Rufus Saxton Jr.
Brigadier General, U.S. Army, U.S. Volunteers. Awarded for actions at Harpers Ferry, WV.
May 26, 1862
Rufus Saxton Jr. was descended from a family of Unitarian ministers, including his father, who spoke and wrote on abolition and gender equality. Instead of studying in a transcendentalist community as his father planned, Saxton attended West Point, graduating in 1849. Contemporaries remebered him as the only West Point cadet with strong anti-slavery feelings, which informed his career choices later in life.
Before the Civil War, he fought against the Seminoles in Florida, taught at West Point, surveying the uncharted Rocky Mountains as a member of Gen. George B. McClellan’s staff and did map work for the Coastal Survey.
Promoted to first lieutenant in 1855, he became a quartermaster and finally a brigadier general in the Union army, commanding the Union forces at Harper’s Ferry. He became a military governor in the South, directing the first recruitment of black soldiers. After the war, he was an assistant commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau, settling black families on confiscated lands. He later testified before Congress on this and related issues.
He retired in 1888 as a colonel and assistant quartermaster general. He lived in Washington D.C. until his death in 1908. A memorial in his honor stands in Arlington National Cemetery, and Battery Barlow-Saxton at Fort MacArthur is named in his honor
Citation: Distinguished gallantry and good conduct in the defense.