Portrait of George Sykes

On July 2, 1863, the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, George Sykes’s 5th Corps repulsed Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s assault on Little Round Top. Sykes’s performance marked the zenith of his career as a combat leader. [Wikimedia Commons]

George Sykes - Facts

October 9, 1822 - February 8, 1880

Key facts about Major General George Sykes, a career United States Army officer, whose 5th Corps of the Army of the Potomac successfully defended Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg.

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Full Name:

  • George Sykes

Birth Date:

  • October 9, 1822

Birth Location:

  • Dover, Delaware

Parents:

  • William and Elizabeth (Goldsborough) Sykes

Education:

  • United States Military Academy (1842)

Occupation:

  • Military officer

Career Summary:

  • Colonel (USA)
  • Major General (USVA)

Spouse:

  • None

Nickname(s):

  • Tardy George
  • Slow Trot

Place of Death:

  • Fort Brown, Texas

Date of Death:

  • February 8, 1880

Place of Burial:

  • West Point Cemetery, West Point, New York

Significance:

  • George Sykes’s grandfather represented Delaware in the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War.
  • George Sykes’s grandfather was a prominent physician who served as the 15th Governor of Delaware from 1801 to 1802.
  • George Sykes attended the United States Military Academy from July 1, 1838 to July 1, 1842.
  • George Sykes graduated from the United States Military Academy on July 1, 1842, ranked thirty-ninth out of fifty-six cadets in his class.
  • Among George Sykes’s classmates at West Point were future Civil War general officers Abner Doubleday, William S. Rosecrans, John Pope, Lafayette McLaws, Richard H. Anderson, and James Longstreet.
  • After graduation from the United States Military Academy, George Sykes was brevetted to 2nd lieutenant and assigned to the Third U.S. Infantry.
  • George Sykes was promoted to the full rank of 2nd lieutenant on December 31, 1843.
  • During the Mexican-American War, George Sykes took part in the Battle of Monterrey (September 21-23, 1846).
  • George Sykes was promoted to 1st lieutenant, effective September 21, 1846.
  • During the Mexican-American War George Sykes served with General Winfield Scott’s Army of Invasion, and he participated in the Siege of Veracruz (March 9‑29, 1847), the Battle of Cerro Gordo (April 17‑18, 1847), the Battle of Contreras (August 19‑20, 1847), the Battle of Churubusco (August 20, 1847), and the capture of Mexico City (September 12‑14, 1847).
  • For his “Gallant and Meritorious Conduct in the Battle of Cerro Gordo,” George Sykes was brevetted to the rank of captain, effective April 18, 1847.
  • George Sykes was promoted to the full rank of captain on September 30, 1853.
  • When the Civil War erupted, George Sykes was promoted to major on May 14, 1861, and assigned to the newly created 14th U.S. Infantry.
  • During the Confederate victory at the First Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861), George Sykes distinguished himself by trying to maintain order during the chaotic federal retreat.
  • George Sykes was appointed to brigadier general in the volunteer army, effective September 28, 1861 (General Orders, No. 106 (Headquarters of the Army, December 5, 1861).
  • George Sykes took part in the Siege of Yorktown (April 5-May 4, 1862), the Battle of Gaines’s Mill (June 27, 1862), and the Battle of Malvern Hill (July 1, 1862) during the Peninsula Campaign.
  • When the 5th Army Corps was formed on May 18, 1862, George Sykes was placed in command of its 2nd Division. Because the division was composed of U.S. Army regular troops, it became known as “Sykes’ Regulars.”
  • George Sykes was brevetted to colonel in the regular army for his “Gallant and Meritorious Services in the Battle of Gaines’s Mill,”, effective June 27, 1862.
  • George Sykes’s division fought well and sustained heavy casualties during the Second Battle of Bull Run (August 28–30, 1862).
  • During the Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862), George Sykes’s Division was initially held in reserve, but around noon it was ordered into action in support of Union artillery near the Middle Bridge.
  • On November 29, 1862, George Sykes was promoted to major general, the rank appropriate for a division commander. It was not until nearly a year later, however, that his appointment was confirmed and announced by the War Department in General Orders, No. 316, dated September 18, 1863.
  • On December 15, 1862, during the Battle of Fredericksburg, George Sykes’s division played a major role in the orderly withdrawal of the Army of the Potomac.
  • George Sykes’s division was only lightly engaged at the Battle of Chancellorsville (April 30-May 6, 1863).
  • On June 28, 1863, just three days before the Battle of Gettysburg, George Sykes replaced George G. Meade as commander of the 5th Corps of the Army of the Potomac.
  • On July 2, 1863, the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, George Sykes’s 5th Corps repulsed Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s assault on Little Round Top.
  • George Sykes’s performance at the Battle of Gettysburg marked the zenith of his career as a combat leader.
  • George Sykes’s 5th Corps participated in the successful Bristoe Campaign (October 13–November 7, 1863).
  • On October 16, 1863, George Sykes was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the regular army.
  • George Sykes’s 5th Corps took part in the inconclusive Mine Run Campaign (November 27 – December 2, 1863).
  • On March 24, 1864, the War Department issued General Orders, No. 10 announcing that George Sykes had been removed from command of the 5th Corps.
  • As the Civil War concluded, George Sykes was brevetted to brigadier general and major general in the regular army on March 13, 1865 “for Gallant and Meritorious Services at the Battle of Gettysburg” and “for Gallant and Meritorious Services in the Field during the Rebellion.”
  • George Sykes mustered out of the volunteer army on January 15, 1866, but he continued his career in the regular army.
  • George Sykes was promoted to the rank of colonel on January 12, 1868.
  • George Sykes succumbed to cancer on February 8, 1880, at Fort Brown, Texas, at the age of 57.
  • After burial in Texas, George Sykes’s remains were re-interred at West Point where a monument was dedicated over his grave on July 1, 1887.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title George Sykes - Facts
  • Coverage October 9, 1822 - February 8, 1880
  • Author
  • Keywords George Sykes
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date August 1, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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