In late 1851, Philip Kearny (pronounced CAR-nee), the New York millionaire, after resigning from the Union Army, embarked on a trip around the world, including visits to China and Ceylon. His left arm had been amputated at the shoulder during his service in the Mexican-American War. He had separated from his wife, Diana Bullitt Kearny, in 1849 after eight years of marriage. After the birth of their fifth child, Diana left him and took the children to her childhood home in Louisville, Kentucky.
|John Watts De Peyster|
Kearny wrote his cousin De Peyster in June 1853:
How incredible that this child should hold such allure for me, a man old enough to be her father . . . This is a love of autumn and spring ... I am nearing my fortieth year . . . she is barely twenty ... I am married, have sired children, and she is affianced to a young man in New York . . . but I am mesmerized by her loveliness, gentleness and charm ... I swear to you . . . nothing matters . . . neither gossiping tongues, the variance in our ages nor the obligations we have to others . . . for she feels about me as I do about her. "Agnes was engaged to a man in New York. Kearny was unable to marry her because his wife would not grant him a divorce. Their affair became a scandal in both Paris and New York. Kearny showered gifts on Agnes: perfumes, bon bons, jewelry, rare books, objets d'art. Every day he sent flowers. They dined at restaurants, took long drives into the country, picnicked in the Bois de Boulogne, attended the races, and went boating on the Seine. Overriding her parents' objections, Agnes continued to see Philip and broke her engagement to her New York fiance.
In February, 1854, he returned to the United States and visited Diana in Kentucky to persuade her to divorce him, but divorce was unthinkable to Diana. Kearny returned to New York. He believed that Agnes was still in Paris, but the Maxwells had returned to New York.
|Frederick Law Olmsted|
Agnes became pregnant in 1855. As the new Russian Tsar, Alexander II, was to be crowned in St. Petersburg on March 2, 1856, Kearny suggested that they enjoy the ceremonies at the Russian capital and then make an extended tour of the Continent. The couple arrived in France in January, 1856. They went to Rouen and rented an apartment, where they were known to all as Monsieur and Madame Philippe Kearny. After a brief stay in Rouen they proceeded to St. Petersburg for the coronation. The couple went to Paris for the birth of their first child, Susan "Suzy" Watts Kearny in 1856. She was named after Kearny's mother, Susan Watts.
|Kearny in Paris, 1859|
Kearny wrote of his battle experience to his cousin John Watts De Peyster:
Paris, July 14, 1859
My two months have been all that a Military Man would have desired—a school of such grandeur as rarely occurs, even here in the Old World—and the Drama has been complete. I have roamed about everywhere, and in the day of Solferino, I was not only present with the line of our cavalry skirmishers, (but) as well in every charge that took place. That day I was mounted from six in the morning till eleven at night—scarcely off my horse even for a few minutes—depend on it, he was a good one. The cavalry of the guard came up some sixteen miles in full trot and rapid gallop to take our places, under fire; for there was a gap we had to stop. The night before the battle I had a miraculous escape, having been inveigled by false guides into the midst of the Austrian masses.
|Painting of French Infantry at the Battle of Solferino|
On January 25, 1860, Agnes gave birth to a a son who was named Archibald Kennedy Kearney, after Kearny's late great-uncle, a prominent New Yorker. Every member of the household staff was given a generous sum of money and each caller at their home during the week following the birth received a watch as a celebration token of Archibald's birth. Kearny wrote De Peyster: "Our son is handsome, sturdy and well formed. I pray he will enjoy a grand life, and I thank God for having blessed my middle years with such a perfect offspring."
He was recruited by the South to join their cause; although he may have sympathized with many of the South's concerns, and was friendly with many of their military leaders, he told them, "What am I, if no longer American."
|Aftermath of Bull Run|
He urged General George McClellan, head of the Union forces, to attack Richmond, the Southern capital, but McClellan held the army back. The longer McClellan hesitated, the more frustrated Kearny became, finally culminating in series of published letters criticizing the commander.
