Time for another installment of my infrequent series of profiles of forgotten cavalrymen.
John Baillie McIntosh was born at Tampa Bay, Florida, on June 29, 1829. His father, James S. McIntosh, was a Colonel in the United States army, and a native of Georgia. His mother was Eliza (Shumate) McIntosh. He was the grand-nephew of a Revolutionary War general who killed Button Gwinnett, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Young John was educated at Nazareth Hall, Pennsylvania, at S. M. Hammill’s School, Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and at Marlborough Churchill’s Military School at Sing Sing, New York, where he received a good education. Demonstrating an inclination toward the military, his family attempted to obtain an appointment to West Point for him. However, he had a brother who was a cadet there, and due to War Department policy, no two brothers of the same family could attend West Point. Instead, upon completing his studies in 1848, the 19-year-old McIntosh entered the navy as a midshipman.
He served on the U.S.S. Saratoga during the latter phases of the Mexican War. In 1850, after two years of service, he resigned. On October 2, 1850, he married Miss Amelia Short, of New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was engaged in various business ventures with his father-in-law between the years 1850-1861.
Soon after the beginning of hostilities in the Civil War, McIntosh was commissioned a second lieutenant of the Fifth United States cavalry, his commission bearing a date of 8th of June, 1861. His brother James M. McIntosh cast his lot with the Confederacy, was commissioned a brigadier general, and was killed in action while commanding an infantry division at the Battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862.
On April 27, 1862, he was promoted to first lieutenant, serving with his regiment on the Peninsula during the summer of 1862. As a consequence of his good service, he received a brevet to major for valor during the Battle of White Oak Swamp during the Seven Days. On September 26, 1862, he was appointed colonel of the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry, which he led during the Maryland Campaign, the Fredericksburg Campaign, and then in the spring of 1863.
During the March 17, 1863 Battle of Kelly’s Ford, McIntosh commanded a brigade in Brig. Gen. William W. Averell’s Division. “To the intrepidity,” wrote General Averell, “promptitude and excellent judgment of McIntosh on that occasion our success was chiefly attributable. Although off duty from illness, he voluntarily joined his brigade in the field and displayed all the vigor of an indomitable soldier.” After the battle of Chancellorsville he assumed permanent command of the First Brigade, Second Division, of the Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac.
During the fighting on East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg, McIntosh’s brigade had a major role, with the colonel himself engaging in hand-to-hand combat. After the end of the battle, during the pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, he won for himself an enviable reputation as a leader. When the fighting at Gettysburg ended, McIntosh’s brigade of cavalry and Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Neill’s of infantry were detached to follow up the line of retreat, while the main body of Meade’s army marched down on the south side of the Blue Ridge. On July 10, 1863, McIntosh fell in with the rebel force at old Antietam Forge, where a brisk engagement ensued. In recognition of his services throughout this entire campaign he was brevetted lieutenant colonel in the Regular Army, having been previously brevetted Major, and in December 1863, he was promoted to the Regular Army rank of Captain.
At 6:30 AM on May 5, 1864, he held Parker’s Store with a single regiment of cavalry, and received the first attack of the enemy in the Battle of the Wilderness, when Ewell’s Corps advanced. McIntosh’s lone regiment withstood the onslaught with all the stubbornness and determination of which so small a force was capable, and was finally driven down to near the intersection of the Brock Road, where it was relieved by a division of the Sixth Corps under George W. Getty. On May 8, McIntosh charged into Spotsylvania Court House with his brigade, took the town and captured many prisoners. Moving forward, he attacked the rear of Longstreet’s corps, and only withdrew upon the order of General Sheridan.
Following up on his defeat of W.H.F. Lee’s command at Hanover Court House on May 3, McIntosh then achieved a brilliant success on the following day at Ashland, where, with only three regiments, he withstood for two hours the combined attack of three brigades of rebel cavalry,
and finally retired with the loss of only a few led horses. For his gallantry here, he was brevetted colonel in the regular service and made brigadier general of volunteers.
McIntosh played a significant role during the 1864 Valley Campaign. “Although the main force,” says General Sheridan in his report, “remained without change of position from September 3d to 19th, still the cavalry was employed every day in harassing the enemy, its opponents being principally infantry. In these skirmishes the cavalry was becoming educated to attack infantry lines. On the 13th one of those handsome dashes was made by General McIntosh, of Wilson’s
division, capturing the Eighth South Carolina regiment at Abram’s Creek.” And of the Third Battle of Winchester, fought on September 19, 1864, Sheridan wrote, “Wilson, with McIntosh’s brigade leading, made a gallant charge through the long canon, and, meeting the advance of Ramseur’s rebel infantry division, drove it back and captured the earth-work at the mouth of the canon. This movement was immediately followed up by the Sixth Corps.”
Although the result could not have been better, this victory carried a significant cost for McIntosh. During the heat of battle, he was struck in the leg. The severe wound so mangled his leg that the doctors had to amputate the leg below the knee. “For distinguished gallantry, and good management at the battle of Opequon,” such was the language in which the distinction was conferred, he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in the Regular Army and major general of volunteers by brevet.
In reviewing his record, Brig. Gen. William W. Averell said: “I beg to remark that there are few subalterns thoroughly capable of leading an advance guard. I do not remember above six in the cavalry, and McIntosh stood at the head of the list. As a brigade commander, either in camp or in action, he had no superior.” And Maj. Gen. George Stoneman said: “His bravery, loyalty, and integrity are equal to his capacity, and all are conspicuous.”
On July 28, 1866, he was appointed lieutenant colonel of the newly formed 42 U.S. Infantry, Veteran Reserve Corps, which position he held until the reduction of the army. In the summer of 1870, he was retired with the Regular Army rank of brigadier general. General McIntosh spent the rest of his days in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He died at the age of 59 on June 29, 1888 and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
Although he had no formal military training, John B. McIntosh was a superb natural soldier and as gifted a cavalryman as donned the Union blue during the Civil War. The terrible wound that cost him his leg also cost the United States Army the services of one of the most promising officers to emerge during the Civil War. Hopefully, he is no longer a forgotten cavalryman.Scridb filter