Portrait of Hugh Judson Kilpatrick

During the Battle of Gettysburg, Judson Kilpatrick earned the nickname of “Kill-cavalry” when he ordered Elon J. Farnsworth to lead his brigade in an ill-advised charge against heavily entrenched Confederate infantry on July 3, 1863. The Union brigade was cut to shreds and Farnsworth was killed during the assault. [Wikimedia Commons]

Hugh Judson Kilpatrick - Facts

January 14, 1836 – December 4, 1881

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Full Name:

  • Hugh Judson Kilpatrick

Birth Date:

  • January 14, 1836

Birth Location:

  • Wantage Township, near Deckertown, New Jersey

Parents:

  • Colonel Simon Kilpatrick and Julia (Wickham) Kilpatrick

Education:

  • United States Military Academy (1861)

Occupation:

  • Military officer, ambassador

Career Summary:

  • Captain (USA), Major General (USVA), Brevet Major General (USA), U. S. Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Chile

Spouses:

  • Alice Shailer (1861), Luisa Fernandez de Valdivieso

Nickname(s):

  • Kill-cavalry

Place of Death:

  • Santiago, Chile

Date of Death:

  • December 2, 1881

Place of Burial:

  • West Point Cemetery, West Point, New York

Significance

  • Hugh Judson Kilpatrick was born on his family farm in Wantage Township, near Deckertown, New Jersey on January 14, 1836.
  • Judson Kilpatrick was the fourth child of Colonel Simon Kilpatrick and Julia (Wickham) Kilpatrick.
  • Judson Kilpatrick’s political activism for New Jersey Congressman George Vail landed him an appointment to the United States Military Academy in 1855.
  • Upon entering the United States Military Academy, Hugh Judson Kilpatrick chose to be referred to by his middle name, Judson.
  • During his years at West Point, Judson Kilpatrick was an above-average student, graduating 17th in his class of 45 cadets on May 6, 1861.
  • On the evening of his graduation from the United States Military Academy, Judson Kilpatrick married Alice Shailer of New York. The young bride died two years later, on November 23, 1863. Their only child died in infancy early the following year.
  • After graduating from West Point, Judson Kilpatrick was commissioned as a second lieutenant with the 1st U.S. Artillery.
  • On May 9, 1861, Judson Kilpatrick received an appointment as a captain with the 5th New York Infantry, also known as “Duryée’s Zouaves,” in the new volunteer army established at the beginning of the Civil War.
  • On May 14, 1861, Judson Kilpatrick was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant in the regular army.
  • Judson Kilpatrick was possibly the first Union officer injured in combat during the Civil War when he suffered a shrapnel wound to his thigh during the Battle of Big Bethel on June 10, 1861.
  • On September 25, 1861, Judson Kilpatrick was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the volunteer army and transferred to command of the Harris Light Cavalry (later designated the 2nd New York) in the defense of Washington, D.C.
  • Judson Kilpatrick participated in the Union defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run (August 29 – 30, 1862).
  • Judson Kilpatrick was promoted to the rank of colonel in the volunteer army on December 6, 1862.
  • On Feb. 25, 1863, Judson Kilpatrick was assigned command of the 1st brigade of Brigadier General David M. Gregg’s 3rd Division of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac.
  • During the Chancellorsville Campaign, Judson Kilpatrick accompanied the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac during Stoneman’s Raid (April 13–May 7, 1863).
  • During the Gettysburg Campaign, Judson Kilpatrick distinguished himself at the Battle of Brandy Station (June 9, 1863), the largest cavalry engagement of the Civil War.
  • On June 13, 1863, Judson Kilpatrick was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers.
  • During the Gettysburg Campaign, Judson Kilpatrick took part in numerous cavalry engagements with Confederate Major General J. E. B. Stuart’s cavalry, including the Battle of Aldie (June 17, 1863), the Battle of Middleburg (June 11–June 19, 1863), and the Battle of Upperville (June 21, 1863).
  • Judson Kilpatrick was brevetted to the rank of major in the regular army for “Gallant and Meritorious Services” at the Battle of Aldie.
  • On June 29, 1863, Major General George G. Meade promoted Judson Kilpatrick to the command of the 3rd Division of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac.
  • During the Battle of Gettysburg, Judson Kilpatrick earned the nickname of “Kill-cavalry” when he ordered Elon J. Farnsworth to lead his brigade in an ill-advised charge against heavily entrenched Confederate infantry on July 3, 1863. The Union brigade was cut to shreds and Farnsworth was killed during the assault.
