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Hugh Judson Kilpatrick
by John T. Marck

This article sponsored by:

Hugh Judson Kilpatrick

Known as "Kilcavalry" for his foolhardiness in combat, Kilpatrick was born in Deckertown, New Jersey on January 14, 1836. Ambitious as an officer, he came from a family of modest means, and acquired a habit of obtaining influential friends. It was through such connections that enabled him to attend West Point, where he graduated in 1861, nineteenth in his class.

Following graduation, he accepted a commission as a 2nd lieutenant, and three days later, he was promoted to captain in the 5th New York Regiment. On June 10, 1861, at the Battle of Big Bethel, Kilpatrick became the first Regular Army officer wounded in action. Taking until September to recover, he then accepted a promotion to lieutenant colonel in the 2nd New York Cavalry, serving mostly in Virginia on the front lines in 1862 and 1863.

Due to his aggressive personality, combined with his continued quest to achieve friendship with influential people, he was promoted to colonel in December 1862, then to brigadier general on June 14, 1863.

When Kilpatrick commanded his cavalry in parades or battle, they looked quite professional. However, his camp was another story. Kilpatrick's lack of proper discipline resulted in his camps being unkept and disorderly. Although he never drank liquor, he did have an affection for ladies of questionable virtue, who frequented his camp often.

In July of 1863, at the Battle of Gettysburg, Kilpatrick, in command of his cavalry, was later accused of using poor judgement when he ordered a devastating charge on July 3. In an effort to repair the damage to his reputation caused this day, and in anticipation of post war political aspirations, he planned a raid on Richmond in 1864. His plan was to attack the Confederate capital, cause as much devastation as possible, and free the Union soldiers held prisoner there. On March 1, while en route to implement his plan, he lost his nerve at the gates of Richmond, and retreated.

Following his failed raid, Kilpatrick then commanded a cavalry division during Major General William T. Sherman's advance to Atlanta. At Dalton, Georgia, Kilpatrick was again wounded, but recovered to participate in Sherman's "March to the Sea."

When the war ended, he resigned as a major general, and accepted an appointment as minister to the Republic of Chile. While in this position, he ran for Congress in 1880, although unsuccessfully, returning to his former diplomatic post.

While serving in this post, Hugh Judson Kilpatrick died in Santiago, Chile on December 4, 1881. His remains were eventually brought back to the United States where he was interred at West Point.

Copyrightę John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.