Emory Upton

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Portrait of Emory Upton during the Civil War

Emory Upton (August 27, 1839March 15, 1881) was a U.S. Army general and military strategist.

Upton was born in 1839 near Batavia, New York. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point and graduated in 1861 just in time for the outbreak of the Civil War.

Upton was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Artillery and was wounded at the First Battle of Bull Run. He continued in that capacity through the Peninsula Campaign and the Seven Days Battles. He commanded the artillery brigade for the 1st Division, VI Corps during the battles of South Mountain and Antietam. He was appointed colonel in October, 1862, and transferred to command of the 121st New York Volunteer Infantry, which he commanded at the Battle of Fredericksburg. He commanded the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, VI Corps at the battles of Gettysburg and the Wilderness.

At the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, Upton developed a new tactic to attack the Confederate breastworks, one that would foreshadow tactics used in the trench warfare of World War I. Massed infantry would rush against a small sector in the line, without pausing to fire shots during the advance, to achieve a breakthrough. On May 10, 1864, he led twelve regiments in such an assault. His tactic worked, but his command was left unsupported and was forced to withdraw. Upton was wounded in the attack, but was promoted to brigadier general on the spot. Days later Winfield S. Hancock used Upton's tactic with the entire II Corps to break through the Confederate's Mule Shoe salient at Spotsylvania. Due to his wounds he was forced to retire to Washington, D.C., but was back in command to participate in the early stages of the Siege of Petersburg.

The VI Corps, of which Upton was part, was detached from the Army of the Potomac and sent to deal with the Confederate threat to Washington and in the subsequent Valley Campaigns of 1864. At the Third Battle of Winchester, Upton assumed command of the 1st Division, VI Corps, when its commander fell mortally wounded. Upton himself was severely wounded soon after, but refused to be removed from the field until the battle was over. He was carried on a stretcher for the duration of the battle, directing his troops. The wound removed him from field command for a while but in 1865 he commanded a cavalry division under James H. Wilson and led it during Wilson's Alabama Raid and the Battle of Selma. He was made a brevet major general in March, 1865.

After the war Upton continued serving in the army, in the infantry and as commandant of cadets at West Point. He collected military tactics from all over the world, which he compiled into several military tactics manuals. In 1881 he was in command of the Presidio in San Francisco, California. He suffered greatly from headaches and shot himself on March 15 at his post. He is buried in the Fort Hill Cemetery, Auburn, New York.

Upton served with great competency in the artillery, infantry, and cavalry during the Civil War and is remembered for his contributions to military tactics later in his life. He was the author of A New System of Infantry Tactics (published in 1867), Tactics for Non-Military Bodies (1870), and The Armies of Asia and Europe (1878).

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