A Civil War Biography

William Wallace Burns

Burns was born 3 September 1825 in Coshocton, Ohio. He was appointed to West Point in 1843 and graduated 28th in the class of 1847. He was assigned as a 2nd lieutenant to the 3rd US Infantry and served during the war with Mexico on recruiting duty. He spent the next several years on the frontier in the West and Southwest until 1858 when he accepted a staff commission as captain in the commissary department in which he was assigned as Commissary of Subsistence.

When the war began his first assignment was as George B McClellan's commissary chief during the West Virginia campaign. Burns was appointed brigadier general of volunteers on 28 September 1861. He commanded the 2nd brigade of John Sedgwick's 2nd division in the II Corps during the peninsula campaign. He was wounded in the face at Savage Station and would not return to active duty for many months. He returned to command the 1st division of the IX Corps which was part of William B Franklin's Left Grand Division at Fredericksburg. Following the Mud March, Burns, preferring administration to field command, resigned his commission in the volunteers on 20 March 1863 and returned to staff duty with the rank of major. He was assigned as chief commissary for the Department of the Northwest and remained in that assignment until the end of the war. He was brevetted brigadier general in the regular army on 13 March 1865.

Burns remained in the army following the war and was assigned as chief commissary for various Southern departments until he retired on 3 September 1889 with the rank of colonel and assistant commissary general. He had been promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1874 then full colonel in 1884. He died 19 April 1892 in Beaufort, South Carolina.

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