William Badger Tibbits
William Badger Tibbits

Information on this page is from History of Rensselaer Co., New York by Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, published in 1880.

WILLIAM BADGER TIBBITS, the youngest son of George M. Tibbits, was born at Hoosick, in Rensselaer County, on March 31, 1837. His early youth was passed partly in Troy and partly in the country, and after having received elementary instruction at various schools, he was graduated at Union college in 1859. He was engaged in business at Troy when, on the morning of April 15, 1801, the warning tones of the voice of the Rebellion starting at the South reached his ears as it did the ears of millions of freemen. Heeding its appeal, he at once left his office and obtained papers authorizing him to raise a company in a regiment which it was that day decided should be formed in Troy. He never returned to the business which he had abandoned, and in consequence of this abandonment the business proved to him a total loss.

His efforts as a soldier, from this point forward, were unwearied. He recruited more men for his company than any other person connected with it, and it was accepted, on April 23, 1861, as a part of the 2d Regiment New York State Volunteers, with the following officers: Captain, William B. Tibbits; 1st Lieutenant, James Savage; 2d Lieutenant, William Sullivan. The company was known as G company, and Mr. Tibbits was mustered into the service as captain on May 14, 1861. An idea of the nature of his services during the next seventeen months may be gained from a perusal of the following recommendation:

"Headquarters Carr's Brig., Sickles' Div.
Camp at Fairfax Seminary, Va., Oct. 18, 1862.
"General, I have the honor to recommend the promotion of Captain William B. Tibbits, Second New York State Volunteers, to be major vice George W.Wilson, resigned. Captain Tibbits is the senior, and one of only two original captains left with the regiment. He has been with it on every picket, march, and reconnoissance, and in every skirmish and battle, at Big Bethel, Fair Oaks, Glendale, Malvern Hill, Bristow, and Bull Run. At Bristow he particularly distinguished himself, and was honorably mentioned for gallant and meritorious conduct at Bull Run. His vast experience, undaunted courage, and excellent judgment well qualify him for the position for which I have had the honor to recommend him. I have the honor to be,
"Your most obedient servant,
Joseph B. Carr, Brig.-Gen., U. S. V.
"To Brig.-Gen. Thomas Hillhouse,
State of New York, Albany, N. Y."

This recommendation was duly honored by the State of New York, and Capt. Tibbits was appointed major of the regiment, his commission bearing date Oct. 13, 1862. The term of the 2d Regiment expired in the following year, and on May 23, 1863, Maj. Tibbits was mustered out with the regiment, at the city of Troy. June 17, 1863, he procured authorization papers to raise a cavalry regiment, to be known as the Griswold Light Cavalry, to serve for three years unless sooner discharged. The regiment received its name from the Hon. John A. Griswold, then the representative in from the district embracing the city of Troy. About the time that the completion of the regiment was assured, a number of Maj. Tibbits' personal friends testified their appreciation of his bravery and merit by the gift of a sword, which bore the following inscriptions:

"Col. Wm. B. Tibbits from a few of his friends, as a token both of their personal regard and of their admiration of his gallantry. Troy, N. Y., Nov. 18, 1863."
"New Market Bridge, Big Bethel, Fair Oaks, Glendale, Malvern Hill, Bristow, Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville."

On Jan. 1, 1864, Maj. Tibbits was mustered in as colonel of the 21st New York (Griswold Light) Cavalry, with rank as colonel from Nov. 20, 1863. The first engagement in which the regiment took part was at New Market, Va., on Sunday, May 15, 1864. His services, performed early in the succeeding June, were acknowledged as follows:

"Baltimore, Md., August 29, 1864.
"Colonel, ---I regret exceedingly that the suddenness with which which I left my command at Staunton, Va., on account of my wound, prevented me from issuing the order which I had intended to, and which you so justly deserved, commending you for your gallant conduct at the battle of Piedmont, June 5, 1864, and on which day it was my pleasure to thank you and your gallant regiment (on the battlefield) for the brilliant success they had achieved. The faithful and efficient manner in which you discharged your every duty while under my command has won for you my highest esteem and best wishes for your every undertaking; and as merit for the criterion for promotion in our army, I feel confident that the promotion for brigadier-general will be reward for your gallant services.
"Very sincerely and truly, Your friend,
Stahl, Maj. Gen.
"To Col. William B.Tibbits, 21st New York Cavalry."

