Portrait of Ambrose Burnside

Ambrose Burnside was one of four generals to command the Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War. He also commanded the Second Army of the Ohio and the Department of the Ohio, where he worked to eradicate opposition to the Union war effort by Peace Democrats and Copperheads. [Wikimedia Commons]

Ambrose Everett Burnside - Facts

May 23, 1824 - September 13, 1881

Key facts about Union General Ambrose E. Burnside.

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Full Name:

  • Ambrose Everett Burnside

Birth Date:

  • May 23, 1824

Birth Location:

  • near Liberty, Indiana

Parents:

  • Edghill and Pamela (Brown) Burnside

Education:

  • United States Military Academy (1847)

Occupation:

  • Military officer, politician, industrialist, inventor

Career Summary:

  • Major General (USA), Governor of Maryland, United States Senator

Spouse:

  • Mary Richmond Bishop (1852)

Nickname:

  • Burn

Place of Death:

  • Bristol, Rhode Island

Date of Death:

  • September 13, 1881

Place of Burial:

  • Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island
  • Ambrose Everett Burnside was born on May 23, 1824 near Liberty, Indiana.
  • Ambrose Everett Burnside’s parents were Quakers.
  • Ambrose Everett Burnside’s father was a slave owner who freed his slaves when the family moved to Indiana.
  • Ambrose Everett Burnside obtained an appointment to the United States Military Academy in 1843.
  • Ambrose Everett Burnside graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1847.
  • After graduating from the military academy, Ambrose Everett Burnside served in Mexico and on the western frontier.
  • In 1852, Ambrose Everett Burnside was appointed to the command of Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island.
  • On April 27, 1852, Ambrose Everett Burnside married Mary Richmond Bishop, of Providence, Rhode Island.
  • In 1853, Ambrose Everett Burnside resigned his commission in the United States Army to focus his attention on the manufacture of the Burnside carbine rifle.
  • When Ambrose Everett Burnside’s industrial efforts failed, financial difficulties forced him to relocate to Illinois, where he worked for his fellow West Point cadet and future commanding officer, George B. McClellan, at the Illinois Central Railroad.
  • In 1858, Ambrose Everett Burnside was defeated in a bid to be elected to the United States House of Representatives from Rhode Island.
  • When the American Civil War began, Ambrose Everett Burnside raised a volunteer regiment in Rhode Island and was commissioned as a colonel on May 2, 1861.
  • Ambrose Everett Burnside participated in the First Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861).
  • Ambrose Everett Burnside became a brigadier general in the regular army on August 6, 1861.
  • From September 1861 until July 1862, Ambrose Everett Burnside commanded successful coastal operations off the Carolina coast.
  • Ambrose Everett Burnside commanded the battles of Roanoke Island (February 7 -8, 1862) and New Bern (March 14, 1862), the first significant Union victories in the Eastern Theater of the Civil War.
  • Ambrose Everett Burnside was promoted to major general on March 18, 1862.
  • Because of his friendship with Major General George B. McClellan, Ambrose Everett Burnside declined the offer to replace McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac, following McClellan’s failure in the Peninsula Campaign (March – July 1862).
  • Ambrose Everett Burnside declined the offer to replace McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac, following McClellan’s defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run (August 28 – 30, 1862).
  • McClellan criticized Ambrose Everett Burnside’s failure to take “Burnside Bridge” at the Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862), thus enabling Confederates to bring up reinforcements, resulting in a stalemate in the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.
  • Ambrose Everett Burnside was assigned to command the Army of the Potomac on November 7, 1862, after McClellan was relieved of command.
  • Ambrose Everett Burnside commanded the Union defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11 – 15, 1862).
  • Accepting full blame for the Union defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11 – 15, 1862), Ambrose Everett Burnside offered to retire from the U.S. Army, but President Lincoln refused his offer.
  • After a second failed offensive against General Robert E. Lee’s army in January, 1863, known as the Mud March, Ambrose Everett Burnside again offered to resign his command and President Lincoln accepted.
  • On March 16, 1863, Burnside was reassigned to the Department of the Ohio.
  • On April 13, 1863, Burnside issued his controversial General Order Number 38, making it a crime to express public opposition to the war.
  • On May 5, 1863, Ambrose Everett Burnside had former Ohio congressman and Peace Democrat, Clement Vallandigham, arrested for violating General Order Number 38 during a speech delivered at Mount Vernon, Ohio, on May 1, 1863.
  • In May 1863, Ambrose Everett Burnside had Clement Vallandigham tried in a military court for violating General Order Number 38, despite the fact that Vallandigham was a civilian.
  • Troops under Ambrose Everett Burnside’s command performed successfully during the Knoxville Campaign in the autumn of 1863.
  • Ambrose Everett Burnside was ordered back to the Eastern Theater on April 25, 1864 and participated at the battles of the Wilderness (May 5 – 7, 1864), Spotsylvania Court House (May 8 – 21, 1864), North Anna (May 23 – 26, 1864), and Cold Harbor (May 31 – June 12, 1864), as well as the Siege of Petersburg (June 9, 1864 – March 25, 1865).
  • Following a Union fiasco at the Battle of the Crater (July 30, 1864), General Ulysses S. Grant relieved Ambrose Everett Burnside of his command and placed him on leave.
  • On April 15, 1865, Ambrose Everett Burnside resigned from the army.
  • Following the Civil War, Ambrose Everett Burnside was the director of several railroad companies.
  • On April 4, 1866, Ambrose Everett Burnside was elected as Governor of Rhode Island, and served three one-year terms from May 1866 to May 1869.
  • Ambrose Everett Burnside was commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic veterans’ association from 1871 to 1872.
  • Ambrose Everett Burnside was chosen as the first president of the National Rifle Association in 1871.
  • On March 5, 1875, Ambrose Everett Burnside began the first of his two-terms as a United States Senator from Rhode Island, serving until his death in 1881.
  • Ambrose Everett Burnside died from heart disease on September 13, 1881, in Bristol, Rhode Island.
  • The term sideburns originated from the unusual manner in which Ambrose Everett Burnside groomed his facial hair.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Ambrose Everett Burnside - Facts
  • Coverage May 23, 1824 - September 13, 1881
  • Author
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date August 1, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 28, 2021