  • Judson Kilpatrick was brevetted to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the regular army, effective July 3, 1863, for “Gallant and Meritorious Services at the Battle of Gettysburg.”
  • Following the Battle of Gettysburg, Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry harassed Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s retreating Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Williamsport (July 6–16, 1863) and the Battle of Boonsboro (July 8, 1863).
  • In the spring of 1864, Judson Kilpatrick led a failed cavalry raid against Richmond, Virginia.
  • Following Judson Kilpatrick’s failed raid against Richmond, Virginia in 1864, Union General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant demoted Kilpatrick from divisional to brigade command.
  • During his tenure as a cavalry commander in the East, Judson Kilpatrick developed an unsavory reputation as a braggart, womanizer, and reckless leader who tolerated lax discipline amongst his troops.
  • On April 26, 1864, Judson Kilpatrick was sent west and placed in charge of the 3rd Division of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Cumberland.
  • On May 13, 1864, Judson Kilpatrick suffered a severe bullet wound to the thigh fighting in the Battle of Resaca.
  • Judson Kilpatrick was brevetted to colonel in the regular army for “Gallant and Meritorious Services” during the Battle of Resaca.
  • Judson Kilpatrick assisted in the capture of Atlanta in 1864.
  • On November 30, 1864, Judson Kilpatrick was promoted to the rank of captain in the regular army.
  • As Major General William T. Sherman made plans for his March to the Sea, he reportedly said “I know that Kilpatrick is a hell of a damned fool, but I want just that sort of man to command my cavalry on this expedition.”
  • In the spring of 1865, Judson Kilpatrick accompanied Major General William T. Sherman during the Carolinas Campaign skirmishing with Confederate cavalry on numerous occasions.
  • On March 10, 1865, Judson Kilpatrick barely avoided being captured by his old nemesis, Wade Hampton, at the Battle of Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads, also known as Kilpatrick’s Shirttail Skedaddle.
  • On March 13, 1865, Judson Kilpatrick took part in the capture of Fayetteville, North Carolina, for which he was brevetted to brigadier general in the regular army.
  • Effective the same date (March 13, 1865) Judson Kilpatrick was brevetted to major general in the regular army “for Gallant and Meritorious Services” during the Carolinas Campaign.
  • Judson Kilpatrick led his cavalry during the Battle of Bentonville (March 19–21, 1865), the largest Civil War engagement fought in North Carolina, and the final battle of the Carolinas Campaign.
  • In early April 1865, Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry served as Major General William T. Sherman’s escort when Confederate General Joseph Johnston surrendered his troops at Bennett’s Place.
  • On June 18, 1865, Judson Kilpatrick was promoted to the rank of major general of volunteers.
  • On December 1, 1865, Judson Kilpatrick resigned his regular army commission to accept an appointment from President Andrew Johnson as U. S. Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Chile.
  • Judson Kilpatrick mustered out of the volunteer army on January 1, 1866.
  • While living in Chile, Judson Kilpatrick married Luisa Fernandez de Valdivieso, a member of a wealthy family of Spanish origin and the niece of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Santiago. Their marriage produced two daughters.
  • Judson Kilpatrick served as minister to Chile from December 1, 1865, until being recalled by President Ulysses S. Grant on August 22, 1868.
  • In 1872, Judson Kilpatrick actively campaigned against President Grant’s reelection.
  • In 1880, Judson Kilpatrick made an unsuccessful bid for election to Congress from New Jersey.
  • In 1881, newly-elected President James A. Garfield reappointed Judson Kilpatrick as Minister to Chile.
  • Upon his return to Chile, Judson Kilpatrick fell seriously ill of Bright’s disease and died at Santiago on December 2, 1881, at the relatively young age of 46.
  • Judson Kilpatrick was buried at West Point Cemetery, West Point, New York.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Hugh Judson Kilpatrick - Facts
  • Coverage January 14, 1836 – December 4, 1881
  • Author
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 27, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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