19 December 2007 by Published in: Union Cavalry 12 comments

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.

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  1. Stan O'Donnell
    Thu 20th Dec 2007 at 1:21 pm

    Thanks for the bio Eric!

    I don’t think you mentioned this but wasn’t the Regular Army father of John & James McIntosh mortally wounded during the Mexican War back when all the Gringo’s fought on the same side?

    One of the two plexiglass park service plaques present on East Cavalry Field tells the story of the McIntosh brothers in a sidebar. I may be mistaken, but I think the plaque also briefly tells the story of their father being MW at Molino del Rey in 1847, the year before John joined the Navy. Fort McIntosh in Laredo, Texas, was named in honor of the deceased senior McIntosh.


  2. Thu 20th Dec 2007 at 2:03 pm


    You’re welcome.

    It’s entirely possible that you’re right–I don’t know. None of the sources that I consulted in putting this sketch together mentioned it one way or the other. Sounds likea very interesting story, though.


  3. Stan O'Donnell
    Thu 20th Dec 2007 at 4:22 pm


    Ezra Warner in his “Blue” entry for John states, “….his father, a Regular Army officer later killed in the Mexican War….”

    Warner elaborates more in his “Gray” entry for brother James claiming, “He was the son of Colonel James S. Mcintosh, U.S.A., who was mortally wounded at the battle of Molina del Rey in the Mexican War.” (1847)

    In their respective photos, John and James look like twins. Same hair line, same chubby jowls and a no nonsense gaze. As I understand it there were a series of forts constructed in the southwest in the late 1840’s– early 1850’s and all were named after fallen Mexican War casualties, including James S. McIntosh Sr.

    I’m not at the East Cav castle right now so I can’t check and verify if the marker does indeed elaborate on my assumptions. Besides, LOL!, I remember you correcting me once about a dubious statement regarding the Kilpatrick entry in Warner!

    I sure hope the story is true as I’ve been telling people about it for a while now. Ooops?


  4. Rick Allen
    Thu 20th Dec 2007 at 5:22 pm

    Wow. I had no idea about McIntosh. Quite a record, he must have been something. Very cool bio , Eric.


  5. Thu 20th Dec 2007 at 9:48 pm

    Thanks for a great post Eric. Where DO you find these great photos?


  6. Thu 20th Dec 2007 at 10:05 pm

    My pleasure, guys. Rick, your reaction is precisely why I do these posts.

    Rene, you’re welcome. A lot of the photos that I use here come from the National Archives site, which is where this one came from.

    This one–of McIntosh with his missing leg and his crutch in the background–is, I think, an extremely powerful image, which is why I selected it.


  7. Thu 20th Dec 2007 at 10:05 pm


    Very cool. Thank you very much for the information. It adds to the story.


  8. Todd Berkoff
    Fri 21st Dec 2007 at 8:05 pm

    Just to add to your post about John B. McIntosh – I remember reading an article in North and South some years back about the Battle of Meadow Bridge in May 1864. During the battle McIntosh relied on a local guide to lead his cavalry column but the guide led McIntosh’s troopers to a Rebel ambush, either intentionally or unintentionally. Whatever the case, McIntosh pulled his pistol and summarily executed the guide on the spot and then fled the hail of bullets with his men. This incident speaks volumes about McIntosh’s mettle. I have always been a fan of the lesser-known US cavalry commanders (and infantry too), men like McIntosh, J. Irvin Gregg, Henry Davies, and A.M. Pennington.


  9. Robert Gale
    Sun 23rd Dec 2007 at 8:35 pm

    Eric, the McIntosh bio was interesting. His father, Colonel James S. McIntosh was mortally wounded on September 8, 1847 at Molino Del Rey. The interesting thing was that he was carried off the field by Lt. Edward Johnson, 5th United States Infantry. He would later be known during the Civil War as “Old Alleghany.”

  10. Wyeth Baillie Callaway
    Fri 18th Jan 2008 at 7:54 pm

    This is the most concise, short history of General McIntosh that I have yet to read. I’m the eldest son of John McIntosh Callaway, Jr., my younger brother and I preserve the name-sake, as it has proceed from the maternal line. His daughter Eliza McIntosh (he had no sons), is the mother of Elsie McIntosh Kellog who married my great grandfather Dr. Trowbridge Callaway. We are still in possession of that bullet (fragments) that crippled him that fateful day.

    One correction, Amelia Stout was his wife’s name. I believe the majority of John B.’s wartime correspondences/papers reside in the archives at Bown University.

  11. Wendy
    Thu 03rd Feb 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Just an FYI you can find a great deal of information about John and his brother James in the records of Nazareth Hall both were alumni. James was a Confederate soilder who was killed at the battle of Pea Ridge. for more info see “Historical Sketch of Nazareth Hall From 1755-1869” by William C. Reichel or contact the Moravian Historical Society in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.

  12. Rev. Russell Noble
    Tue 24th May 2016 at 5:18 am

    Stan O’Donnell’s post of the 20th Dec 2007 at 1:21 pm is spot on, the McIntosh men mentioned here were of my family on my father’s maternal side.
    Can you imagine what a dinner conservation must have been like with all three of these in the same room?
    As a Minister I’m glad that when God paints the picture of our bravery and valor He doesn’t forget to mention the times when we fail miserably. My McIntosh grandmother use to say on occasion, “Son, it’s time to stand-up inside”.

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