Galusha Pennypacker, the Youngest Brigadier General in U.S. Army History

Galusha Pennypacker 1 came from a long line of military men. His father had fought in the Mexican-American War and his grandfather in the Revolution. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Galusha was scheduled to attend West Point. Instead he enlisted as a quartermaster in the 9th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. It was 1861.

He refused an appointment of first lieutenant in his company on account of his age (he was 16 at the time) and instead was made a non-commissioned staff-officer. Upon entry of his unit into the war he was promoted to captain of Company A, 97th Pennsylvania Volunteers on August 22, 1861. Roughly a month later he was promoted again, this time to major.

He remained with the 97th for many years, where he was well respected and liked by his men. By the time 1864 rolled around, and after seeing much action and combat, he had been promoted to colonel.

Pennypacker’s greatest moment of the war came at the second battle of Fort Fisher 2 on January 15, 1865, where he was severely wounded while crossing enemy lines. Because of his bravery in leading his men and his wounding in the battle he was awarded Congressional Medal of Honor with a citation reading –

“He gallantly led the charge over a traverse and planted the colors of one of his regiments thereon; was severely wounded.”

After the battle Pennypacker was given a brevet 3 promotion to Brigadier General on January 15, 1865. After convalescing, he received a full promotion to brigadier general at age 20, making him the youngest officer to hold the rank of general in the United States Army to this day. He was brevetted, once again, to major general on March 13, 1865. He was not yet 21 years old.