General Emory Upton
Original Author: Brady National Photographic Art Gallery (Washington, D.C.), photographer
Created: 1860–1865
Medium: Wet collodion glass-plate negative
Publisher: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division

General Emory Upton

His cape draped partially round his shoulder, Union general Emory Upton poses for a photograph at the Brady National Photographic Art Gallery in Washington, D.C. Born on a farm near Batavia, New York, in 1839, Upton was educated at West Point and served successfully in all three branches of the army—the artillery, cavalry, and infantry. He was a noted military strategist who was best known for his use of storm tactics in attacking Confederate forces entrenched behind well-constructed earth-and-log works during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. Following Upton's orders, the twelve regiments under his command formed into a column—three regiments at the head, and four regiments deep. The Union troops emerged out of a pine woods on May 10, 1864, and charged across 200 yards of open field without stopping to fire. As Upton later reported, "Through a terrible front and flank fire the column advanced, quickly gaining the parapet." Bayonets were then used in hand-to-hand fighting that broke through the Confederate line. Upton's men captured nearly 1,000 prisoners, but when supporting forces failed to arrive, Upton was forced to retreat. Union general Ulysses S. Grant was impressed, however, promoting Upton to brigadier general and deciding to duplicate the maneuver on a larger scale, with support troops directly behind the assault column.

After the Civil War Upton served for a time as commandant of cadets and instructor at West Point. In 1875 General William T. Sherman chose Upton to head a three-man commission that studied military practices in Europe and Asia. After his return to the United States Upton was assigned to the Artillery School of Practice at Fort Monroe, Virginia, as an instructional superintendent, and in 1880 he was transferred to the Presidio of San Francisco where he was placed in command of the 4th Artillery Regiment. In March 1881 he wrote a letter of resignation; the following day he committed suicide. During his lifetime he wrote several books on military tactics and history; his most influential work The Military Policy of the United States was published posthumously in 1904.