Thomas G. Stevenson: “He looked very promising.”

“Can you put something in about General Stevenson?” one of our blog commenters asked yesterday. “He looked very promising.”

Ask and ye shall receive!

Brig. Gen. Thomas Greely Stevenson was a 28-year-old division commander in the Federal IX Corps who was killed during the battle of Spotsylvania Court House on the morning of May 10, 184. Historian Gordon Rhea, dean of Overland Campaign scholars, has described Stevenson as “arguably Burnside’s ablest division commander.” Stevenson began the war as colonel of the 24th Massachusetts and saw his first action during Burnside’s New Berne expedition. Dependable service earned him promotion up the ranks as well as the personal esteem of Burnside, who considered Stevenson a favorite.

On May 10, 1864, Stevenson had been behind the lines, down in a low area that—he and his staff thought—was protected from skirmishing along the front. A stray bullet from the firefight hit him in the head as he rested against a tree. It seemed so random that, at first, witnesses thought it was the work of a sharpshooter‚ and that story did spread through the army, but upon reflection, those on the scene realized it was the unfortunate result of chance.

The incident took place across the street from Stevenson Ridge (outlined in the below map in yellow) but behind the same ridgeline. Witnesses from the 100th Pennsylvania, “The Roundheads,” put Stevenson right behind their unit.

I’ve written a lot about Stevenson over the years. Here’s a good collection of past posts:

In Memory of Gen. Stevenson (May 10, 2014)
My first remembrance of Stevenson, based on a memorial book compiled by his family following his death. (Read here.)

ECW on C-SPAN: Mackowski on Stevenson (Oct. 20, 2021)
In 2021, the ECW Symposium focused on “Fallen Leaders.” I did a talk about Stevenson’s death, which you can see here on C-SPAN. The talk includes new, original research that locates the area where Stevenson was shot. (Read and watch here.)

Stevenson’s Death Site (May 10, 2022)
From the ECW YouTube page: put boots on the ground in the area of Stevenson’s death. (Watch here.)

Thomas G. Stevenson and the 24th Massachusetts (July 22, 2016)
From our “Recruiting a Regiment” series, this piece traces Stevenson’s effort to raise a hand-picked regiment that would include Boston’s best and brightest. (Read here.)

The General Stevenson Quick Step (Aug. 5, 2021)
Admirers of Stevenson composed a memorial song, “Col. Stevenson’s Quick Step” (one of two such tunes!). (Read and listen here.)

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