A Civil War Biography

Romeyn Beck Ayres


Ayres was born 20 December 1825 at East Creek in Montgomery County, New York. He entered West Point in 1843 and was graduated 22nd in the class of 1847. He was assigned to the 3rd US artillery as a 2nd lieutenant and almost immediately was headed to take part in the war with Mexico. He remained on garrison duty at Fort Preble, Mexico, until 1850. After leaving Mexico he was stationed at various posts on the frontier and in the East.

On 14 May 1861, shortly after the war erupted, Ayres was promoted to captain in the 3rd (some sources say the 5th) US artillery. He commanded company E of the 3rd artillery attached to William T. Sherman's brigade at First Bull Run. Ayres served as chief of artillery in William F. Smith's division of the VI Corps throughout the Peninsula and Maryland campaigns. Ayres remained Smith's chief of artillery when Smith commanded the VI Corps at Fredericksburg. Ayres was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on 29 November 1862. He was given command of the 1st brigade, 2nd division, V Corps on 21 April 1863 and led it at Chancellorsville. He commanded the division at Gettysburg and was sent with his division to help quell the New York draft riots.

The remainder of his civil war service was in the V Corps commanding the 4th and 1st brigades in the 1st division from the Wilderness through Cold Harbor and the 2nd division at Petersburg, where he was wounded, and during the Appomattox campaign. He was brevetted major general of volunteers on 1 August 1864 and brigadier general and major general in the regular army on 13 March 1865. He was given command the 3rd division of the Provisional Corps on 28 June 1865. He was assigned to command the District of Shenandoah on 23 August 1865 and remained in that post until mustering out of the volunteer service on 30 April 1866.

After leaving the volunteer service Ayres returned to the regular army with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He served at a number of posts in the South including Little Rock, Arkansas; Jackson Barracks, Louisiana, and Key West, Florida. He was promoted to colonel of the 2nd US artillery on 15 July 1879 and sent to Florida. He died at Fort Hamilton in New York Harbor on 4 December 1888.

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