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Major General Phil Kearny September 1, 1862

Union General Phil Kearny. A man with a scandalous past that went on to distinguish himself in the Civil War in a career that ended in one of the unluckiest and humiliating shots in history.


After the Second Battle of Bull Run, the Union army was thrashed and routed spectacularly by Mars Lee. While executing a fighting retreat back towards Washington, the Union Army was being dogged by the Corps of the Army Of Northern Va commanded by General Stonewall Jackson.

At the Battle of Chantilly, during a major thunderstorm, Kearny went out alone to check on a gap in the Federal lines. One of this men warned him about the wisdom of this decision.

“The Rebel bullet that can kill me has not yet been molded.” Well, when you see a war movie and some one says something like that you know what happens next. War movie cliches exist for a reason.

Kearny some how got mixed into the picketts of the Rebel forces from not being able to see well from the storm. When called on to surrender, Kearny spurred his horse to get away. No doubt he rather chance death to the embarrassment of being a Major General Taken Prisoner.

As soon as he turned his horse to flee around a dozen men fired. Kearny fell off his horse dead.

When the Rebels came to inspect the body there was much surprise at the dead General Officer. An odd thing though. No one could figure out where he was hit.

Several sources I have read with first hand accounts relate where his wound was found. While crouched low on his horse, a minnie ball entered Kearny’s rectum/anus and traveled up into the chest. Otherwise not another mark on his was found. Some other sources claim it went in at the hip but I am pretty sure this was the version told to make his death a little more dignified.

Upon learning of his death, General Lee had his body cleaned and prepared and sent back across the lines with a note to the commanding General and a tender condolence letter to his family expressing his hope that having his body back would bring them some measure of comfort.

General Kearny is one of only two graves in Arlington Cemetery to have an equestrian statue. Which I had a picture of I took myself on my now older broken laptop. Kearny is buried close to Arlington House just slightly behind and to the right.

1 thought on “Major General Phil Kearny September 1, 1862”

  1. Thank you.

    It’s always interesting; history becomes more real for me when I learn some of the smaller-scale events and personages, the eddies and shoals if you will, to complement the grand sweeping, but far more impersonal, history I learned in school.

    There’s also the “pride cometh before the fall” aspect of this one; you’re right, those cliches weren’t always cliches, they had to start somewhere.

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