Edward Washburn Whitaker
Brigadier General, United States Army
Washburn Whitaker was born on June 15, 1841 in Killingly, Connecticut.
He was the son of George Whitaker and Mary (Colgrove) Whitaker. Edward
was one of sixteen children (eight brothers and seven sisters). He was
educated in the public schools in Ashford, Connecticut and in an Academy
in Olneyville, Rhode Island.
Edward is a descendant of Richard Whitaker and Rebecca (Cooper) Whitaker of Rehoboth, Massachusetts Edward's great-grandfather was Lieutenant Richard Whitaker, an officer in the Revolutionary War.
Edward was one of four brothers who enlisted in Union Regiments in the Civil War. Edward and Daniel enlisted together in Connecticut or New York regiments, William in a New Hampshire regiment, and George enlisted in a California unit and served in New Mexico.
Edward fought in 82 engagements during the course of the war. He was slightly wounded at Falling Waters, Maryland, by shrapnel. While running at a gallop at Five Forks, Virginia, his horse fell on him, and caused him to have a life long groin and back injury.
Edward was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Reams Station, Virginia, on June 29, 1864. At the age of 23 he was the youngest General in the War of the Rebellion.
Daniel Whitaker, First Lieutenant, Company B, 2nd New York Cavalry was killed in action at Aldie, Virginia, on June 17, 1863. Edward was a Second Lieutenant in the same Company at the time of his brother Daniel's death.
In his HISTORY of the FIRST REGIMENT Connecticut Volunteer CAVALRY, Brevet Brigadier General Erastus Blakeslee writes of Edward Whitaker:
"Captain Whitaker of the First Connecticut Cavalry, on Wilson's staff, was dispatched to General Meade for succor. With forty men of the Third New York he dashed through the enemy's lines and reached headquarters with fourteen men and two prisoners. But it was too late. Wilson burnt his ammunition and baggage wagons, left his ambulances, spiked his guns and retreated in hot haste."
December 19th-22nd 1864 the regiment, temporarily under Major Whitaker, marched with the division 120 miles in four extremely cold days, gallant ly repulsed a fierce night attack in an ice covered bivouac at Lazy Springs, and returned to camp with fifty frost-bitten men; and on February 4th-5th, 1865, fifty picked men of the regiment with 250 others from the division, all under the same officer, then on Custer's staff, marched over the Alleghenies to within four miles of Moorefield, 140 miles in forty-eight hours, half within the enemy's lines, and capturing the noted Harry Gilmore in bed, brought him back a prisoner."
"The enemy were strongly posted on a ridge with artillery. They must be dislodged. The First Connecticut and two other regiments were assigned to Lieutenant-Colonel Whitaker for this purpose. They were secretly put on the rebel left flank and dismounted in mud knee-deep. An ice storm prevailed and the shells crashed fearfully through the ice-covered trees. The flanking party, the First Connecticut, led by Major Goodwin, being on the right, charged with great enthusiasm; at the same time the division advanced; the enemy broke, and 1,303 prisoners, 150 wagons, eleven guns and eighteen battle flags were ours, won wholly by Custer's division..."
"On the 9th of April, 1865, Sheridan saw that the end was near. He had cut off the enemy's way of retreat and was just advancing to a grand final charge. A flag of truce appeared asking a cessation of hostilities. Under it Lieutenant-Colonel Whitaker of the First Connecticut, Custer's Chief of Staff, entered the rebel lines, and with General Longstreet (acting at Lee's request), made the negotiation which stopped the fighting. Soon after, the regiment itself was detailed to escort General Grant when he went to receive Lee's surrender."
During the Civil War, Edward and his brother Daniel had written 83 letters to their sister Adeline (Whitaker) James and their mother. The letters were donated to the Connecticut State Library on 9/4/1934 by Adeline James. On June 7, 1865 Edward married Theodosia Davis in Washington, DC. They had at least three children; Clara b. 1866, Thea b. 1868 and Grace, b. 1870.
Four of Edward's sisters became teachers in the south after the Civil War.
After the war, Edward was appointed Superintendent of the U.S. Capitol Building, and later (1869) Postmaster of Hartford, Connecticut. (Appointed by President Grant). He was an insurance agent and a patent attorney in his later years, living in Washington, D.C.
He was disabled most of his life by a heart condition brought on by malaria contracted shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg.
Edward died on July 30, 1922 and was buried
in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery. His wife Theodosia who died
on January 3, 1937 is buried with him.
Born June 15, 1841, he earned the Medal of Honor in the Civil War while serving as Captain, Company E, 1st Connecticut Volunteer Cavalry at Reams Station, Virginia, June 29, 1864, "while acting as an aide, he voluntarily carried dispatches from the commanding general to General Meade, forcing his way with a single Troop of Cavalry through an Infantry Division of the enemy in the most distinguished manner, through he lost half of his escort."
The Medal was actually presented on April 2, 1898.
During the Civil War he was also Chief of Staff to General George A. Custer and bore the flag of truce at Appomattox. He was breveted Brigadier General of Volunteers for war service.
He died on July 30, 1922 and was buried in
Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery. His wife, Theodisia Davis Whitaker
(September 3, 1847-January 3, 1937), is buired with him.
Rank and organization: Captain, Company E, 1st Connecticut Cavalry. Place and date: At Reams Station, Virginia, 29 June 1864. Entered service at: Ashford, Connecticut. Born: 15 June 1841, Killingly, Connecticut. Date of issue: 2 April 1898.
While acting as an aide voluntarily carried dispatches from the commanding general to Gen. Meade, forcing his way with a single troop of Cavalry, through an Infantry division of the enemy in the most distinguished manner, though he lost half his escort.
Photo courtesy of Raymond L. Collins
NOTE: We recently learned that his daughter, Grace Darling Seibold, was the founder of the American Gold Star Mothers, Inc (81 Years of helping the Veterans).
THEODOSIA DAVID W/O EDWARD W
Page Updated: 7 October 2000 Updated: 18 August 2001 Updated: 26 May 2002 Updated: 3 June 2003 Updated: 10 August 2003 Updated: 13 November 2005 Updated: 30 March 2007
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 28 June 2003