Henry Warner Slocum

Henry Warner Slocum was born on September 24, 1827 in Delphi Falls, N.Y. He was the sixth child of eleven born to Matthew Barnard Slocum and Mary Ostrander Slocum. Matthew was born in Marietta, Ohio, in 1788, and in 1802 moved to Newport, Rhode Island. Ten years later he moved to Albany, New York where he met and married Mary Ostrander in 1814 (1). In 1817 the Slocums moved to the village of Delphi in Onondaga County where they lived in rooms adjoining the family business, "Slocum & Marble." The family home was called "Cheapside."

Along with the other children in the area, Henry attended the Delphi Public School. In addition to school, Henry helped out in his father's store. To raise extra money, he bought and raised sheep. In time, due to his financial initiatives, he earned the nickname "Speculator," or just plain "Spec" (2).

Henry attended Cazenovia Seminary in nearby Madison County and at age 16 received a Public School Teacher's Certificate (3). He was hired in the winter of 1847-48 to teach in a one-room school in the hamlet of New Woodstock (4).

In 1848, Henry Slocum received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. He finished seventh in general merit in a class of forty-three cadets, which included George Crook and George Hartsuff (5). With only sixteen demerits for his entire academy career, he finished twentieth out of two hundred and twenty-four. Although he graduated a year later, Philip Sheridan was for a time Slocum's room-mate. Gen. Sheridan, in his memoirs, wrote, "Good fortune gave me for a room-mate a cadet whose education was more advanced than mine, and whose studious habits and willingness to aid others benefited me immensely" (6).

When Henry Slocum graduated from West Point in June, 1852, he was commissioned a 2d Lieutenant in the First United States Artillery. His first assignment was to Fort Meade, Florida where he participated in the Third Seminole War (7). In 1853 his company was sent to Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, located in the harbor of the city of Charleston. In 1854, on a trip back to his home in upstate New York, Henry married Clara Rice of New Woodstock, a former classmate from Cazenovia Seminary (8).

While stationed in South Carolina, Henry studied law with a local attorney named B.C. Presley. Commissioned a 1st Lieutenant in 1855, Slocum was beginning to consider a legal career. During the unusually warm summer of 1855, his wife and daughter Caroline both became ill, and then word came that his unit to be sent back to Florida. In October of 1856, young Caroline died in Charleston, and eleven days later, Henry Slocum resigned from the United States Army (9).

Upon his return to Onondaga County, Slocum was admitted to the bar, and he bagan the practice of law in Syracuse. With money he had saved, he bought a modest house on the northwest corner of West Onondaga Street and a street that was later renamed "Slocum Avenue" in his honor (10).

In November of 1858, he began his political career with election to the New York State Assembly (11). In 1860 he was elected to a three-year term as Treasurer of Onondaga County. He also served as an instructor of Artillery Service in the Militia with the rank of Colonel.

With the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, Henry Slocum immediately volunteered to raise a regiment of light artillery, but was turned down by Governor Morgan, who, like so many others, felt that the war would be of short duration. The 27th New York Volunteer Infantry from Elmira then elected Slocum as their Colonel even though he was a complete stranger to each officer in the regiment (12).

On July 10, 1861, the regiment left Elmira for Washington, D.C., and on July 21 they took part in the First Battle of Bull Run. After receiving a wound to his left thigh, Slocum was removed to a hospital in Washington where he wrote his wife, "I am bolstered up in bed, making my first attempt at writing. I am as happy as a clam in high water. My regiment covered itself with glory. It was one of the first in, and last out. Not a man showed the white feather" (13). The Colonel returned home to Syracuse to recuperate from his wound. He was on sick leave of absence from his command from July 22 to September 10, 1861 (14).

Slocum was promoted to Brigadier General in August, and his unit served in the Defenses of Washington, September 1861 to March, 1862, and participated in McClellan's Peninsular Campaign, the Seige of Yorktown, action at West Point, the Battle of Gaines Mill, the Battle of Glendale, and the Battle of Malvern Hill (14).

After his promotion to Major General in July of 1862, he led his men into the Battle of Crampton's Gap on South Mountain, Maryland, September 14, 1862. This battle was the prelude to America's "bloodiest day," the Battle of Antietam. About the charge, General Franklin wrote, "...the advance of General Slocum was made with admirable steadiness through a well directed fire from the enemies batteries on the Mountain...The enemy was driven in utmost confusion from a position of strength...The pass was cleared and in possession of our troops" (15)

When General Joseph Mansfield was killed at Antietam, Slocum rose in the command structure of the XII Corps. They participated in all the major engagements of the Army of the Potomac from Fredericksburg to Gettysburg. At the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Slocum's XII Corp fought in the area of Culp's Hill. On the second day of the battle, when General Meade requested that Slocum send his entire corps to the Union left, Slocum wisely suggested that one brigade stay behind - General George Sears Greene's Third Brigade which included the 149th N.Y.S.V. Infantry under Colonel Henry A. Barnum (16). Gen. Greene wrote, "To the discernment of General Slocum who saw the danger to which the army would be exposed by the movement ordered by Meade to deplete the Right Wing...is due the honor of having saved the army from a great and perhaps fatal disaster" (17).

