04 February 2010 by Published in: Union Cavalry 6 comments

I’m going to profile a forgotten horse artillerist today. Today’s profile is of Maj. Gen. William Montrose Graham.

William Montrose Graham was born in Washington, D.C. on September 28, 1834, the son of James Duncan and Charlotte (Meade) Graham. His mother was a sister of George Gordon Meade. His father was a member of the West Point class of 1817, and achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. He was a distinguished and gifted topographical and civil engineer who died in 1865. His uncle and namesake, Col. William Montrose Graham, was killed during the Mexican-American War while commanding the 11th U.S. Infantry at Molino del Rey.

William M. Graham was appointed a second lieutenant of the 1st U. S. Artillery on June 7, 1855. He was promoted to first lieutenant on March 1, 1861, and to captain on October 26, 1861. For much of the Civil War, he commanded Battery K, 1st U. S. Artillery, which was a horse artillery battery. He was brevetted major July 1, 1862 for his service during the Peninsula Campaign, he was brevetted lieutenant colonel September 17, 1862 for his service at Antietam, to colonel July 3, 1863 for his service at the Battle of Gettysburg, and to brigadier general March 17, 1865 for gallant and meritorious service throughout the Civil War.

He was appointed colonel of the 2nd District of Columbia Volunteers on April 7, 1865, and mustered out of the volunteer service on September 12, 1865. When he mustered out of the volunteer service, he returned to the Regular Army. He was promoted to major of the 4th U. S. Artillery on July 18, 1879 and to lieutenant colonel of the 1st Artillery on August 10, 1887. He was transferred to the the 5th Artillery on July 18, 1879, and was then promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 1st Artillery on August 10, 1887.

Graham was transferred to the 5th Artillery on May 1, 1890 and was then commissioned colonel of the 5th Artillery on July 1, 1891. On May 26, 1897, he was promoted to brigadier general. He retired from active service in the Regular Army on his 64th birthday, September 28, 1898. At the beginning of the Spanish-American War, he was commissioned major general of volunteers. He was ordered to Camp Russell A. Alger, located at Falls Church, VA, to take charge of the organization of the Second Army Corps, U. S. Volunteers, which was mobilized to a strength of 30,000. In August, 1898, he was transferred to Camp George Gordon Meade, near Middletown, PA, where he was honorably discharged from the volunteer service on November 30, 1898.

Graham was married to Mary Brewerton Ricketts, the sister of his fellow artillerist, Maj. Gen. James Brewerton Ricketts. They had several children, including Lt. William Montrose Graham, who served as a lieutenant in the 12th U.S. Cavalry. Two of his daughters married naval officers.

He died on January 1, 1916 at the age of 82 at his daughter’s home near Annapolis, Maryland, after a short bout with pneumonia. He was buried in Washington, DC’s Congressional Cemetery near his parents. His son William joined him there in 1918.

William Graham was one of those exceptional Regular Army artillerists that made the Army of the Potomac’s horse artillery a force to be reckoned with. Graham was a dedicated professional soldier who made a real difference on the battlefields where his gunner fought.

Here’s to William Montrose Graham, forgotten horse artillerist.

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  1. Noel Harrison
    Tue 09th Feb 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Eric, Nice to see a spotlight on Graham. Studied him quite a bit, at an earlier point in my historical life, in connection with his command of the Second Corps and Camp Russell A. Alger, at Falls Church as you point out. Fascinating guy in Span-Am War as well as in Civil War. Been meaning to say, too, how much I enjoy your informative blog and its crisp writing. Best from Fredericksburg, at lunchtime. Noel

  2. Clark Hall
    Wed 10th Feb 2010 at 9:44 pm

    A bit unusual, to be sure, but I would like to “shout out” to all who do not know that the above respondent on behalf of General Graham just happens to be about the finest “field historian” that ever mapped a battlefield, to wit: one Noel Harrison.

    You can “look it up.” There is no one better on a battlefield within his purview (Chancellorsville; Fredericksburg; etc.,) than Noel to point out the little-known, albeit forgotten sites than Noel. And anyone who has ever worked with him will tell you the same thing: Noel Garraux Harrison is very simply a battlefield genius. And, a first-class gentleman.

    Oh, by the way Eric, a very nice profile on William Graham, a wonderful artillerist…

    After all, we can’t let good men (Harrison, Graham) drift off into anonymity. Good men do stand the test of time…


  3. Noel Harrison
    Thu 11th Feb 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Wow. That’s one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received. Thank you, Bud. Noel

  4. Meade Atkeson
    Wed 17th Feb 2010 at 2:14 am

    William Montrose Graham is my great great grandfather.
    His portrait hangs over my fireplace and I have some of the Graham family correspondence and pictures.
    I would be interested in connecting with anyone interested in studying or writing about either WMG or his father James Duncan Graham.

    I also have all the official telegrams to Graham while he was at Camp Alger.

  5. Thomas Caryofilles
    Tue 14th Feb 2012 at 5:18 pm

    I have a letter from Gen. Graham to John P. Buchanan, about the battles taking place in virgina, and about Johns son. Letter is titled Bunker Hill Virgina I think 1862 It was about monatary pay for Arthur Reid Buchanan, Has confederate money still in it. If this information could make to intereted parties they could contact me at my e-mail address

  6. Kevin Mokracek
    Thu 29th Nov 2012 at 5:54 pm

    I have a book of the Proceedings of the Court Martial in the Trial of John C. Fremont dated April 7, 1848. It is the document and evidence of Fremont’s Court Martial that was submitted to the 30th Congress.

    On the inside cover is sticker with Gen. W. M. Graham US Army printed on it and just above it is his signature in his writing and 1st Regt. of Artillery U.S. Army October 31, 1860.

    The binding is in rough shape but all the pages are in good shape and it is a complete 447 page documentation of the Court Martial.

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