associatedWith Tuttle, Dennis, fl. 1863-1865. person
memberOf United States. Army. 1st Military District, Richmond. corporateBody
memberOf United States. Army. Cavalry Regiment, 2nd corporateBody
memberOf United States. Army. Infantry Regiment, 21st. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Army. Mormon Battalion. corporateBody
memberOf United States. Army of the Potomac. Cavalry Corps corporateBody
memberOf United States. Army of the Potomac. Corps, 3rd corporateBody
memberOf United States. Army. Regiment of Dragoons, 1st corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Army. Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, 12th (1863-1865). corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf United States Military Academy corporateBody
associatedWith Wood, Newel P. person
associatedWith Woodward, Ashbel, 1804-1885. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Jamestown NY US
San Gabriel Valley CA US
California CA US
Memphis TN US
Buffalo NY US
Tennessee TN US
Petersburg VA US
West Point NY US
Virginia VA US
New York NY US
North Carolina NC US
Fort Brown TX US
Civil war--Cavalry operations
Democratic Party
Manuscript maps
Chinese Americans--History--19th century
Stoneman's Raid, 1865
Stoneman's Raid, 1863
Civil War, 1861-1865
Fredericksburg, Battle of, Fredericksburg, Va., 1862
Army officers
Civil servants


Birth 1822-08-08

Death 1894-09-05






Ark ID: w6rw1bzp

SNAC ID: 84234278