A Civil War Biography

Ranald Slidell Mackenzie

Mackenzie was born 27 July 1840 in Westchester Colunty, New York. After attending Williams College he was appointed to West Point from New Jersey. He graduated on 17 June 1862 at the top of his class and was assigned to the Army of the Potomac as a 2nd lieutenant and assistant engineer in the IX Corps.

He was wounded at the Second Battle of Bull Run. He directed the bridging operations during the Maryland campaign and was the engineering officer of Edwin E Sumner's Left Grand Division at Fredericksburg. Mackenzie was promoted to 1st lieutenant in the engineers on 3 March 1863. He was promoted to captain on 6 November 1863 having seen action at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.

He remained in the engineers at the beginning of the Overland campaign and was wounded in early operations at Petersburg. He was next assigned as a colonel commanding the 2nd Connecticut heavy artillery on 10 July 1864 and was in the Washington defenses during Jubal Early's raid.

Mackenzie was next sent to the Shenandoah Valley. He was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on 19 October 1864 and commanded the 2nd brigade/ 1st division/ VI Corps/ Army of the Shenandoah at 3rd Winchester, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek where he again was wounded.

Following the Shenandoah campaign the VI Corps returned to the Army of the Potomac and Mackenzie saw service in the trenches at Petersburg. He was then given command of the cavalry in the Army of the James and saw action at Five Forks and during the pursuit to Appomattox Court House. At Appomattox he took custody of all surrendered Confederate property.

Following the surrender he assigned command of all cavalry in the Department of Virginia. In his three years of service during the war he had received seven brevets, including major general of volunteers and brigadier general in the regular army both on 13 March 1865, and was wounded 6 times.

Mackenzie mustered out of the volunteer service on 15 January 1866. He remained in the regular army and was appointed colonel of the 41st infantry, a newly formed black regiment that would two years later become part of the 24th US infantry. On 25 February 1867 he assumed command of the 4th US cavalry. The 4th was stationed along the Texas panhandle and assigned to drive renegade Indians back to their reservations. In October 1871 Mackenzie was wounded in a skirmish with Comanche's along the Brazos River. On 18 May 1873 he led an extralegal raid into Mexico to destroy a Kickapoo village thus ending Indian raids on Texas from across the Mexican border in the area under his command.

In July 1874 Philip H Sheridan, then overall commander of the US army, ordered five commands including the 4th cavalry, to converge on Indian hideouts across the border in Mexico. Following George A Custer's "last stand" at the Little Big Horn, Mackenzie was assigned command of the District of the Black Hills and of Camp Robinson, Nebraska. In October 1876 he forced Sioux Chief Red Cloud to return to the reservation. On 25 November he decisively defeated the Northern Cheyenne's. He was sent to Washington DC to command troops mustered in case of disturbances following the 1876 presidential election. the returned to the Black Hills. He was sent to South Texas when Indians again began raiding across the border and was again successful in stopping the raids after leading troops into Mexico. In 1879 he was sent to Colorado with 6 companies of cavalry to prevent an uprising of the Utes. On 2 September 1881 Mackenzie was sent to Arizona to take field command of all troops there and to subdue the Apaches. On 30 October 1881 he was assigned command of the District of New Mexico and tasked with subduing the Apaches and Navajos. Within a year the army was in control and Mackenzie was promoted to brigadier general.

On 27 October 1883 he was assigned to command the Department of Texas. He was planning to retire on land near Boerne, Texas. By 18 December he was suffering "paralysis of the insane" believed to have been caused by a blow to the head he received when he was thrown from a wagon in 1875. He was escorted to New York City and placed in the Bloomingdale Asylum. The army officially retired him on 24 March 1884. He was released from the asylum in June 1884 and went to live at his boyhood home in Morristown, New York. In 1886 he moved to his sister's house at New Brighton, Staten Island, New York, where he died 19 January 1889.

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