Robert Patterson

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Robert Patterson
Robert Patterson.jpg
Robert Patterson, portrait made during Mexican-American War
Born(1792-01-12)January 12, 1792
Cappagh, County Tyrone, Ireland
DiedAugust 7, 1881(1881-08-07) (aged 89)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Place of burial
Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchRegular Army
Union Army
Years of service1812–1815; 1846–1848; 1861
RankUnion Army major general rank insignia.svg Major General
Commands heldPennsylvania Militia
Army of the Shenandoah
Battles/warsMexican–American War

American Civil War

Other workcotton miller, writer

Robert Patterson (January 12, 1792 – August 7, 1881) was an Irish-born United States major general during the American Civil War, chiefly remembered for inflicting an early defeat on Stonewall Jackson, but crucially failing to stop Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston from joining forces with P. G. T. Beauregard at the First Battle of Bull Run. He is still blamed for this historic Union defeat.

Early life and War of 1812[edit]

Patterson was born in Cappagh, County Tyrone, Ireland, his family was banished from Ireland due to his father's involvement as an insurrectionist. In 1799 he emigrated to the United States, where he eventually became involved in banking at a young age. Patterson received his education in public schools and afterward became a clerk in a Philadelphia counting house,[1] he volunteered for service during the War of 1812 and rose from captain to colonel in the 2nd Pennsylvania Militia before joining the United States Army. He served in the Quartermaster General Department and was discharged in 1815 as a captain. After the war, Patterson returned to commercial pursuits in manufacturing and established several mills, he became influential in politics in Pennsylvania.[2] Patterson was one of the five Col. Pattersons in the Pennsylvania Convention that nominated Andrew Jackson for the presidency and in 1836 was President of the Electoral College that cast the vote for Martin Van Buren.

Pennsylvania Militia[edit]

Patterson served as the Commander of the Pennsylvania State militia. In 1838, he led troops to end the Anti-Abolition Riots in Philadelphia which led to the destruction of Pennsylvania Hall. Again in 1844, he helped to put down the Philadelphia Bible Riots against Irish Catholics, which resulted in the destruction of St. Michael's and St. Augustine's Churches. The first riot took place in Kensington in May. Another took place in Southwark in July. On each occasion, Gen. Patterson led militia into combat with rioting civilians, leading to loss of life on both sides.[3]

Mexican-American War service[edit]

Patterson was commissioned a major general of volunteers at the outbreak of the Mexican–American War[1] and commanded the 2nd Division, Army of Occupation, during the Tampico Expedition, he was considered for command of the expedition to Veracruz which eventually went to Winfield Scott. He was, however, placed in command of the expedition's Volunteer Division and saw action during the Siege of Veracruz and at the Battle of Cerro Gordo, where he was wounded, he led the American pursuit of the Mexican Army and was the first to enter Jalapa. While the U.S. Army was stationed at Jalapa, Patterson returned to the U.S. with other volunteer units whose enlistment time had expired. He then resumed his business interests in Pennsylvania, where he acquired 30 cotton mills and became quite wealthy. Patterson became one of the largest mill-owners in the United States and heavily involved in sugar refineries and cotton plantations,[4] he again was an influential figure in Philadelphia politics.[2]

Civil War service[edit]

The American Civil War brought Patterson back to military service, he was appointed major general of Pennsylvania volunteers and commanded the Department of Pennsylvania and the Army of the Shenandoah. In 1861, Winfield Scott, now General-in-Chief of the U.S. Army, gave Patterson vague orders to retake Harpers Ferry. Patterson failed to immediately act on these orders, was outmaneuvered after the Battle of Hoke's Run, and a Confederate army at Winchester, Virginia, under Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, was able to march without interference to reinforce the Confederates under P.G.T. Beauregard at the First Battle of Bull Run. Johnston did, however, declare that Patterson’s army had largely deterred him from pursuing the shattered and disorganised Union troops as they retreated back to Washington after the battle.[5] Patterson, widely criticized for his failure to contain the enemy forces, was mustered out of the Army in late July 1861.[2]

Postbellum life[edit]

Patterson again returned to his cotton milling business and wrote a book, A Narrative of the Campaign in the Valley of the Shenandoah, in 1861, published in 1865,[2] he was also President of the Aztec Club of 1847 from 1867 to 1881 and was a Companion of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.[1] During his tenure as President of the Aztec Club, the Club accomplished what few of its contemporaries did—the successful metamorphosis from a military society to an hereditary one.[6] Patterson was also a trustee of Lafayette College from 1826 to 1835, and president of the trustees from 1876 to 1881.[7]

Patterson died in Philadelphia and is buried there in Laurel Hill Cemetery, his son Francis Engle Patterson and his son-in-law John Joseph Abercrombie were both Union generals during the American Civil War. Patterson's mansion was located on the southwest corner of 13th and Locust Streets. After Patterson’s death in 1881, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania purchased the mansion as its permanent home; the mansion was demolished between 1905 and 1909 and a new building dedicated in 1910.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Robert Patterson". Retrieved 2008-05-01.
  2. ^ a b c d "Robert Patterson, USA". Retrieved 2008-05-01.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Breithaupt, Jr., Richard Hoag (1998). Aztec Club of 1847 Military Society of the Mexican War. Universal City, CA: Walika Publishing Company. p. 267. ISBN 1886085056.
  5. ^ Johnston, General Joseph E. "Official Report, Manassas Campaign". Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  6. ^ Breithaupt, Jr., Richard Hoag (1998). Aztec Club of 1847 Military Society of the Mexican War. Universal City, CA: Walika Publishing Company. p. 267. ISBN 1886085056.
  7. ^ Skillman, David Bishop (1932). The Biography of a College: Being the History of the First Century of the Life of Lafayette College. Easton, Pennsylvania: Lafayette College.