Darius Couch (see Plate D2) was born in Putnam County, New York, on 23 July 1832. A graduate of West Point in 1842, he was sent to the Mexican War with Company B. 4th US Artillery. There he took ill from severe intestinal dysentery which, coupled with the rheumatic fever from which he also appears to have suffered, virtually crippled him at various times throughout the rest of his life. Couch recovered in time to see his first action at Buena Vista (22-23 February 1847), of which he wrote that
he saw "plenty signs of the battle. Wounded men who had crawled to a cover, horses likewise without their masters, stragglers behind bushes, etc, the dead and dying lying side by side. I nerved myself in the sight and looked on unmoved."
Breveted a first lieutenant for his gallant conduct in this battle, Couch subsequently saw service in the Seminole War (1849-50), for which he was commended by the Secretary of War. He resigned his commission in 1855 to marry, and joined a copper manufacturing business run by his father-in-law in Taunton, Massachusetts. This was a period when many dedicated officers despaired of a career in the tiny, cash-starved peacetime army, where promotion was desperately slow even for men of proven merit.
When the Civil War broke out, Couch was authorized by the state governor to raise the 7th Massachusetts Infantry, which he led to Washington in July 1861. He was quickly appointed a brigadier-general of volunteers and given a brigade command. When the Army of the Potomac began the Peninsula campaign (April-May 1862) he commanded the 1st Division, IV Corps. "It was a miserably fought affair," he wrote of his first battle in the campaign, at Williamsburg; "... a few thousand Confederates held us all in check seeing that our people went in by driblets." Couch's disillusionment with the army commander, George McClellan, deepened during the Seven Days, when he complained that "we commenced falling back at 11pm leaving many gallant men desperately wounded and in the enemy's hands... a perfect rout... the same soldiers that had fought so magnificently during the last seven days were now a mob."
Suffering from one of his recurrent bouts of illness, Couch offered to resign after these battles, but his resignation was not accepted and he went on sick leave. In September 1862 he was back in command of a division and, on 7 November 1862, of II Corps. He led his corps at Fredericksburg (13 December 1862), where he argued against Burnside's plan of attack. Subsequendv the second in command of the army under Hooker, Couch found himself in effective command at Chancellorsville (1-6 May 1863) when the latter was stunned bv the turn of events. Couch ably organized a defense, stabilizing the front after it had apparently fallen apart, and was twice wounded.
While he was on sick leave after Chancellorsville he met Lincoln, who offered him command of the Armv of the Potomac, but he declined for health reasons, instead suggesting George Meade. < ouch was then named to command the Department of the Susquehanna - right in the path of Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania, which was pan of his. department. Couch disagreed with state politicians during the campji_:. and afterwards was sent to command the 2nd Division. XXIII Corp< .it N.-.-hville, Tennessee, where he saw much action. The end of die war t und him in North
This engraving of Darius Couch was made from a photograph taken when he was still a brigadier-general. Often ill following service in the far South as a young officer, he declined the chance to become commander of the Army of the Potomac during the Gettysburg campaign instead of Meade.
Couch was something of an intellectual; he had taken leave from the army after the Seminole War, pursuing field research into the flora and fauna of northern Mexico for the Smithsonian Institution, and in 1852 he discovered a species of platyfish which was named in his honor, Xiphophorus couchiana.
George A. Custer rose from being a distinctly unpromising West Point cadet in the class of 1861, to brigadier-general of volunteers at the age of 23, to major-general's rank by the end of the war.
Carolina; resigning his commission on 9 June 1865, he returned home, where he ran unsuccessfully for governor of Massachusetts. After this defeat he moved to Connecticut, where he became the state's adjutant general. Couch died at Norwalk in Februar)' 1897.
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