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

Galusha Pennypacker ((I got most of the info for this piece from All Biographies and the remaining info from Wikipedia.)) 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 ((Fort Fisher was a Confederate fort during the American Civil War. It protected the vital trading routes of the port at Wilmington, North Carolina, from 1861 until its capture by the Union in 1865. The fort was located on one of Cape Fear River’s two outlets to the Atlantic Ocean on what is today known as Pleasure Island.)) 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 ((A brevet promotion is a temporary authorization for a person to hold a higher rank. It happened frequently in the Civil War.)) 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.

2 Responses to Galusha Pennypacker, the Youngest Brigadier General in U.S. Army History
  1. Rich Reply

    After the war, Pennypacker was appointed a FULL COLONEL OF INFANTRY in the regular Army at the age of 22. In 1867, Colonel Pennypacker received the BREVET RANK OF MAJOR GENERAL IN THE REGULAR ARMY. He retired from the Army in 1883 at the early age of 39 due to disability arising from his Civil War wounds and died in 1916

  2. Linda Staude Pennypacker Reply

    My father in law Ronald Pennypacker is related to Galusha and their name is a famous one too there was a movie out in 1959 called Mr Pennypackerwow it’s hard to believe I’m married into a family with a famous name and I’m so very proud to have there last name to!

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