A Civil War Biography

Robert Huston Milroy

Milroy was born 11 June 1816 near Salem, Indiana. In 1840 he entered the a private military academy in Norwich, Vermont run by Aldan Partridge, an 1806 West Point graduate who, after serving his entire military career teaching at West Point, established the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy in 1819. Milroy graduated from the Vermont school with degrees of Master of Arts, Master of Military Science, and Master of Civil Engineering in 1843. He got his first real taste of military service as the commander of company C, 1st Indiana Volunteer infantry during the war with Mexico. After returning from Mexico he studied at Indiana University's law school. He passed the bar in 1849 and began a practice in Delphi, Indiana. He served as a member of Indiana's 1850 Constitutional Convention, then in 1853 was appointed judge of the Circuit Court of Indiana. In 1854 he moved to Renssellaer and resumed the practice of law. Even before Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated, Jones made a call for volunteers to help preserve the Union.

When the war erupted Milroy's, now at regimental strength, became designated the 9th Indiana Volunteer Infantry regiment. He was mustered in as commander of the three month regiment with the rank of colonel on 27 April 1861. The 9th was the first regiment from Indiana to reach the Eastern theater, seeing action in George B. McClellan's western Virginia campaign. When the 9th became a three year regiment on 27 August 1861 Milroy again was chosen to be its colonel. He was promoted to brigadier general on 3 September 1861. He became commander of the Cheat Mountain District on 11 March 1862. He saw action during the Shenandoah Valley campaign, then his forces were merged into John Pope's Army of Virginia, Milroy saw action at 2nd Bull Run. He was then sent to command at Winchester, Virginia and was promoted to major general on 29 November 1862. He was soundly beaten at 2nd Winchester, when elements of Richard S. Ewell's Confederate II Corps on 13 June 1863, heading north towards Pennsylvania cut off Milroy's line of retreat, killing and wounding over 1000, and capturing 3400 and all the artillery. Milroy escaped with a few hundred cavalry troopers to Harper's Ferry. On 26 June 1863 he was relieved of his command. Not until 10 months later would a court of inquiry exonerate him. On 6 May 1864 he was sent to Nashville, Tennessee to serve under George H. Thomas. Milroy's duties included organizing and assigning militia units and guarding the Chattanooga Railroad. His vigorous efforts in suppressing Confederate guerrillas led to the Confederate government putting a price on his head.

Milroy resigned from the army on 26 July 1865 and became a trustee of the Wabash and Erie Canal Company. In 1872 he became an Indian agent in Olympia, Washington. Known as Gray Eagle because of his fearless eyes and gray hair, he died in Olympia on 29 March 1890.

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