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
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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