A Civil War Biography

Robert Patterson

Following the war he left the military and began a wholesale business in Pennsylvania. He became influential in state politics as a Jacksonian Democrat. He was one of the members of the Pennsylvania delegation that nominate Andrew Jackson for president in 1828. He cast Pennsylvania's electoral votes for Martin Van Buren in 1836. Patterson fought in the war with Mexico as a major general of volunteers and on Winfield Scott's staff. Patterson returned to business after the war with Mexico becoming very wealthy with a sugar plantation in Louisiana and 30 cotton mills in his home state.

When the Civil War began he was mustered into service and commissioned a major general of Pennsylvania volunteers on 15 April 1861 and given command of a district that included Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia. He failed in his first assignment to retake the arsenal at Harpers Ferry in May of 1861 allowing the enemy to carry off much US property before destroying the buildings. Patterson, assigned to watch Joseph E. Johnston's troop at Winchester, Virginia and to prevent these troops from moving to reinforce the Confederates at Manassas Junction when Irwin McDowell moved against them, crossed the Potomac on 15 June 1861. Patterson failed to attack Johnston's troops allowing them to slip off and join Beauregard. Patterson later claimed the failure of Scott to send him orders, for which he had been directed to wait, caused his failure to cooperated with McDowell. Scott ordered Patterson to be relieved of command. His request for a court of inquiry was denied and he was honorably discharged on 27 July 1861.

He returned to his business ventures and made a fortune in sugar refineries and cotton mills. He published his version of his campaign in a booklet entitled "A Narrative of the Campaign in the Valley of the Shenandoah in 1861," in 1865. In 1867 he became president of the Aztec Club, an organization formed on 13 October 1847 by officers in the US Army occupying Mexico City. He held that post until he died on 7 August 1881 in Philadelphia.

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