Portrait of William S. Harney

On May 21, 1861, Sterling Price and William S. Harney met and negotiated the Price-Harney Agreement. The pact charged the Missouri State Guard with the responsibility of protecting pro-Unionist citizens in Missouri. [Wikimedia Commons]

William Selby Harney - Facts

August 27, 1800 - May 9, 1889

Key facts about William S. Harney, co-author of the Price-Harney Agreement who was also a Union brigadier general during the American Civil War.

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Full Name:

  • William Selby Harney

Birth Date:

  • August 27, 1800

Birth Location:

  • Haysboro, Tennessee

Parents:

  • Thomas and Margaret (Hudson) Harney

Education:

  • Local schools

Occupation:

  • Military officer

Career Summary:

  • Brigadier General (USA)
  • Brevet Major General (USA)

Spouses:

  • Mary Mullanphy (1833)
  • Mary E. (Cromwell) St. Cyr (1884)

Nickname(s):

  • Mad Bear

Place of Death:

  • Orlando, Florida

Date of Death:

  • May 9, 1889

Place of Burial:

  • Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

Significance:

  • William S. Harney was the last of eight children born to Thomas and Margaret (Hudson) Harney.
  • William S. Harney’s father was a merchant and surveyor, who had served as a major in the Revolutionary War.
  • On February 13, 1818, with the help of his older brother Benjamin F. Harney, who was an army surgeon, William S. Harney was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 1st United States Infantry.
  • William S. Harney first military assignment was a campaign against the pirate Jean Lafitte.
  • Participating in the Seminole Wars in Florida, William S. Harney was promoted to first lieutenant on January 7, 1819.
  • In 1821, William S. Harney served as an aide to General Andrew Jackson who was a fellow Tennessean and friend of the Harney family.
  • William S. Harney was promoted to captain on May 14, 1825.
  • In 1832, William S. Harney participated in the Black Hawk War.
  • William S. Harney married Mary Mullanphy on January 27, 1833. Their marriage, which produced three children, ended in an estrangement, when Mrs. Harney moved to France, where she died in 1860.
  • On May 1, 1833, at the urging of President Andrew Jackson, William S. Harney was promoted to major and assigned to the paymaster corps.
  • On August 15, 1836, William S. Harney was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 2nd Dragoons.
  • On December 20, 1840, William S. Harney received a brevet promotion to colonel for “gallant and meritorious conduct” during the Seminole Wars.
  • William S. Harney played a leading role in Brigadier General John Wool’s campaign against Chihuahua during the Mexican-American War.
  • William S. Harney fought at the Battle of Buena Vista (February 22–23, 1847) during the Mexican-American War.
  • Major General Winfield Scott relieved William S. Harney as his cavalry commander during the Mexican-American War, but President James K. Polk reinstated him over Scott’s objections.
  • On April 18, 1847 William S. Harney was brevetted to brigadier general for his participation in the battle of Cerro Gordo (April 12, 1847) during the Mexican-American War.
  • Between 1849 and 1853, William S. Harney briefly commanded Military Department Number Five (which included much of Texas) on three occasions.
  • In 1854, William S. Harney was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to campaign against Sioux Indians on the Great Plains from 1855 into early 1856.
  • In May 1857, William S. Harney was redeployed to Kansas to help curtail bloodshed between pro-slavery “border ruffians” from Missouri and anti-slavery Jayhawkers from Kansas, during the Kansas Border Wars.
  • While travelling west with the Mormon Expedition, William S. Harney learned that he had been promoted to the full rank of brigadier general, effective June 14, 1858.
  • William S. Harney commanded the Department of Oregon from 1858 to June 1860.
  • William S. Harney commanded the Department of Oregon during the bloodless Pig War.
  • When the Civil War began, William S. Harney was in command of the Army’s Department of the West headquartered at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis.
  • On May 21, 1861, Sterling Price and William S. Harney met and negotiated the Price-Harney Agreement. The pact charged the Missouri State Guard with the responsibility of protecting pro-Unionist citizens in Missouri.
  • In 1861, radical Unionists, led by U.S. Representative Francis P. Blair and his brother, U.S. Postmaster-General Montgomery Blair, contrived to have Harney relieved as commander of the Department of the West.
  • On May 16, 1861, the U.S. War Department issued Special Orders, No, 135 relieving Brigadier William S. Harney as commander of the Department of the West.
  • William S. Harney retired from the army on August 1, 1863.
  • William S. Harney was brevetted to major general on March 13, 1865, “for long and faithful service.”
  • Following the Civil War, the government engaged William S. Harney to negotiate peace with the Plains Indians in the West in 1868.
  • In 1869, President Andrew Johnson appointed William S. Harney as a member of the Board of Commissioners for Indian Affairs and as a member of the Board of Indian Peace Commissioners in the Northwest.
  • On November 12, 1884, William S. Harney married his housekeeper and caretaker, Mary E. (Cromwell) St. Cyr in St. Louis.
  • William S. Harney died on May 9, 1889 in Orlando, Florida.
  • William S. Harney was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title William Selby Harney - Facts
  • Coverage August 27, 1800 - May 9, 1889
  • Author
  • Keywords William Selby Harney
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date August 2, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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