A Civil War Biography

John Newton

Newton was born 24 August 1823 in Norfolk, Virginia. He was appointed to West Point in 1838 and graduated 2nd in the class of 1842. He was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the engineers and assigned as an assistant professor of engineering at the academy. He then was involved in constructing fortifications and other engineering projects along the Atlantic coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. He was promoted to 1st lieutenant in 1852 then captain in 1856. He served as chief engineer during the 1858 Utah expedition.

When the Civil War began Newton was chief engineer of the Department of Pennsylvania, then was assigned to the same position in the Department of the Shenandoah. He was promoted to major on 6 August 1861 and assigned to the construction of the Washington defenses. He was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers on 23 September 1861 and given command of a brigade which became part of the Army of the Potomac and as the 3rd brigade, 1st division, VI Corps took part in the Peninsula and Maryland campaigns.

Newton was brevetted lieutenant colonel in the regular army for his services in the forcing of Crampton Gap and at Antietam. He led the 1st division VI Corps at Fredericksburg and was promoted to major general of volunteers on 20 March 1863. He commanded a division at Chancellorsville and was in command of a division on the first day at Gettysburg. He commanded the I Corps for the final two days at Gettysburg. Abner Doubleday had taken over command of the I Corps immediately after John Reynolds had been killed but once George Meade, the commander of the Army of the Potomac, reached the field he replaced Doubleday with Newton.

Newton was brevetted colonel in the regulars on 3 July 1863 for his services at Gettysburg. His appointment as a major general was revoked in April 1864. Newton was reappointed brigadier general of volunteers and sent to join the Army of the Cumberland. Newton commanded the 2nd division in the IV Corps during the Atlanta campaign. On 13 March 1865 he was brevetted major general of volunteers and both brigadier and major general in the regulars. He finished the war in command of district of West Florida and was mustered out of the volunteer service in January 1866. He was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the engineers on 28 December 1865 and in April 1866 sent to New York City where he supervised many improvements to the defenses of the city.

He was promoted to colonel on 30 June 1879 then on 6 March 1884 named chief of engineers with the rank of brigadier general. Newton retired from the service in 1886 and was appointed commissioner of public works by the mayor of New York City on 28 August 1886. This post he held until 24 November 1888. On 2 April 1888 Newton became president of the Panama Railroad Company. He held this position until he died on 1 May 1895.

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