Alfred Thomas Archimedes Torbert
[[Image:150px|center|200px|border]]General Alfred Thomas Torbert
Personal Information
Born: July 1, 1833(1833-07-01)
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Died: August 29, 1880 (aged 47)
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Other Information
Allegiance: United States of America
Union
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Branch: Union Army
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Rank: Brevet Major General
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Battles: American Civil War
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Alfred Thomas Archimedes Torbert (July 1, 1833 – August 29, 1880) was a career United States Army officer, a Union Army General commanding both infantry and cavalry forces in the American Civil War, and a U.S. diplomat.

Early life[edit | edit source]

File:GenAlfredTorbert.jpg

Union cavalry general Alfred T. A. Torbert (seated center holding saber in front of him) and staff at their headquarters during the Shenandoah Valley campaign under Sheridan in 1864.

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Torbert in Autumn 1864 in the Shenandoah Valley

Torbert was born in Georgetown, Delaware. He graduated 21st in a class of 34[1] from the United States Military Academy in 1855 and was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Infantry Regiment.

Civil War[edit | edit source]

Just before the start of the Civil War, Torbert was appointed a first lieutenant in the Confederate States Army on March 16, 1861, but he refused the appointment and remained a lieutenant in the U.S. Army. By September 16, he was appointed colonel of the 1st New Jersey Infantry and, by August 29, 1862, he was a brigade commander in the VI Corps of the Army of the Potomac. In the Maryland Campaign of 1862, he was wounded at Crampton's Gap in the Battle of South Mountain. He was promoted to brigadier general on November 29, 1862. Torbert commanded his New Jersey brigade in the campaigns leading to the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Battle of Chancellorsville, and the Battle of Gettysburg.

On April 10, 1864, Torbert was given command the 1st Division of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac, following the death of Maj. Gen. John Buford. Torbert commanded during the Overland Campaign, except when ill following the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. Brig. Gen. Wesley Merritt commanded in his place for a time. During Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan's Valley Campaigns of 1864, Torbert commanded the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Shenandoah and was promoted to brevet major general on September 9, 1864. Sheridan was unhappy with the performance of the cavalry at the time of the Battle of Fisher's Hill. He is said to have told Torbert to go out and "whip or be whipped."[2] The result was a defeat for the Confederate cavalry in the Battle of Tom's Brook.

Torbert commanded the vestigial Army of the Shenandoah from April 22 to June 27, 1865. Merritt commanded Torbert's former corps under Sheridan in the last campaigns of the Civil War in Virginia. Torbert received brevet promotions in the regular army for his service at Gettysburg, Haw's Shop, Third Winchester, and Cedar Creek.

Postbellum[edit | edit source]

After the war, Torbert served in a number of diplomatic posts: as U.S. Consul to El Salvador in 1869, U.S. Consul General in Havana in 1871, and U.S. Consul General in Paris in 1873.

Alfred Torbert drowned off Cape Canaveral, Florida, in the sinking of the S.S. Vera Cruz on August 29, 1880. Eyewitness accounts claimed he swam for over 20 hours. He died on the shore shortly thereafter. His body was recovered August 31, 1880, and he is buried in the Methodist Episcopal Cemetery, Milford, Delaware.

In memoriam[edit | edit source]

In 2008, a statue honoring General Torbert was erected in Milford.[3]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Swank, p. 48.
  2. Longacre, p. 29.
  3. Milford Beacon article, July 4, 2008.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Longacre, Edward G., The Cavalry at Appomattox: A Tactical Study of Mounted Operations During the Civil War's Climactic Campaign, March 27 – April 9, 1865, Stackpole Books, 2003, ISBN 978-0-8117-0051-1.
  • Swank, Walbrook Davis, Battle of Trevilian Station, Burd Street Press, 1994, ISBN 0-942597-68-0.
  • "The Wrecked Steamship: City of Vera Cruz", New York Times, September 5, 1880.

External links[edit | edit source]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
A. S. Williams
United States Minister Resident to El Salvador
October 27, 1869–May 10, 1871
Succeeded by
Thomas Biddle

es:Alfred Thomas Torbert

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