Charles Henry Tompkins

Charles Henry Tompkins
Charles Henry Tompkins.jpg
Charles Henry Tompkins
Born September 12, 1830(1830-09-12)
Fort Monroe, Virginia
Died January 18, 1915(1915-01-18) (aged 84)
Washington, D.C.
Place of burial Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1856-1894
Rank Colonel
Brevet Brigadier General
Commands held 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery
Chief of Artillery, VI Corps, Army of the Potomac
Battles/wars American Civil War
Awards Congressional Medal of Honor

Charles Henry Tompkins[1] (September 12, 1830 – January 18, 1915) was a Union Army colonel, who received an appointment to the brevet grade of Brigadier General of volunteers during the American Civil War. He was a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor in action on June 1, 1861 in the Battle of Fairfax Court House (June 1861). This was the first action in the Civil War for which a Union Army officer would receive the Medal of Honor, although it was not awarded until 1893.[2][3]


Early life and career

Tompkins was born in Fort Monroe, Virginia. He received an appointment to West Point from Brooklyn, New York as a member of the class of 1851, though he did not graduate with his class. He resigned in 1849 for unspecified reasons.[4][5] Tompkins pursued private business interests until enlisting as a Private in the First Dragoons in 1856, rising to the rank of sergeant before his enlistment ended in January 1861. He served on the western frontier and was recognized for his performance in action near Pyramid Lake, Nevada in June 1860.[4]

Tompkins received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry in March 1861. It was in this unit that he gained fame for his heroism in action at the Battle of Fairfax Court House (June 1861) while a 1st Lieutenant. He would later rise to the grade of colonel and be awarded the honorary grade of Brevet Brigadier General by the war's end. He was the commander of the 4th Maine Artillery during the Peninsula Campaign. Tompkins served in several commands under Major General John Sedgwick, including command of the artillery of Sedgwick's division of II Corps during the Battle of Seven Pines,[6] and the artillery brigade of Sedgwick's VI Cops at Gettysburg.[7] Tompkins was personally present at Sedgwick's death at the battle of Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.[8] On December 12, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln nominated Tompkins for the award of the grade of brevet brigadier general of volunteers to rank from August 1, 1864. The United States Senate confirmed the award on February 12, 1865.[9]

Medal of Honor citation

"Twice charged through the enemy's lines and, taking a carbine from an enlisted man, shot the enemy's captain." Captain John Quincy Marr was the first Confederate soldier killed in combat during the Civil War.


Tompkins was appointed as one of the nine officers assigned to the military commission investigating the conspirators involved in President Lincoln's assassination. Because of a dispute with General Grant, between 1866 and 1881 he was posted to numerous remote and austere western posts.[4] He served the remainder of his career in the Quartermaster Corps, rising to the rank of Quarter-master General which carried a rank of Colonel in the Regular Army. He finished his career serving on the east coast, voluntarily retiring in 1894.[4] Tompkins suffered a broken leg in September 1914 and the wound never healed properly.[4] He died of sepsis in Washington, D.C. on January 18, 1915. He is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, DC.[2][10]

Personal life

Tompkins married Ms. Augusta Root Hobbie of New York on December 17, 1862 . They had a total of seven children, with four of them reaching adulthood. His eldest son, Selah Reeve Hobbie (“Tommy”) Tompkins, was an Army officer who became Colonel of the 7th Cavalry Regiment. His second son, Frank Tompkins, also served as a career army officer.[4]

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army Center of Military History.
  1. ^ A second Union Army officer named Charles Henry Tompkins (May 15, 1834 – August 9, 1895), Colonel and Chief of Artillery of the 6th Corps, Army of the Potomac, also was awarded the grade of Brevet Brigadier General for meritorious services in the American Civil War. Hunt, Roger D. and Jack R. Brown, Brevet Brigadier Generals in Blue. Gaithersburg, MD: Olde Soldier Books, Inc., 1990. ISBN 1-56013-002-4. p. 620.
  2. ^ a b "Charles Henry Tompkins". Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  3. ^ "Medal of Honor recipients Civil War (M-Z)". United States Army Center of Military History. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Fiddler's Green: Charles H. Tompkins". Crossed Sabres. Retrieved 2009-04-10. 
  5. ^ C. Douglas Sterner. "West Point Medal of Honor recipients".,+west+point&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=safari. Retrieved 2009-04-10. 
  6. ^ "Armies at the Battle of Fair Oaks or Seven Pines". Retrieved 2009-04-10. 
  7. ^ "Union Command at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania". Retrieved 2009-04-10. 
  8. ^ "Death of General John Sedgwick". Retrieved 2009-04-10. 
  9. ^ Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3. p. 759
  10. ^ "Charles Henry Tompkins". Claim to Fame: Medal of Honor recipients. Find a Grave. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 

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