Portrait of Alfred Pleasonton

Following the Battle of Chancellorsville (April 30–May 6, 1863) Major General Joseph Hooker introduced Alfred Pleasonton to President Abraham Lincoln as the general “who saved the Army of the Potomac the other night!” [Wikimedia Commons]

Alfred Pleasonton - Facts

July 7, 1824 - February 17, 1897

Key facts about Major General Alfred Pleasonton, a prominent Union cavalry officer who commanded the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac during the Gettysburg Campaign.

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Full Name:

  • Alfred Pleasonton

Birth Date:

  • July 7, 1824

Birth Location:

  • Washington, D.C.

Parents:

  • Stephen and Mary (Hopkins) Pleasonton

Education:

  • United States Military Academy (1844)

Occupation:

  • Military officer

Career Summary:

  • Major (USA)
  • Major General (USVA)
  • Brevet Major General (USA)

Spouse:

  • None

Nickname(s):

  • The Knight of Romance

Place of Death:

  • Washington, D.C.

Date of Death:

  • February 17, 1897

Place of Burial:

  • Congressional Cemetery, Washington, District of Columbia

Significance:

  • Alfred Pleasonton was the second of two sons of Stephen and Mary (Hopkins) Pleasonton.
  • Alfred Pleasonton’s father, who was an employee of the U.S. Treasury Department, was credited with saving the original Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, U.S. Constitution, and other important Federal documents during the British invasion of the nation’s capital during the War of 1812.
  • Alfred Pleasonton’s older brother, Augustus, graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1826 and served during the Civil War as a brigadier general in the Pennsylvania State Militia.
  • Alfred Pleasonton entered the United States Military Academy in 1840 and graduated four years later, ranked seventh in his class of twenty-five cadets.
  • After graduating from West Point, Alfred Pleasonton was brevetted as a second lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Dragoons on July 1, 1844, and stationed first at Fort Atkinson, Iowa.
  • Alfred Pleasonton achieved the full rank of second lieutenant on November 3, 1845, while serving in the West.
  • Alfred Pleasonton was brevetted to first lieutenant for gallant and meritorious service at the Battle of Palo Alto and the Battle of Resaca-de‑la‑Palma during the Mexican-American War (1846–1848).
  • Alfred Pleasonton was promoted to first lieutenant on September 30, 1849.
  • Alfred Pleasonton participated in the Third Seminole War (1855–1858).
  • Alfred Pleasonton helped quell the civil unrest in “Bleeding Kansas.” in 1857.
  • From 1858 to 1860, he served in the Department of Oregon.
  • Alfred Pleasonton traveled with the 2nd Dragoons from Utah to Washington, D.C. where he served defending the nation’s capital.
  • Alfred Pleasonton was promoted major and reassigned to the 2nd U.S. Cavalry On February 15, 1862.
  • Alfred Pleasonton served as a provost officer assigned to headquarters of the Army of the Potomac during the Peninsula Campaign (March–July 1862).
  • Alfred Pleasonton was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on July 16, 1862.
  • Alfred Pleasonton assumed command of the cavalry division of the Army of the Potomac in September 1862.
  • Alfred Pleasonton commanded the cavalry division of the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of South Mountain (September 14, 1862).
  • Alfred Pleasonton was brevetted to lieutenant colonel in the regular army for gallant and meritorious service at the Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862).
  • Alfred Pleasonton took part in the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11–15, 1862), but the cavalry was not heavily engaged.
  • In January 1863, Major General Joseph Hooker placed Alfred Pleasonton in charge of the in charge of the 1st division of the Army of the Potomac’s newly created cavalry corps.
  • Following the Battle of Chancellorsville (April 30–May 6, 1863) Major General Joseph Hooker introduced Alfred Pleasonton to President Abraham Lincoln as the general “who saved the Army of the Potomac the other night!”
  • On June 7, 1863, Major General Joseph Hooker placed Alfred Pleasonton in charge of the cavalry corps of the Army of the Potomac.
  • Alfred Pleasonton was promoted to the rank of major general of volunteers on June 22, 1863.
  • Alfred Pleasonton commanded the Union cavalry during the Battle of Brandy Station (June 9, 1863).
  • Alfred Pleasonton commanded the Union cavalry during the Battle of Aldie (June 17, 1863), the Battle of Middleburg (June 17, 1863), and the Battle of Hanover (June 21, 1863).
  • Alfred Pleasonton was promoted to the rank of major general of volunteers on June 22, 1863.
  • Alfred Pleasonton participated in the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863).
  • Alfred Pleasonton was brevetted to colonel in the regular army effective July 2, for gallant and meritorious conduct in the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863).
  • On March 7, 1864, Alfred Pleasonton provided negative testimony before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War regarding Major General George Meade’s leadership during the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863).
  • On March 23, 1864, Alfred Pleasonton was transferred to the Department of the Missouri.
  • Alfred Pleasonton’s cavalry defeated Confederate General Sterling Price’s cavalry at the Battle of Westport (October 23, 1864) and the Battle of Marais des Cygnes (October 25, 1864), while driving the Rebels out of Missouri.
  • Alfred Pleasonton was brevetted to major general in the regular army on March 13, 1865.
  • Upon mustering out of the volunteer army on January 15, 1865, Alfred Pleasonton reverted to his previous rank of major in the regular army.
  • Alfred Pleasonton declined a promotion to lieutenant colonel with the 20th Infantry on July 28, 1866, because he did not want to leave the cavalry.
  • On January 1, 1868, Alfred Pleasonton resigned his commission and left the service because had been passed over for advancement by officers who were subordinate to him during the war.
  • Following his army career, Alfred Pleasonton served as a collector for the Internal Revenue Service for two years.
  • In 1870, President Grant nominated Alfred Pleasonton as director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Pleasonton served in that capacity from January 3 to August 8, 1871, when the president sacked him for insubordination.
  • Alfred Pleasonton served as president of the Terre Haute and Cincinnati Railroad.
  • On October 19, 1888, Congress passed legislation placing Alfred Pleasonton on the retired list with the rank of major.
  • Alfred Pleasonton died in Washington, D.C., on February 17, 1897, at the age of 72.
  • Refusing to be buried in his military uniform, Alfred Pleasonton was interred alongside his father in the Congressional Cemetery in the District of Columbia.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Alfred Pleasonton - Facts
  • Coverage July 7, 1824 - February 17, 1897
  • Author
  • Keywords Alfred Pleasonton
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 30, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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