Philip Kearny was born in New York City on 2 June 1815. The scion of a wealthy, socially prominent family, he was graduated from Columbia University in 1833. l ie inherited a million dollars in - an almost unimaginable sum at that date - but nevertheless decided to follow his dream into the army. Commissioned into his uncle's regiment, the 1st Dragoons, in 1837 as a second lieutenant, Kearny attended the French cavalry school at Saumur in 1839* He served with the Chasseurs d'Afrique in Algiers in 1840, returning to serve on the staff of the Major-General Commanding the Army.
On Winfield Scott's staff in Mexico, at Churubusco (20 August 1847) 26 Kearny was badly wounded in the left arm, which was subsequently amputated. Recovering, he then served in California until he resigned in 1851. He then traveled the world before re tin ng to his New Je rsey estate. In 1869 lie went to Europe to join the French Imperial Guard in the Italian campaign of that year, serving at Sol fori no and Magenta.
On the outbreak of the Civil War, Kearny returned to the army and was quickly appointed a brigadier-general of volunteers in command of a New Jersey brigade, fie was made a major-general . >n 4 July I8(i2, commanding a division in III Corps in the Peninsula campaign. Proud of his own men, he once addressed some stragglers only to find that :hey were from a different command. To ensure that this never happened again, on 27 June 1862 he issued the following order: "The general commanding division directs that officers in command of companies are to wear a piece of red flannel two inches square on tiie front of their caps. Field officers to wear the same upon the top ■f the cap - this to be done immediately that they may he recognized in action." After Kearny's death the practice was ordered continued, and enlisted men also began wearing these "Kearny's patches'. This was the origin of what would become an armv-wide svstem of divisional identification after
Hooker took over.
Kearny was unhappy with what he perceived as timidity among the Union senior commanders, After the Peninsula campaign had stalled Charles Wainwright confided to his diary, "[Kearny] is full of the possibility of our capturing Richmond at this time; says he could do it with his division, and that two or three divisions could do it easily. He talked very wild, as usual. Still, there may be something in what he says."
Kearny would never have the chance to be tested at any higher level of command than a division. At Chantilly, On I September 1862, in a heavy rain storm, he rode by accident into Confederate lines. Called on to surrender, he spurred his horse instead and, while trying to escape, was shot and killed. Lee himself sent a message through the lines reporting Kearny's death, and his body was turned over to Union authorities to be returned to his family, lie was originally buried at Trinity Church, New York City, but in 1912 was reburied in Arlington National Cemetary.
Colonel David Strother noted in his diary on 2 September 1862: "Heard the news that General Kearny had been killed last night and his body sent in by the enemy under a flag. Thus ends the one-armed hero of the war, a man of great valor and energy and a serious loss for us." This was the general opinion of the army.
The extraordinary Philip Keamy -an engraving In Harper's Weekly of 20 September 1862, after a Brady photograph. According to the paper, "General McClellan is said to have wept when he heard of his death, and to have said; 'Who can replace Phil Kearney?1 The inheritor of enormous wealth, this hero of the battle of Churubusco (1847) still pursued the profession of arms so hungrily that when US Army service palled he traveled to serve with the French army in North Africa and Italy. Note that the engraving process has reversed the portrait left for right - it was Kearny's left arm that he tost in Mexico, and his coat is shown here buttoning the female way.
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