Edward R. S. Canby
27th Iowa Top Banner


Edward Richard Spigg Canby Canby, Edward R. S., major-general, was born in Kentucky in 1817, received his early education there, and in 1839 was graduated at West Point, being commissioned 2nd lieutenant, 2nd infantry. He served as quartermaster in the Florida war, assisted in escorting the Indians who emigrated to their new lands in Arkansas, and then served on garrison and recruiting duty until the outbreak of the Mexican war. Entering the war with the rank of 1st lieutenant, he participated in the siege of Vera Cruz, in the battles of Cerro Gordo, Contreras and Churubusco, and upon the assault upon the Belen gate of the City of Mexico, being rewarded for his services with the brevets of major and lieutenant-colonel. After the close of the war he was employed in adjutant duty and on the frontier, and was from 1858 to 1860 in command of Fort Bridger, Utah. At the opening of the Civil war he was in command of Fort Defiance, N. M., and at once become a most zealous and ardent supporter of the Union. He became colonel of the 19th regiment, U. S. infantry, May, 1861, and, acting as brigadier-general of the forces in New Mexico, he repelled the Confederate Gen. Sibley, forcing him to retreat, "leaving behind him," as he observed in his report, "in dead and wounded, in sick and prisoners one-half of his original force." He was promoted brigadier-general in March, 1862, was transferred to Washington, and had command of the United States troops during the draft riots in New York in July, At the opening of the campaign of 1864, Gen. Canby was given command of the military division of west Mississippi, and, while on a tour of inspection on White river, Ark., Nov. 4, 1864, was severely wounded by Confederate guerrillas. In the following spring he led an army of thirty thousand men against Mobile, and captured the city April 12, 1865. On learning that Lee had surrendered in Virginia, Gen. Richard Taylor, who commanded west of the Mississippi, surrendered to Gen. Canby, thus ending the war in the southwest. Gen. Canby was given the brevet ranks of brigadier-general and major-general U. S. A., March 13, 1865, and continued to command the Department of the South until 1866, when he was given the full rank of brigadier-general in the regular army, and transferred to Washington. He had charge of the military district with headquarters at Richmond, after the surrender, and organized Gen. Lee's disbanded cavalrymen for suppression of bushwhacking, with complete success. Subsequently, from 1869 to 1873, he commanded the Department of the Columbia, and lost his life while trying to arrange peace with the Modoc Indians. He met Capt. Jack, the leader of the Modocs, on neutral ground for the purpose of discussing peace terms, on the morning of April 11, 1873, in Siskiyou county, Cal., and, at a signal planned before hand, the Indians attacked him and two fellow officers, killing all three. Capt. Jack and two subordinates were afterwards captured and hanged for murder. Gen. Canby bore a reputation for honesty, gallantry and unselfishness which few officers have enjoyed. He was popular among almost all classes and was universally respected among his fellow-officers.