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Robert C. Buchanan
Robert C. Buchanan
Nickname "Old Buck"
Born (1811-03-01)March 1, 1811
Died November 29, 1878(1878-11-29) (aged 67)
Place of birth Baltimore, Maryland
Place of death Washington, D.C.
Place of burial Rock Creek Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1830–70
Rank Colonel
Brevet Major General
Commands held District of Southern Oregon and Northern California
1st Brigade, 2nd Division, V Corps
1st U.S. Infantry
Department of Louisiana
Fort Porter
Battles/wars Black Hawk War
Second Seminole War
Mexican War
American Civil War

Robert Christie Buchanan (March 1, 1811 – November 29, 1878) was an American military officer who served in the Mexican War and then was a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. In a career that spanned more than forty years, Buchanan held numerous commands (including several forts) and received multiple citations for bravery and distinguished service.

Early life and career[]

Buchanan was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the nephew by marriage of President John Quincy Adams, and received his appointment to United States Military Academy during Adams' administration. (His mother's sister was Louisa Adams, the First Lady.) He graduated from the Academy in 1830 and was assigned to the 4th U.S. Infantry as a brevet second lieutenant. His assignments included service in the Black Hawk War (he was in charge of gunboats during the Battle of Bad Axe) and against the Seminoles, as well as in the removal of the Cherokees to the Indian Territory. He was promoted to captain during his service in Florida. Buchanan participated in the Mexican War in command of the Maryland Volunteers. He was in the Battle of Chapultepec, the Battle of Palo Alto, the Battle of Resaca de la Palma, the Battle of Molino del Rey, and the capture of Mexico City. For his service in Mexico, Buchanan was twice brevetted in recognition of his gallantry in action. After the war, Buchanan was assigned to various posts and recruiting duty. In 1853, the 4th Infantry was assigned to the Pacific Coast. He established Fort Humboldt. Under his command was Cpt. Ulysses S. Grant. When Grant's drinking began to affect his duties, Buchanan allegedly asked for and received Grant's resignation from the Army.[1]

In 1855, Buchanan was promoted to major. He commanded the District of Southern Oregon and Northern California from Fort Humboldt, and participated in the Rogue River Wars in Oregon.

Civil War[]

Buchanan was stationed in San Francisco, California, at the beginning of the Civil War. He was ordered east, and his regiment was placed in the defenses surrounding Washington, D.C.. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the regular army on September 9, 1861, and given command of a brigade in what became the Army of the Potomac.[2] He participated in the Peninsula Campaign, including the Battle of Yorktown, and the Seven Days Battles, including the Battle of Gaines' Mill, the Battle of Glendale, and the Battle of Malvern Hill. He then fought in the Northern Virginia Campaign in the Second Battle of Bull Run.[3] Buchanan, by then nicknamed "Old Buck" by his men, commanded the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, V Corps during the Maryland Campaign (part of Brigadier General George Sykes's Regulars). At Antietam, Buchanan strongly protested a decision to halt his advance on what he maintained was a weakly defended portion of the enemy line. In his opinion, his Regulars could have and should have carried Cemetery Hill, defended primarily by artillery with only the depleted Virginia brigade of Richard B. Garnett in support. Buchanan was appointed brigadier general of volunteers on November 29, 1862, but his appointment expired on March 4, 1863, having not been confirmed by the U.S. Senate.[2][4][5] Shortly after this appointment, and before its expiration, Buchanan fought at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Buchanan then went on recruiting duty and two months later was placed in command of the defenses of Fort Delaware, a prisoner of war facility, March–April, 1863.[2][6] He then was assistant provost marshal general at Trenton, New Jersey, April 29, 1863–November 8, 1864. On February 8, 1864, he was promoted to colonel of the 1st U.S. Infantry Regiment through seniority.[6][7]

For his service at the Battle of Malvern Hill, Buchanan was appointed brevet brigadier general, U.S. Army, to rank from March 13, 1865.[8] In recognition of Buchanan's service at the Battle of Second Bull Run and the Battle of Fredericksburg, on June 30, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Buchanan for appointment to the grade of brevet major general, U.S. Army, to rank from March 13, 1865, and the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on July 25, 1866.[9]


After the war, as colonel in the Regular Army, Buchanan was placed in command of the 1st U.S. Infantry at New Orleans and helped enforce Reconstruction activities with his men. He subsequently commanded the Department of Louisiana, and then served in the Freedmen's Bureau. A further nomination of Buchanan to brigadier general, October 15, 1868, was tabled by the U. S. Senate and not acted upon.[2]

He retired from the Army on December 31, 1870.[2] At the time of his retirement, he was in command of Fort Porter in New York. Robert C. Buchanan died in Washington, D.C., on November 29, 1878, and is buried at the Rock Creek Cemetery.[6]

See also[]


  1. There is some controversy as to whether this occurred. Buchanan had a reputation as a martinet and had a previous run-in with Grant when they were both at Jefferson Barracks. When Grant was assigned to staff as a quartermaster, he had little dealings with Buchanan. That is, until he went back to line as a company commander and was again under Buchanan's command. It is known that Grant was extremely unhappy at Fort Humboldt. There may have been any number of reasons for Grant's resignation: chafing under Buchanan's petty rules, loneliness, boredom, and/or depression. (Jean Edward Smith, Grant New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001 ISBN 0-684-84926-7 pp.83-88; Lloyd Lewis, Captain Sam Grant Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 1950, pp. 108, 296; Geoffrey Perret, Ulysses S. Grant: Soldier and President New York: Random House 1997 ISBN 0-679-44766-0 pp. 41-42, 101-102; William S. McFeely Grant: A Biography New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 1981 ISBN 0-393-01372-3 pp. 52-53; William B. Hesseltine Ulysses S. Grant New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. 1957 reprint, pp. 10, 15; Brooks D. Simpson Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph over Adversity 1822-1866 Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 2000 ISBN 0-395-65994-9 pp. 21, 59, 61).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3. p. 151.
  3. Cullum biography of Buchanan
  4. Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964. ISBN 0-8071-0822-7. p. 616 suggests that Buchanan's association with Fitz John Porter was the reason for the Senate's inaction on the nomination.
  5. Since the expired brigadier general appointment was Buchanan's only volunteer appointment, he reverted to his Regular Army grade of lieutenant colonel and brevet colonel and was not in the volunteer force.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Warner, 1964, pp. 48–49.
  7. The overlap is not contradictory as many officers were on detached service during the Civil War.
  8. Warner, 1964, pp. 48–40 and Eicher, 2001, p. 151 give this information in their texts but Eichers's list of brevet major general, USA, appointments gives an earlier nomination date and no confirmation date for Buchanan's brevet brigadier general appointment.
  9. Eicher, 2001, p. 706.


External links[]

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