Portrait of Erasmus Keyes

During the First Battle of Bull Run, Erasmus D. Keyes was credited with saving over two hundred wagon-loads of supplies that otherwise would have fallen into the possession of the enemy. [Wikimedia Commons]

Erasmus Darwin Keyes - Facts

May 29, 1810 - October 14, 1895

Key facts about Erasmus D. Keyes, a prominent Union general officer who was one of the original five corps commanders of the Army of the Potomac.

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Full Name:

  • Erasmus Darwin Keyes

Birth Date:

  • May 29, 1810

Birth Location:

  • Brimfield, Massachusetts

Parents:

  • Justus and Betsy (Corey) Keyes

Education:

  • United States Military Academy (1832)

Occupation:

  • Military officer
  • Vineyard owner
  • Banker
  • Gold mining executive

Career Summary:

  • Brigadier General (USA)
  • Major General (USVA)

Spouse:

  • Caroline Maria Clarke (1837)

Place of Death:

  • Nice, France

Date of Death:

  • October 14, 1895

Place of Burial:

  • West Point Cemetery, West Point, New York

Significance:

  • Erasmus D. Keyes was one of three children of Justus and Betsy (Corey) Keyes.
  • Erasmus D. Keyes graduated tenth in his class of 45 cadets at the United States Military Academy on July 1, 1832.
  • Erasmus D. Keyes was brevetted as a second lieutenant with the 3rd U.S. Artillery on July 1, 1832.
  • Erasmus D. Keyes was then stationed at Charleston, South Carolina during the sectional crisis precipitated by that state’s Ordinance of Nullification, passed in 1832.
  • On August 31, 1833, Erasmus D. Keyes was promoted to the full rank of second lieutenant and was assigned for staff duty as Aid-de-Camp to General Winfield Scott.
  • Erasmus D. Keyes was promoted to first lieutenant on September 16, 1836.
  • On November 8, 1837, Erasmus D. Keyes married Caroline Maria Clarke. Their marriage last for sixteen years before Maria died on died November 26, 1853, one month after giving birth to the last of their five children.
  • Erasmus D. Keyes participated in the forced removal of the Cherokee Indians in the Southeast to Oklahoma during the winter of 1838-39.
  • On November 30, 1841, Erasmus D. Keyes was promoted to captain and sent to Florida.
  • Erasmus D. Keyes served as an instructor of artillery and cavalry at the US Military Academy from July 25, 1844 to Dec. 24, 1848.
  • Between 1849 and 1858, Erasmus D. Keyes served on frontier duty in California and campaigning against American Indians in Washington Territory.
  • On October 12, 1858, Erasmus D. Keyes was promoted to major with the 1st Artillery.
  • Between 1858 and 1861, Erasmus D. Keyes served as military secretary to General-in-Chief of the Army, Winfield Scott.
  • On May 14, 1861, Erasmus D. Keyes was promoted to colonel of the 11th US Infantry.
  • On July 21, 1861, Erasmus D. Keyes commanded the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division of Brigadier General Irvin McDowell’s Army of Virginia during the First Battle of Bull Run.
  • During the First Battle of Bull Run, Erasmus D. Keyes was credited with saving over two hundred wagon-loads of supplies that otherwise would have fallen into the possession of the enemy.
  • On August 20, 1861, the US War Department issued General Order No. 62 promoting Erasmus D. Keyes to brigadier general in the volunteer army, effective May 17, 1861.
  • On November 9, 1861, Major General George B. McClellan issued Special Order No. 136 (AOP) appointing Erasmus D. Keyes to replace Brigadier General Don Carlos Buell as a divisional commander in the newly-created Army of the Potomac.
  • On March 8, US President Abraham Lincoln issued War Order No. 2, consolidating the army’s divisions into five corps. Lincoln order named Erasmus D. Keyes as commander of the 4th Corps.
  • During the Peninsula Campaign in the spring of 1862, Erasmus D. Keyes commanded the 4th Corps at several major engagements, including the Siege of Yorktown (April 5–May 4, 1862), the Battle of Fair Oaks (May 31–June 1, 1862) the Battle of Savage’s Station (June 29, 1862), and the Battle of Malvern Hill (July 1, 1862).
  • Erasmus D. Keyes was brevetted to brigadier general in the regular army “for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct in the Battle of Fair Oaks, Va.” effective May 31, 1862.
  • On August 2, 1862, the US War Department issued General Order No. 93, promoting Erasmus D. Keyes to major general in the volunteer army, effective July 4, 1862.
  • On September 18, 1863, the US War Department issued General Order No. 316, changing the effective date of Erasmus D. Keyes’ promotion to major general of US Volunteers to May 5, 1862, “instead of July 4, 1862 as announced in GO No. 93.”
  • On November 22, 1862, Erasmus D. Keyes married Mrs. Mary Loughborough Bissell. Their union produced five children.
  • Major General Dix recommended that Erasmus D. Keyes be removed from his command for his poor performance during the Gettysburg Campaign (June 3–July 23, 1863).
  • On August 1, 1863the US War Department issued General Order No. 262, discontinuing the 4th Corps and leaving Erasmus D. Keyes without a command.
  • Erasmus D. Keyes resigned from the military on May 6, 1864.
  • Following his resignation from the military on May 6, 1864, Erasmus D. Keyes returned to California, where he became a prominent vineyard owner, banker, and gold mining executive.
  • Erasmus D. Keyes died at the age of 85, in Nice, France, on October 14, 1895, while vacationing with his wife.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Erasmus Darwin Keyes - Facts
  • Coverage May 29, 1810 - October 14, 1895
  • Author
  • Keywords Erasmus Darwin Keyes
  • 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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