In September of 1863, the XI and XII Corps were transferred from the Army of the Potomac to Tennessee in order to reinforce General Rosecrans. General Slocum's men fought at Wauhatchie and Lookout Mountain, and in April of 1864, Henry Slocum was ordered to command the fortified post and District of Vicksburg. When General William T. Sherman organized his Atlanta Campaign, he chose Henry Slocum to command the XX Corps, and on September 2, 1864, Slocum's men occupied Atlanta, Georgia. Sherman's "March to the Sea" brought unparalled disaster to the Southern countryside in the army's path. Yet Slocum exhibited compassion. On November 7, he wrote his wife, "I wish for humanity's sake that this sad war could be brought to a close. While laboring to make it successful, I shall do all in my power to mitigate its horrors" (18). On the final march to the sea, Henry Slocum commanded the Army of Georgia, the left wing of Sherman's army. On December 22, with Slocum presiding over the city's surrender, Sherman wired President Lincoln, "I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah..."

When the Army of Georgia and the Army of Tennessee under Oliver Otis Howard undertook the Campaign of the Carolinas, it was Howard's wing that occupied the South Carolina Capitol of Columbia. As the armies pushed further, battles were fought at Averysboro and Bentonville, and on April 13, 1865, Raleigh, North Carolina surrendered. Of Bentonville, a fellow officer wrote, "The Battle of Bentonville was General Slocum's fight...The bloody combat...was peculiarly his own affair, out of which he has come with fresh laurels" (19). Although the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee had already surrendered, the Army of General Joe Johnston continued to fight. Finally, on April 26, 1865, Johnston surrendered. The Union armies returned to Washington, D.C. for the Grand Review. Henry Slocum rode at the head of the Army of Georgia (20).

With the war over, Slocum returned to Syracuse to continue his practice of law (21). In 1865, he was nominated by the Democratic Party of New York to run for Secretary of State. His opponent was General Francis Channing Barlow and Slocum lost to his Civil War comrade, 301,055 to 273,198 (22). The next year the Slocums moved from Syracuse to Brooklyn, and in 1868, Henry Slocum was elected to the United States Congress from the Third Congressional District of New York. He was re-elected in 1870. In 1876, Slocum was appointed Commissioner of Public Works in the City of Brooklyn, but resigned before his term expired. After traveling in Europe with his family he returned home to campaign for another Civil War comrade, General Winfield Scott Hancock, who was running for President. Hancock lost the election of 1880 to James A. Garfield. Slocum returned to politics in 1882 when he ran for Congressman-at-Large and won with a plurality of over 100,000 votes out of 900,000 cast (23). He was President of the Board of Trustees of the New York State Soldiers' and Sailors' Home in Bath, N.Y., and was a member of the Board of Gettysburg Monuments Commissioners.

Death came to Henry Warner Slocum on April 14, 1894 at his home in Brooklyn. Among the pall bearers at his funeral were Fitz John Porter, Oliver Otis Howard, Daniel Butterfield and Daniel E. Sickles. Slocum was buried with full military honors in GreenWood Cemetery in Brooklyn (24).

End Notes
1. Slocum, Charles E. The Life and Services of Major General Henry Warner Slocum. Toledo, Ohio: Slocum Publishing Co., 1913, p. 5.

2. Ibid, p. 7.

3. Ibid, p. 8.

4. Ellsworth, Anzolette D. New Woodstock and Vicinity: Past and Present. Cazenovia: J.A. Loyster, 1901, p. 104.

5. Cullum, George Washington. Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.. N.Y.: J.F. Trow, Printer, 1854, p. 7.

6. Slocum, p. 10.

7. Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964, p. 481.

8. Ellsworth, p. 104.

9. Slocum, p. 11.

10. "The Slocum Hose, a Landmark, is Being Torn Down." Syracuse Herald. Syracuse, N.Y.: August 27, 1899.

11. Murphy, William D. Biographical Sketches of the State officers and Members of the Legislature of the State of New York in 1859. Albany: C. Van Benthuysen, 1859, p. 221.

12. Fairchild, C.B. History of the 27th Regiment N.Y. Vols. Binghamton: Carl & Matthews, 1888, p. 3.

13. Slocum, p. 15.

14. Ibid, p. 16.

15. Warner, p. 481.

16. Slocum, p. 47.

17. Raus, Edmund J. A Generation on the March: the Union Army at Gettysburg. Lynchburg, Va.: H.E. Howard, 1987, p. 84.

18. Slocum, p. 112.

19. Slocum, p. 218.

20. Davis, William C. The End of an Era. Vol. 6, The Image of War, 1861-1865. N.Y.: Doubleday, 1984, p. 150.

21. Slocum, p. 291.


23. Greeley, 1883, p. 79.

24. "Funeral of Gen. H.W. Slocum." New York Times. April 18, 1894.

Maintained by Sue Greenhagen.
E-mail: greenhsh@morrisville.edu