Sketches of Students of First
GENERAL JULIUS WHITE. This gentleman, who has been so eminently distinguished: in civil and military positions, was a student at the Seminary some four years, having been enrolled during the first year of its existence. He was the son of Lemuel and Emily White, and was born in Cazenovia, September 29, 1816: It is very creditable, alike both to parents and son, that in the judgment of the latter, if he has achieved any thing noteworthy or useful during his life, it is largely owing to the good advice and support of his venerated parents. At the age of twenty years he emigrated to Illinois, and subsequently to Wisconsin, where he engaged in commercial pursuits. In 1849 he was elected to the Legislature of his State from Milwaukee. The following year he removed to Chicago, and at the commencement of the great civil war held the office of collector of customs at that post, to which he had been appointed by President Lincoln. He promptly determined to enter the army, and applied to the secretary of war and obtained authority to raise a regiment of infantry, the Thirty-seventh Illinois, to serve for three years, or during the war. The regiment was mustered into the service of the United States on the 18th of September, 1861, Mr. White having been commissioned colonel, and proceeded to Missouri; under the orders of General Fremont. It was assigned to General Pope's division, and accompanied the expedition under General Fremont to Southwestern Missouri.
In December, 1861, Colonel White was assigned to the command of the Second Brigade, Third Division, of the Army of the South-west, and at the battle of Pea Ridge his brigade held successfully a position against the attack of M'Culloch's entire force of eight thousand until reinforced, when the enemy was routed with the loss of Generals M'Culloch and M'Intosh killed, the loss of White's brigade in killed and wounded being nearly one fourth of its entire number. In the official reports of the commanding generals Colonel- White and his command were highly commended.
Colonel White having been disabled by fracture of the leg, had leave of absence for thirty days. On his return he started an expedition into Arkansas, during which he captured five confederate officers and eighty enlisted men,
who were conscripting for the Confederate service. For his conduct at Pea Ridge he
was promoted to Brigadier-General of Volunteers, and with his command was stationed at Winchester, Virginia, from which he was ordered by General Halleck to retire to Harper's Ferry.
General Pope, who commanded the Army of Virginia, in his official report thus commends General White; "Brigadier-General Julius White, with one brigade, was, in the beginning of the campaign, placed in command of Winchester. He was selected for that position because I felt entire confidence in his courage and abilities, and during the whole of his service there performed his duty with the utmost efficiency, and relieved me entirely of any apprehension concerning that region. of country." At Harper's Ferry he was ordered to turn over his brigade to Colonel Miles, and to take command at Mastinsburgh. While there he defeated an attack made by the enemy's cavalry upon his outposts, with a loss to the enemy of twenty-five killed and over fifty wounded, and forty-one prisoners with their horses and arms. For this engagement he received from Secretary of War Stanton the following dispatch by
"Your success this P. M. is very gratifying, and highly creditable to you. Every man must fight as if the safety of the country depended on his individual exertions.
"(Signed,) E. M. STANTON."
Shortly afterward, having again reached Harper's Ferry, as ordered by General Halleck, he found Colonel Miles in command of the position under special assignment from the general-in-chief, (Halleck,) and volunteered to serve under Miles, waiving his rank in deference to the forty years' experience of Miles in the army, and the confidence manifested in him by the authorities in Washington. Moreover, there was no time to remedy any negligence of Miles in preparing proper defenses, as the enemy was then surrounding and bombarding the place. General White during the siege repulsed an attack by General A. P. Hill upon Bolivar Heights, of which position he had command.
The surrender of Harper's Ferry by Miles (who was reported to have been intoxicated) was made the subject of investigation by a military commission. The report of that commission not only acquitted, but complimented, General White for his "decided courage and capability." Subsequently, General Grant, after reciting the finding of the commission, indorses the commendation of General White's conduct "before and at the time of the surrender of Harper's Ferry, on September 15, 1862. Signed officially, U. S. Grant." To this General Sheridan appended his official concurrence with General Grant in "exonerating and complimenting General White for his services at Harper's Ferry." All this is highly creditable to our Cazenovia student-general.
General White, who had received leave of absence in November, 1862, "till exchanged," applied immediately for orders, and was assigned to the command of the Eastern District of Kentucky, a mountainous region, overrun by guerrillas. His activity, his hazards, and his success were remarkable. He succeeded in repulsing General Humphrey Marshall in an attack on Louisa, Kentucky, and in killing and capturing many confederates. In 1863 he was assigned to command in the Army of Ohio, under General Burnside, in the expedition into East Tennessee, conducting the right wing of the army, consisting of all arms of the service and a heavy transportation train, across the mountains and through almost insuperable difficulties. He received from the major-general commanding, among other things, the following: "You have done wonderfully well, and are a day and a half ahead of all other troops of this army; you will await further orders where you are."
In the engagement with General Longstreet, which soon after followed, repeated charges were made by General White's command, resulting in each instance in dislodging the enemy from his position. In the retirement on Knoxville, ordered by Burnside, General White's command was the rear guard, which was constantly pursued and annoyed by the enemy, who was successfully repelled. And in the terrible contests that preceded the occupation by our troops of Knoxville, General White held most important positions, and did most brave and successful service, for which he was officially commended by General Burnside.
Subsequent to this campaign he was transferred to the Army of the Potomac, and was assigned by General Meade to the Ninth Army Corps, under General Burnside. He was appointed chief of the staff of the latter, and served in that capacity until July, 1864. He was in the battle of July 30, was then assigned to command the first division, and participated in the almost continuous battles of the ensuing four months in front of Petersburgh, and in the hard-fought battles for the possession of the Weldon Railroad. For this he was officially commended by Generals Meade and Warren; and by a vote of the officers and men of his division presented with the head-quarter flag, which had been carried by the division through the entire war, being given as an "expression of their personal esteem," "a testimonial of the success of the division in battle under his command, and the kind regard for his subordinates which distinguished him as a general officer." Subsequent and protracted illness compelled him to tender his resignation, which was accepted, and he retired to private life. At the close of the war he was brevetted major-general for gallant and meritorious services during the war.
Immediately after the great Chicago fire he was elected one of the fifteen commissioners of that county, and was made chairman of the board. In that capacity he introduced measures, which were adopted, changing materially the administration of the government of the county, and establishing a department of public charity.
The position of minister to the Argentine Republic was first tendered him by President Grant in July, 1873, and was declined on account of the pressure of private business. The position was again tendered to him in November of the same year and accepted. He had occupied this place less than a year when news of the alarming illness of his eldest son caused his return home, too late to find his son alive. This severe affliction prevented his return to South America, and his resignation was tendered in March, 1874.
General White's official dispatches, sent by him to the secretary of state while minister to the Argentine Republic, showed him to be an able statesman as well as a brave and skillful commander.
General White has been twice married; first, in 1839, to Miss Hannah S. Macon, who died in 1846. He was again married, in 1849, to Catharine E., daughter of the late General Oliver Collins of New Hartford, New York. His eldest son, Edward Macon White, whose sickness and death occasioned his resignation as minister to the Argentine Republic, served the country as a brave soldier during the entire war of the Rebellion. General White's residence is in South Evanston, Illinois.
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