Portrait of Edwin Vose Sumner

Edwin V. Sumner suffered heavy losses during a frontal assault at Mayre’s Heights during the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862. Five weeks later, on January 25, 1863, the War Department relieved Sumner from duty in the Army of the Potomac, at his own request. [Wikimedia Commons]

Edwin Vose Sumner - Facts

January 30, 1797 - March 21, 1863

A prominent Union general officer, Edwin V. Sumner was the first new general to be appointed in the United States Army after the beginning of the American Civil War.

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Full Name:

  • Edwin Vose Sumner

Birth Date:

  • January 30, 1797

Birth Location:

  • Boston, Massachusetts

Parents:

  • Elisha and Nancy Sumner

Education:

  • Milton Academy in Milton, Massachusetts

Occupation:

  • Military officer

Career Summary:

  • Major General (USA)
  • Military Governor of the New Mexico Territory

Spouse:

  • Hannah Wickersham Forster (1822)

Nickname(s):

  • Bull
  • Bull Head

Place of Death:

  • Syracuse, New York

Date of Death:

  • March 21, 1863

Place of Burial:

  • Oakwood Cemetery, Syracuse, New York

Significance:

  • Edwin V. Sumner was one of seven children born to Elisha and Nancy Sumner.
  • As a youth, Edwin V. Sumner attended several private schools in the Milton area.
  • With the help of business associate Samuel Appleton Storrow, a friend of Major General Jacob Brown, Edwin V. Sumner secured an appointment as a second lieutenant in the United States Army on March 3, 1819.
  • Edwin V. Sumner began his army career in 1819 with the 2nd Infantry Regiment, at Madison Barracks, Sackets Harbor, New York.
  • Edwin V. Sumner married Hannah Wickersham Forster on March 31, 1822, at Sackets Harbor, New York. Their marriage lasted for 40 years and produced six children.
  • Edwin V. Sumner was promoted to first lieutenant on January 25, 1823.
  • Between 1823 and 1831, Edwin V. Sumner performed recruiting and administrative duties for the army at various places, including Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, Boston, Fort Mackinac, Michigan, and back at Sackets Harbor.
  • In 1832, Edwin V. Sumner was transferred to Illinois where he took part in the Black Hawk War.
  • Edwin V. Sumner was promoted to captain of Company B in the newly-formed U.S. 1st Dragoons in 1833.
  • Edwin V. Sumner was selected to command a newly-created cavalry school of practice at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, on March 19, 1838. His new appointment was confirmed on May 14.
  • Edwin V. Sumner was reassigned to Fort Atkinson, Iowa Territory in 1842. He served there for three years, most of them as the post’s commander.
  • Edwin V. Sumner was promoted to major with the 2nd Dragoons on June 30, 1846.
  • Edwin V. Sumner served with General Winfield Scott’s expeditionary force during the Mexican-American War
  • On April 17, 1847, Edwin V. Sumner was brevetted to lieutenant colonel for his performance at the Battle of Cerro Gordo.
  • During the Battle of Cerro Gordo, a Mexican musket ball reportedly bounced off Edwin V. Sumner’s head, earning him the nickname “Bull Head.”
  • Edwin V. Sumner was brevetted to colonel for his valor on September 8, 1847, during the Battle of Molino del Rey.
  • Following the conclusion of the Mexican-American War, Edwin V. Sumner was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 1st US Dragoons on July 23, 1848.
  • Edwin V. Sumner was appointed military governor of the New Mexico Territory in 1851.
  • On March 3, 1855 Edwin V. Sumner was promoted to colonel of the 1st U.S. Cavalry and reassigned to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
  • As a colonel in the U.S. Cavalry, Edwin V. Sumner took part in the Border War between anti-slavery Free Staters and pro-slavery Border Ruffians in the Kansas Territory.
  • Edwin V. Sumner campaigned against the Cheyenne Indians during the First Cheyenne War (1856 – 1858) in Nebraska and western Kansas.
  • In 1858 Edwin V. Sumner was assigned as commander of the Department of the West, headquartered in St. Louis.
  • In 1861, General Winfield Scott appointed Edwin V. Sumner as the senior officer to accompany President-elect Abraham Lincoln from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, DC for the presidential inauguration on March 4.
  • On March 12, President Abraham Lincoln nominated Edwin V. Sumner to replace Brigadier General David E. Twiggs who outgoing President James Buchanan had dismissed from the army.
  • On April 3, 1861, the War Department issued General Order No. 8 announcing Edwin V. Sumner’s promotion to brigadier general, effective March 16, making him one of only three brigadier generals in the U.S. Army at that time.
  • Edwin V. Sumner was the first new general to be appointed after the beginning of the secession crisis.
  • Edwin V. Sumner served as commander of the Department of the Pacific during 1861.
  • On March 8, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued War Order No. 2, merging the Army of the Potomac’s divisions into four corps and naming Edwin V. Sumner to command the 2nd Corps.
  • On March 13, 1862, Major General George B. McClellan issued General Order No. 101 (Army of the Potomac) confirming President Abraham Lincoln’s selection of Edwin V. Sumner as commander of the 2nd Corps of the Army of the Potomac.
  • Edwin V. Sumner did not perform well at the Battle of Williamsburg (May 5, 1862).
  • Edwin V. Sumner’s timely action averted a Union disaster at the Battle of Fair Oaks (May 31, 1862).
  • On July 24, 1862, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders No. 87, brevetting Edwin V. Sumner to major general in the regular army “to date from May 31, 1862, for gallant and meritorious conduct at the Battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia.
  • After the Confederate victory at the Battles of Gaines’ Mill (June 27, 1862) Edwin V. Sumner’s corps held off Major General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s command at the Battle of Savage’s Station (June 29, 1862), buying time for McClellan to withdraw down the Virginia Peninsula.
  • Edwin V. Sumner received a slight wound to his arm during the Battle of Glendale (June 30, 1862).
  • On August 2, 1862, the War Department issued General Order No. 93, promoting Edwin V. Sumner to major general in the regular army, effective July 4, 1862.
  • On September 17, 1862, the single bloodiest day of fighting in American military history Edwin V. Sumner ordered an ill-conceived and uncoordinated attack by Brigadier General John Sedgwick’s division that contributed to the high casualty total at the Battle of Antietam (September 16-18, 1862).
  • On November 14, 1862, Major General Ambrose E. Burnside issued General Order No. 184, which reorganized the Army of the Potomac into three “Grand Divisions.” He named Edwin V. Sumner to lead the Right Grand Division, which comprised the 2nd Corps, ninth Corps, and a division of cavalry led by Brigadier General Alfred Pleasonton.
  • Edwin V. Sumner suffered heavy losses during a frontal assault at Mayre’s Heights during the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862.
  • On January 25, 1863, the War Department issued General Order No. 20, relieving Edwin V. Sumner from duty in the Army of the Potomac, at his own request.
  • On March 9, 1863, the War Department issued General Order No. 57 reassigning Edwin V. Sumner to command the Department of the Missouri, headquartered in St. Louis.
  • Edwin V. Sumner suffered a heart attack, at the age of 60, and died at Syracuse, New York while visiting his daughter on March 21, 1863.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Edwin Vose Sumner - Facts
  • Coverage January 30, 1797 - March 21, 1863
  • Author
  • Keywords Edwin Vose Sumner
  • 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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