At the beginning of November, Agnes gave birth to another daughter, Virginia DeLancey Kearny, at Bellegrove. She was named after the state of Virginia, where her father was serving when she was born.
|Kearny in 1862|
COME AT ONCE. ARCHIE DESPERATELY ILL WITH TYPHOID.Kearny set out at once for Bellegrove; he adored his sturdy two-old son. Once, while watching her husband with Archie, Agnes had remarked: "The lad is Phil's life, and I must be grateful he still finds a place in it for me " On February 19, Kearny reached his home. His cousin, Dr. Robert Watts, met him:
Phil, who had seen so much death, who had courted it himself, slumped in a chair, motionless, gray-faced and hunched. The proud, iron-willed soldier had disappeared. Instead, I saw before me a father, crushed by imminent tragedy.The excruciating wait lasted two days. Archie died on Washington's Birthday, which dawned bleak, cold and rainy. Kearny was "broken with grief," according to De Peyster, who said, "It appeared as if Phil did not greatly care to live after the death of lovely Archie."
Within a week he was with his troops again, busy with preparations for the expected spring offensive. Kearny hid his heartbreak in hard work. At times he managed to alleviate his pain, but nothing really brought him relief. He confided to an aide: "I am an empty vessel. The sky is permanently darkened for me. I shall mourn my boy forever. Yet I cannot forget that Agnes is suffering even more at home without any distraction for her sorrow. At least through duty I am afforded partial oblivion."
|The Battle of Williamsburg|
In the early part of 1861, I was drumming recruits in Chatham Square, New York City, for the Forty-second Regiment Volunteers (Tammany), for a couple of months, when my father enlisted in the Fortieth N.Y. Volunteers (Mozart) at Yonkers. With the Forty-second not treating me well, I left them, not being mustered in, and tried to join the Fortieth. But its commander, Colonel Riley, would not take me on the account of my being too small and also too young, being only eleven years old. As soon as Colonel Riley said "no" I began to cry, and turned away from the tent, but my father went and spoke to him. Then he called me back and made me take a drum and a beat. All the men commenced to laugh because the drum was nearly as big as myself, but nevertheless the colonel said I would do.
I was with the regiment from the Battle of Williamsburg, our first fight, until we went to Harrison's Landing. Corporal Brown, a clerk at General Kearny's headquarters and also a member of our regiment, came to me one day stating that General Kearny ordered him to get him a drummer from our regiment to serve as an orderly for one day, as General McClellan was to review the army the next day. I reported myself the next morning early. The general received me kindly and gave me his gray horse (Baby), one that he brought from Mexico. During the review, the general had occasion to jump a very large ditch. I jumped it with him, but a great many of the officers had to cross further up. I think my jumping this ditch brought me favorably to his notice. Accordingly, when I reported myself in the evening after the review, so as to return to my regiment, he said, "No, but go and bring your baggage over to headquarters and consider yourself my orderly in the future."
From that day until his death I was always with the general. It was his habit to ride outside of the picket-guard every day at Harrison's Landing, only taking me with him. Many a time I would have to ride on top of the horse, lengthwise, so as not to knock my legs against the trees. He would go so fast through them, one time my hat was knocked off. As the general never stopped, by the time I was in the saddle again there was no general to be seen. But I gave "Baby" his own way and in less than five minutes he brought me up to him. I have known that same horse to kick at him as he went in the gate. The general would then "damn" me for not holding the horse tight, but for all that the general always treated me the same as my own father would have done.
|Illustration of Kearny at "Seven Pines"|
By the end of June, in the Seven Days' Battles, Kearny's division was engaged at Oak Grove, Glendale, and Malvern Hill. Typically believing his forces to be outnumbered, McClellan ordered a retreat to Harrison's Landing on the James River, in what would be termed the "Great Skedaddle."
General Hiram Berry, Commander of the Third Brigade, later wrote: "Phil unloosed a broadside. He pitched into McClellan with language so strong that all who heard it expected he would be placed under arrest until a general court-martial could be held. I was certain Kearny would be relieved of his command on the spot." McClellan waited for Kearny to calm down and then said nothing in reply.
|Currier & Ives Print of the Battle of Malvern Hill|
I, Philip Kearny, an old soldier, enter my solemn protest against this order for retreat. We ought instead of retreating should follow up the enemy and take Richmond. And in full view of all responsible for such declaration, I say to you all, such an order can only be prompted by cowardice or treason.
