A Civil War Biography

Randolph Barnes Marcy

Marcy was born 9 April 1812 in Greenwich, Massachusetts. He entered West Point on 1 July 1828 and graduated 29th in the class of 1832. Following graduation he was brevetted 2nd lieutenant in the 5th US infantry and assigned to the northwestern frontier in Michigan and Wisconsin. Other than two recruitment tours in the east Marcy would serve on the northwestern frontier until heading south to fight in the war with Mexico. He was promoted to 2nd lieutenant on 25 November 1835, 1st lieutenant on 22 June 1837, and captain on 8 May 1846. During the war with Mexico he served with Zachary Taylor and saw action at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma before again being detached for recruiting duty. Marcy returned to Texas in 1847. In 1849 he forged a route from Fort Smith, Texas to Sante Fe, New Mexico territory which would become known as the Marcy Trail. In 1851 he commanded the escort during William G. Belknap's expedition that selected the sites for forts along the Texas frontier. In March 1852 Marcy led an expedition across the Great Plains searching for the source of the Red River. Second in command of the expedition was George B. McClellan who would later become Marcy's son-in-law. The report on the expedition published in 1853 titled "Exploration of the Red River of Louisiana, In the Year 1852...With Reports on the Natural History of the Country" became a classic of Western Americana. In 1854 Marcy surveyed Indian reservations in northern and western Texas. In 1856 he explored the headwaters of the Big Wichita and Brazos rivers. His report of this expedition was published by the US Senate. In 1857 he fought against the Seminoles in Florida. He won national recognition for a winter march of over 1000 miles bringing supplies to Albert Sidney Johnston's army that was stranded without supplies in the Utah mountains during the Mormon expedition. Marcy was then recalled to Washington where he put together a semiofficial guidebook for the War Department. The guidebook, "The Prairie Traveler" was published in 1859 and provided much information to those heading ot the west including what equipment to carry, wagon train organization, Indian attack avoidance, and the most important overland trails. On 22 August 1859 he was promoted to major and assigned as the regimental paymaster.

After the Civil War erupted Marcy was promoted to colonel on 9 August 1861 and assigned as the senior officer in the Inspector General's Department. He saw field duty with his son-in-law's Army of the Potomac during the peninsula and Maryland campaigns. Marcy was appointed brigadier general of volunteers on 23 September 1861 but the Senate failed to confirm the appointment which expired on 17 June 1862. He was again appointed brigadier general on 13 September 1862 but again the Senate failed to confirm the appointment and it expired on 4 March 1863. It is believed his close connection to McClellan was the reason the Senate would not confirm the appointments. Marcy spent the remainder of the war as inspector general in various departments. He was brevetted brigadier general in the regular army and major general of volunteers on 13 March 1865.

Following the war Marcy remained in the army. He served as inspector general of various departments including the Northwest, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, and the Gulf. In 1866 he published his first book of reminiscences of his career, "Thirty Years of Army Life on the Border". In 1871 he accompanied William T. Sherman on a fact-finding tour of the Texas frontier. In 1872 Marcy published a second volume on his career simply titled, "Border Reminiscences". He was promoted to brigadier general on 12 December 1878 and named inspector general of the army. He retired from the army on 2 January 1881. He died on 22 November 1887 in West Orange, New Jersey.

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