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Capt. James G. Birney, IV (1844-1870)
Civil War biography, enlisted at Bay City.

Personal and Historical Sketches and Facial History of and by Members
of the Seventh Regiment Michigan Volunteer Cavalry, 1862-1865

Captain Co. “D.”

Born at New Haven , New Haven County, Conn., August 12th, 1844; enlisted at Bay City, Mich., September 10th, 1862, as Private in Co. “C,” 7th Michigan Cavalry; was promoted to Second Lieutenant of Co. “C” October 15th, 1862; to First Lieutenant, 1863, by order of Colonel W. D. Mann, “in reward for brave and noble conduct on the bloody field of Gettysburg, where in gallant defense of our colors he was struck down and taken prisoner;” and assigned to Co. “A,” and to Captain March 18th, 1864; wounded and left for dead on the field of Gettysburg, taken prison July 3rd, 1863, escaping two nights after; transferred to 1st Michigan Veteran Cavalry November 17th, 1865, mustered out at Salt Lake City March 10th, 1866, and honorably discharged.

Entered the Regular Army as Second Lieutenant, 9th United States Cavalry July 23rd, 1866, “was Breveted First Lieutenant and Captain March 2nd, 1867, for gallant and meritorious service at the Battle of Gettysburg; promoted to First Lieutenant April 14th, 1867, died at Fort Davis, Western Texas, January 16th, 1870.


On the day of the great Battle of Gettysburg (Friday), we had a very sharp fight with General Stuart on the right. The 7th Michigan Cavalry charged gallantly and drove them back; when Hampton's entire Brigade charged us, and we were obliged to fall back. My horse was shot twice and finally killed; a bullet went through the pommel of my saddle, two through my overcoat and one through my sabre strap, and I was struck in the heel with a spent one. The Regiment began to fall back and just then the Color Sergeant (Church of Bay City) was killed by a pistol shot. I secured the colors and was charged on by a large number of Rebels, and I can assure you the bullets whistled merrily for a while, but miraculously none touched me. I shot two of the enemy, using all the charges left in my revolver and then charged a man with the pike of the colors, but before I reached him I got a sabre cut on the head that laid me out. I lay upon the field for an hour when the Rebels came and carried me off, a prisoner. I was a prisoner for two days, one of which was the Fourth of July. I escaped from them above Cashtown and found Uncle Fitzhugh of the Ambulance Corps, who took me in his ambulance to Middletown, where I cound General Pleasanton's headquarters and reported for duty with a request to be forwarded to my Regiment. The General was very complimentary and appointed me as Aide-de-Camp on his staff.


Captain James G. Birney, eldest son of Hon. James Birney, of Bay City, Mich., died January 16th, 1870, at Fort Davis, Texas.

Captain Birney, after serving four years in the Volunteer Service under Generals Custer, Kilpatrick and Sheridan, received an appointment from Secretary Stanton in the 9th Cavalry of the Regular Army, and was on duty at Fort Davis when he died.

Major-General Hatch paid the following tribute in a letter communicating the sad intelligence of his death:

“Captain James G. Birney died this morning at five o'clock. The Captain had complained of a serious indisposition for some time prior to January 2nd, when his illness confined him to his bed. From that time he sank rapidly under a severe attack of acute inflammation of the stomach that resisted every effort of an accomplished army surgeon. God willed he should pass gently away, dying so easily in the presence of his wife and brother officers. The qualities that endeared him to them must have been delightfully prominent in the home circle. He had every attribute of manhood. To a face and form unusually excellent was connected ability and energy sufficient for any purpose directed by the highest integrity, combining the finest qualities of an officer and a gentleman. His endurance and courage in the field were wonderful.”

Related Notes & Pages

1862: Year Enlisted.
1869: Year Before Death.

Related Pages:
Birney's letter to father.
*Bio. on Capt. Birney.
*Bay Co. Civil War History
People Referenced
Birney, Fitzhugh (uncle)
Birney, James G IV (subject)
Custer, Gen.
Hatch, Maj. Gen.
Kilpatrick, Gen.
Mann, W.D. Col.
Pleasanton, Gen.
Sheridan, Gen.
Stanton, Secy.
Stuart, Gen.
Subjecs Referenced
1st MI Cav.
7th MI Cav, Co. A
7th MI Cav, Co. C
9th US Cav.
Ambulance Corps
Bay City, MI
Cashtown, PA
Ft. Davis, TX
Gettysburg, PA
Middletown, PA
New Haven, CT.
New Haven Co., CT
Salt Lake City, UT
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.