|Illustration of Kearny at Malvern Hill|
|Illustration of Kearny at the Battle of Chantilly|
with his reins in his teeth and lightning in the sky
William B. Styple, Kearny's aide de camp, wrote about his experience in a piece entitled "The Death of General Philip Kearny":
|William B. Styple|
I was Aide de Camp to General Kearny, and accompanied him during the Battle of Chantilly, when he rode on in advance of his Division to see the position occupied by the troops of General Stevens whom we were to relieve or re-inforce. We rode along the line, and General Kearny sent off one staff officer after another with orders, until I was the only one left with him. We finally arrived at the right of Stevens' line, where a battery was shelling the opposite woods. The General ordered me to ride at a gallop, back to General Pope, commanding one of our Brigades, and order him to "double-quick" his brigade to that point and go into line. I did so, and returned as quickly as possible to the Battery. The rain was falling fast and darkness was coming on. I inquired of the Battery men which way General Kearny went, and they replied, pointing down to the right and front, "that way." "My God," was my exclamation, "we have no troops there, he has ridden right into the enemy lines." And so it proved. Wishing to know the nature of the ground and whether the woods were occupied or not, he rode with his usual bravery, to his death, as we learned from the Confederates, who next day brought in his body under a flag of truce. The General rode up to a whole company of the enemy, paid no attention to their demand that he surrender, wheeled his horse and started back. The whole company fired a volley, but only one bullet struck him; that entered his hip as he lay low along the horse, and came out at the shoulder. And so fell the most picturesque and gallant soldier that it was my fortune to meet during the war.A.P. Hill ran up to the Kearny's body with a lantern and exclaimed, "You've killed Phil Kearny, he deserved a better fate than to die in the mud." Kearny's loss would be felt deeply by many on both sides of the war, for a number of the officers in the Confederacy had been comrades of his during the Mexican War and regarded him with the highest respect. The next day, General Robert E. Lee sent Kearny's body back to Union forces with a condolence note. The body was then sent to Washington for embalming, and then to his home, Bellegrove, where it lay in state.
Kearny's will, dated January 8, 1861 in Paris, provided that Agnes Maxwell Kearny would have $3,000 per year. The settlement of the income of $8,000 made for Kearny's first wife, Diana Bullitt, was directed, in case of her death, to go, one-half to their son John Watts Kearny, and one-half to Kearny's son with Agnes, Archibald Kennedy Kearny. In the event that one of the sons died without issue, all the income would to go to the other.
|John Watts Kearny|
|Kearny Medal of Valor|
|1888 - On the Steps of Bellegrove|
John Watts Kearny, upper right
with family members
|Advertisement for Sale of Lots on the Kearny Estate|
In 1868 Agnes married Admiral John E. Upshur, a widower with several children.
|The Kearny Museum|
|Bullet that killed Kearny|
on display at the Kearny Museum
A statue of Philip Kearny, which originally stood at the State House in Trenton, was dedicated at Military Park in Newark in 1880. The ceremony was attended by Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman and Governor George McClellan.
|Kearney Statue in Military Park, Newark, New Jersey|
One who saw Philip Kearny recognized in him the typical soldier. As early as 1849 the young and brilliant cavalry officer had lost his left arm before one of the gates of Mexico at the battle of Churubusco. His infirmity did not prevent him from always mounting the most vigorous-looking horses, which he controlled on the march with rare elegance, holding in his only hand his reins and his naked sword. A head, the picture of energy, framed by the cape which almost invariably hung about his shoulders, a strongly marked nose, and a piercing eye, gave him the look of an eagle. His abrupt speech and his imperious manner denoted a proud disposition, and a character incapable of flattery or of dissimulation. But though at first his manner was not always fitted to attract, one soon learned to appreciate the noble qualities of his heart, the firmness of his will, the accuracy of his judgment, the truthfulness and grandeur of his soul. This man, apparently so nervous, was calmness itself in the presence of the enemy. His unerring eye, his prompt decision, his clear and concise orders, at once revealed in him the true warrior. He inspired an unbounded confidence in all those who had once been under fire with him.
|"Taking Kearny's Body from Trinity Church", 1912|
|Kearny Statue at Arlington National Cemetery|
|Charles F. Hopkins, 1865|
|Charles F. Hopkins, |
later in his life
|Dedication of Kearny Statue, Arlington National Cemetery,|
November 11th, 1914
|Ox Hill Battlefield Monuments to Kearny and Stevens|
|Agnes Maxwell Kearny Upshur|
|Statue of Kearny|
in the National Statuary Hall in Capitol Building