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Born in Pennsylvania, 30th Sept., 1805. Died at Washing
ton, 1st May, 1880. Aged seventy-five years.
Again the national flag is displayed at half-mast.
Within a few hours the solemn reverberations of the funeral minuteguns will startle our careless people into asking, “What other of their noted generals has received his last orders:
“And the volleying cannon thunder his loss ;
Meanwhile the muffled drum and wailing “soldiers music” will call together crowds to witness the exequies, “the rites of war," of one of the most noble and patriotic of the graduates of the National Military Academy, No. 445, (appointed in 1822, from Pennsylvania,) in the order of graduation from the founding of the institution.
The first ten years of his military service, like those of almost all his fellow-pupils, were passed in the ordinary routine of transfers and garrison duty. From 1838 to 1841, he participated in the Florida War.
This was a four years' experience of unusual personal
peril, hardship and suffering, with no commensurate glory. Few men of a subsequent generation can sufficiently estimate what our army underwent hunting the Seminole savages in the“ barrens” and “everglades.” To this succeeded another six years of routine, transfer and garrison. In 1847, as Captain Second United States Infantry, he was sent out to Mexico, organized a battalion of recruits and convalescent soldiers at Vera Cruz, and was “engaged in the defense of convoy from Vera Cruz, at Paso los Ovejas, September 12, 1847; combat of Huamantla, October 9, 1847 (for gallant and meritorious conduct in which, he was brevetted Major ;) and action of Atlixco, October 19, 1847."!
In 1848 to 1854, he was on frontier duty in California. In 1850 to 1853, he went through the fiery ordeal of a command at Fort Yuma (on the Gila river), constituting one of the military posts along the far S. W. frontier of the nation. The term “ fiery ordeal” is used, because, if there is a hotter place on this earth, it is not known to our officers. This will be better understood when it is said that there is a neighboring region, which is described in “soldier talk” as “hell burnt out," and the passage through it, as "travelling over the ashes."
While in this department he successfully suppressed Indian hostilities and terminated them.
In 1859, he distinguished himself in protecting the southern border of Texas from the depredations of the Mexican guerilla, Cortinas.
When the "Slaveholders' Rebellion” was inaugurated by the firing upon Fort Sumter, he was at Fort Columbus, on Governor's Island, harbor of New York. A month afterwards, 14th May, 1861, he was full colonel, 17th U. S. Infantry, and, three days later, brigadier-general of volunteers. He commanded the Union troops which captured Alexandria on the 24th of May; and in July he participated in the Manassas campaign. The writer was standing in front of the Arlington House, opposite Washington (the headquarters of Gen. McDowell and of the Army of North-eastern Virginia, the embyro of the more fortunate Army of the Potomac), when the last council of war, so to speak, was held prior to the moving off of the troops. The scene is as vivid as if occurring at this moment, and the appearance of Heintzelman.
He was a small man in stațure and make, but he looked the veteran soldier that he was.
He came up the slope with an alacrity consistent with his character; his eyes flashing and his whole demeanor inspiriting. His brigade took part in the skirmish at Fairfax Court House, on the 17th of July, and in the first battle of Bull Run, on the 21st of July. In the latter he was wounded. Heintzelman was disgusted with the result of this half-foughtout battle, and more so with the conduct of some of the militia or new troops. To instance how some of them behaved, he said that when the lines began to give way, he rode up to a regiment which seemed to be in pretty good order. The color-bearers were rolling up their flags with as much care as if they were to be returned to the colonel's quarters. One man held the staff, one the spear-head, and one each outer corner of the silk.
Grinding his teeth, he looked on a moment and then asked them, in language more forcible than polite, “What they were about.” They intimated that “they were going home."
He said that, “he'd be d—d if they were!” He ordered them “to unfurl their flags and march to the support of their imperilled comrades."
To the question, “Well, what did they do, General ?” he replied, with a laugh, “They partly obeyed and partly disobeyed me. In obedience to my order to unfurl their flag again and advance, they displayed the flag, but they went off to the rear, and all I could do I could not stop them; and,” he added, “I am not so certain that I was not wounded by one of the shots from this regiment, fired wild.” The story was much longer, but this is the gist of it, and the brave old soldier shotted his discourse as he narrated his feelings and the efforts he had made on that fatal Sunday to save the honor of the flag that he had almost worshipped and the credit of the section to which he belonged. If he had been in command of the reserve at Centreville, it is safe to say there would have been a different story to tell of the first fight on the plains of Manassas.
When the Army of the Potomac was distributed in corps,
he was placed in command of the “Fighting Third,” which during the siege of Yorktown became the “Glorious Old) Fighting Third, as we understand it.” His two division commanders were Kearny and Hooker, without superiors as such throughout the war.
The blaze and daze of their exploits have blinded the public to the merits of their intrepid superior.
“ The three chief commanders of the Third Corps as just organized” (1861-62)—wrote (11-5-81) their last distinguished leader,—" were very marked men: Heintzelman full of courage;
Hooker, as a subordinate commander, noted for his elegant appearance and bearing on the field and in camp; but above them all, Kearny, whom the others did not approach, whose high toned bearing, reckless daring and courage so superlative that it absolutely seemed to know nothing of personal danger or exposure, -he was the impersonation of all the highest qualities of the gentleman and soldier."
It is impossible in this obituary to fight over again the terrible conflicts of the battle-summer of 1862.
Heintzelman was in command of his corps at the battle of Williamsburg; and not only his commission as Major-General of Volunteers bears the date of this action-one of the most bloody of the whole war for his troops who bore the brunt of it—but he was subsequently brevetted major-general in the U. S. Army for “gallant and meritorious services” at this very battle of Williamsburg.