A Civil War Biography

Charles Griffin

Griffin was born 18 December 1825 in Granville, Licking County Ohio. After graduating 23rd in the West Point class of 1847 he was posted to the 2nd US artillery. The 2nd, along with its new 2nd lieutenant, was ordered to Mexico. Griffin commanded an artillery company during the final campaign of the war. In 1849 he was promoted to 1st lieutenant and fought Navajo Indians in New Mexico until 1854. He remained on the frontier until in early 1860 he was assigned to West Point as an artillery instructor.

At 1st Bull Run Griffin, by then a captain in the 2 US artillery, commanded the West Point battery which he had formed from the enlisted men stationed at the military academy. The battery became battery D of the 5th US artillery. Griffin was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on 9 June 1862 and, transferred to the infantry, commanded the 2nd brigade in George W. Morell's 1st division of Fitz John Porter's V Corps during the Seven Days. At Malvern Hill he massed his artillery to support his brigade. Immediately after 2nd Bull Run, John Pope charged Griffin with failing to take part in the action. Griffin was arrested but was released after Pope was sent packing to the Department of the Northwest. Griffin was elevated to division command. He commanded the 1st division of the V Corps at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. Although present at Gettysburg, he was too sick to lead his division. He was again in division command at the Wilderness and retained this command through Petersburg. He was brevetted major general of volunteers on 1 August 1864 and colonel in the regular army on 18 August 1864. He was given command of the V Corps during the Appomattox campaign and distinguished himself at Five Forks. On 13 March 1865 he was brevetted both brigadier and major general in the regular army. At Appomattox he was designated by Ulysses S. Grant to receive the arms and colors of the surrendering Army of Northern Virginia.

Griffin remained in the army after the war. On 10 August 1865 he was assigned to command the District of Maine with his headquarters in Portland. On 28 July 1866 he was commissioned colonel of the 35th US infantry and shortly thereafter was given command of the Department of Texas with headquarters at Galveston. He immediately set about to the work of reconstruction, registering both black and white voters and replacing all officeholders that had supported the Confederacy. He even persuaded Philip Sheridan, the commander of the 5th military district of which Texas was a part, to remove the governor, James W. Throckmorton and put Elisha M. Pease, a Republican and Unionist, in his place. On 5 September 1867, while a yellow fever epidemic raged in Galveston, Griffin was assigned temporary command of the 5th military district. He was ordered to the district's headquarters in New Orleans, Louisiana but refused to leave Galveston in its time of need liking it to deserting one's post in time of battle. On 15 September 1867 he succumbed to the fever.

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