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Kearny, Philip

KEARNY, PHILIP (1815-1862), American soldier, was born in New York on the 2nd of June 1815, and was originally intended for the legal profession. He graduated at Columbia University (1833), but his bent was decidedly towards soldiering, and in 1837 he obtained a commission in the cavalry regiment of which his uncle, (General) Stephen Watts Kearny (1794-1848), was colonel and Lieutenant Jefferson Davis adjutant. Two years later he was sent to France to study the methods of cavalry training in vogue there. Before his return to the United States in 1840 he had served, on leave, in Algeria. He had inherited a large fortune, but he remained in the service, and his wide experience of cavalry work caused him to be employed on the headquarters staff of the army. After six more years' service Kearny left the avmy, but almost immediately afterwards he rejoined, bringing with him a company of cavalry, which he had raised and equipped chiefly at his own expense, to take part in the Mexican war. In December 1846 he was promoted captain. In leading a brilliant cavalry charge at Churubusco he lost his left arm, but he remained at the front, and won the brevet of major for his gallantry at Contreras and Churubusco. In 1851 he again resigned, to travel round the world. He saw further active service with his old comrades of the French cavalry in the Italian war of 1859, and received the cross of the Legion of Honour for his conduct at Solferino. Up to the outbreak of the American Civil War he lived in Paris, but early in 1861 he hastened home to join the Federal army. At first as a brigade commander and later as a divisional commander of infantry in the Army of the Potomac, he infused into his men his own cavalry spirit of dash and bravery. At Williamsburg, Seven Pines, and Second Bull Run, he displayed his usual romantic courage, but at Chantilly (Sept. i, 1862), after repulsing an attack of the enemy, he rode out in the dark too far to the front, and mistaking the Confederates for his own men was shot dead. His body was sent to the Federal lines with a message from General Lee, and was buried in Trinity Churchyard, New York. His commission as major-general of volunteers was dated July 4, 1862, but he never received it.

See J. W. de Peyster, Personal and Military History of Philip Kearny (New York, 1869).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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