Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Brett Schulte.
Gen. Butler’s Order on the Death of Gen. Birney.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 23—The following order has been issued to the Army of the James, and it is reechoed by every soldier in the armies of the James, and the Potomac.
HEAD-QUARTERS, DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA AND NORTH CAROLINA, ARMY OF THE JAMES, IN THE FIELD, October 21st.—General Orders, No. 135—Soldiers of the Army of the James, with deep grief from my heart a sad word must be said. Major-General DAVID B. BIRNEY is dead. But yesterday he was with us, leading you to victory. If choice of the manner of his death had been his, it would have been to have died on the battle-field as your chief. But the All-wose determineth all things well.
General BIRNEY died at his home, in Philadelphia, on Tuesday last, of disease contracted in the field in the line of his duty. Surrounded by all that makes life desirable, a happy home, endeared family relations, leaving affluence and case as a volunteer at the call of his country, he came into her service in April, 1861.
Almost every battle-field whereon the army of the Potomac has fought has witnessed his valor. Rising rapidly in his profession, no more deserved appointment has been made by the President than General BIRNEY’S assignment to the command of the Tenth Army Corps. Respect and love of the soldiers of his own corps has been shown by the manner in which the followed him.
THE PATRIOT, THE HERO, THE SOLDIER.
By no death has our country sustained a greater loss. Although not bred to arms, he has shown every soldierly quality, and illustrated that profession of his love and choice.
It is not the purpose of this order, nor will the woe of his heart or the officer giving it now permit him to write General BIRNEY’S eulogy. Yet even amid the din of arms and upon the eve of battle it is fit that we, his comrades, should pause a moment to draw from the example of his life the lesson it teaches.
To him the word duty, with all its obligations and incentives, was a spur of action. He had no enemies save those of his country. He was a friend and a brother to us all. It remains for us to see it, by treading the path of duty as he has done, that the great object for which he has struggled with us and laid down his life shall not fail and his death be profitless.
Soldiers of the Tenth Army Corps, your particular grief at the loss of your brave commander has the sympathy of every soldier in the army. It will be yours to show your respect to his memory, by serving your country in the future as with you BIRNEY has served it in the past.
By command of Major-General BUTLER.
(Signed) Ed W. Smith,
- “Gen. Butler’s Order on the Death of Gen. Birney.” Philadelphia Inquirer. October 24, 1864, p. 4 col. 4 ↩