A Civil War Biography

Paul Ambrose Oliver

Oliver was born 18 July 1830 onboard an American ship in the English channel. He was educated in Germany then in 1849 settled in New York City where he engaged in the shipping business. Later he took up the cotton trade in New York and New Orleans.

When the war erupted Oliver joined the 12th New York infantry as a 2nd lieutenant on 29 October 1861. He was promoted to 1st lieutenant on 17 May 1862 and assigned to duty on the staff of Daniel Butterfield. Oliver participated in the Peninsula campaign, was at 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. He also served as aide-de-camp to George G Meade and Joseph Hooker. After Chancellorsville the 12th was reduced to battalion size consisting of two companies and was assigned to provost duty with the V Corps. Oliver was at Gettysburg and took part in the Overland campaign. He was promoted to captain on 22 April 1864. He was detached to the Western theater and again served on Butterfield's staff. At Resaca, Georgia on 15 May 1864 Oliver prevented Union troops from firing on each other. On 1 June 1864 he was assigned to the 5th New York Veteran infantry regiment. He was brevetted brigadier general of volunteers on 8 March 1865 for his action at Resaca. He was then ordered by Ulysses Grant to report to the headquarters of the US army and was detailed on 11 April 1865 to assist George Sharpe in paroling the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Oliver resigned from the army on 6 May 1865.

Following the war Oliver settled near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and established an explosives factory. He is often credited with inventing the process to make dynamite. The process was eventually bought by the Du Pont Company. On 12 October 1892 Oliver was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Resaca. The citation reads, "While acting as aide assisted in preventing a disaster caused by Union troops firing into each other." Oliver died in 1912.

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