ORIGINAL ALBUMEN OF GENERAL JAMES WADSWORTH AND STAFF

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Image was produced from a cracked negative so one vertical and one horizontal crack line can be seen on the print.

The General is seen sitting at right surrounded by five unknown staff officers. All wear dark forage caps, frock coats and trousers with belts and swords and are posed on the porch of a house in front of a large window.

Image meas. approx. 11.00 x 7.75 and is attached to a mount that meas. approx. 14.00 x 11.00 inches with a chipped upper right corner.

The contrast and clarity are excellent. Mount has light to moderate surface dirt around the edges that gets lighter as your eye moves toward the actual photo.

James Wadsworth was born to wealthy parents in Geneseo, Livingston County in western New York State. He attended both Harvard University and Yale University, studied law, and was admitted to the bar, but had no intention of practicing. He spent the majority of his life managing his family's estate.

He became a philanthropist and entered politics, first as a Democrat, but then as one of the organizers of the Free Soil Party, which joined the Republican Party in 1856. In 1861, he was a member of the Washington peace conference, an unofficial gathering of Northern and Southern moderates attempted to avert war. But after war became inevitable, he considered it his duty to volunteer.

Despite his complete lack of military experience, Wadsworth was commissioned a major general in the New York state militia in May 1861. He served as a civilian volunteer aide-de-camp to Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell at the First Battle of Bull Run. McDowell recommended him for command and, on August 9, Wadsworth was commissioned a brigadier general and received command of the 2nd Brigade in McDowell's Division of the Army of the Potomac. He led the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, of the I Corps until March 17, 1862.

From March to September1862, Wadsworth commanded the Military District of Washington. He complained to President Lincoln that he had insufficient troops to defend the capital due to Gen. McClellan's plan to take a large number with him to the Virginia Peninsula. Lincoln countermanded McClellan's plan and restored a full corps to the Washington defenses, generating ill feelings between McClellan and Wadsworth. Wadsworth allowed his name to be put into nomination for governor of New York against antiwar Democrat Horatio Seymour, but he declined to leave active duty to campaign and lost the election.

After McClellan left the Army of the Potomac, Wadsworth was appointed commander of the 1st Division, 1 Corps on December 27, 1862. He led this division until June 15, 1863, with two brief stints commanding the 1 Corps in January and March for about ten days combined.

Wadsworth was widely admired in his new division because he spent considerable effort looking after the welfare of his men, making sure that their rations and housing were adequate and for serving without drawing pay.

Wadsworth and his division's first test in combat was at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863. He made a faltering start in maneuvering his men across the Rappahannock River below Fredericksburg and they ended up being only lightly engaged during the battle. His performance at the Battle of Gettysburg was much more substantial. Arriving in the vanguard of Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds's I Corps on July 1, 1863, Wadsworth's division bore much of the brunt of the overwhelming Confederate attack that morning and afternoon. They were able to hold out against attacks from both the west and north, providing the time to bring up sufficient forces to hold the high ground south of town. By the time the division retreated through town to Cemetery Hill it had suffered over 50% casualties. Despite these losses, on the second day of battle, Wadsworth's division was assigned to the defense of part of Culp's Hill. When most of XII Corps was ordered to the left flank of the army, Wadsworth sent three regiments to reinforce the brigade of Brig. Gen. George S. Greene, which was holding the summit of the hill.

The I Corps had been so significantly damaged at Gettysburg that, when the Army of the Potomac was reorganized in March 1864, its surviving regiments were dispersed to other corps. After an eight-month leave of absence inspecting troops on duty in the Mississippi Valley, Wadsworth was named commander of the 4th Division, V Corps, composed of troops from his old division. This speaks well for his performance at Gettysburg, because a number of his contemporaries were left without assignments when the army reorganized or were sent to minor assignment elsewhere.

At the start of Grant's 1864 Overland Campaign, Wadsworth led his division in Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren's V Corps at the Battle of the Wilderness. On this day Wadsworth was Grant's oldest divisional commander at 56 years old. On May 5, Wadsworth was ordered to counter march and help defend the left of the Union position. However, he had lost his direction in the dense Wilderness underbrush and drifted to the north, exposing the left of his division to a sudden and harsh attack.

Wadsworth was mortally wounded on May 6 when he was shot in the back of his head. Wadsworth fell from his horse and was captured by Confederate forces that were pursuing his retreating men. He would die two days later in a Confederate field hospital. Wadsworth's son-in-law, Montgomery Harrison Ritchie, went into the Confederate camp to retrieve his body.

The day before he was wounded, he was promoted to major general, but this appointment was withdrawn and he received instead a posthumous brevet promotion to major general as of May 6, 1864, for his service at Gettysburg and the Wilderness.

Wadsworth's remains were brought back to Geneseo, New York, and buried there in Temple Hill Cemetery.  [ad]

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