For the two months following the battle of Piedmont his command was constantly employed. Labors performed and dangers undergone of a character so trying as were those that filled up this period could not fail to be recognised by those whose duty it was to know when work was well done. That such recognition was not lacking appears by the following communication:

"Headquarters 1st Cavalry Division, Dep't of West Virginia.
"Hancock, Md., Aug. 5, 1864.
"Maj.-Gen. David Hunter, Commanding Department of West Virginia, Monocacy Junction, Md.
Sir, ---I have the honor to recommend for gallantry in action, and efficiency under all circumstances in the field, Col. William B. Tibbits, 21st NY Vol. Cavalry, now commanding the first brigade of this (1st Cavalry) Division. This officer has served under my command since the 10th of June, 1864, and I have found him, on all occasions, a competent, faithful and gallant officer. He has, on several occasions, distinguished himself in action. His meritorious conduct has commanded the admiration of myself and his command. I would respectfully recommend him as worthy of promotion to the rank of Brigadier General U. S. Volunteers. I would respectfully call your attention to especial mention made of this officer in my official report of July 27, 1864. This reporl has been forwarded to the head-quarters of Brevet Maior-General Crook, commanding forces in the field, Department of West Virginia.
"I am, General, very respectfully, Your obedient servant,
A. N. Duffie, Brig.-Gen."

On the receipt of this communication it was indorsed in these terms:

"Headquarters Department West Virginia.
"Harper's Ferry, Va., Aug. 7. 1804.
"Respectfully forwarded to the Adjutant-General of the army, approved, and earnestly recommended. See enclosed copy of General Orders, No. 63, current series, from these headquarters.
"D. Hunter, Major-General Commanding."

The general order referred to was as follows:

"Headquarters Department of West Virginia.
"Harper's Ferry, Aug. 7, 1864.
"General Order No. 63.
"Colonel William B. Tibbits, 21st New York Cavalry, commanding 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, having been highly complimented by his division commander for gallantry in action and efficiency under all circumstances in the field, and having been recommended as a competent, faithful, and valiant officer, worthy of promotion to the rank of Brigadier-General United States Volunteers, the Major-General commanding takes pleasure in commending to the command the conduct of Colonel Tibbits, and in approving the recommendation for his promotion.
"By order of
"Maj.-Gen. Hunter.
"P. G. Bier, A. A. General.
"Official 1st Division: E. W. Clark, A. A. G."

This deserved recognition of the conduct of a soldier of whom it was said he begged the privilege of charging the enemy when others would unwillingly obey orders that involved any risk of personal safety was made still more complimentary by being read on dress-parade to each command in Hunter's army. On Oct. 21, 1864, the regiment received from the Hon. John A. Griswold a stand of colors, the regulation-flag and the regimental standard, both being of heavy silk, and bearing appropriate devices and embellishments beautifully embroidered upon them. On Nov. 17, 1864, Col. Tibbits received an official communication from the War Department, conferring on him the well-earned designation of brevet brigadier-general, with rank from Oct. 21, 1864. Not only did his services extend through the war, but after its conclusion he was orderedwest, on the plains, and it was not until in September, 1865, that he received permission, while at Leavenworth, Kan., to return to his home at Troy, and there await orders.

He was made a full brigadier-general, and received the rank of major-general U. S. V., by brevet. The following are the names of the places at which engagements occurred all of them in Virginia in which Gen. Tibbits participated while in the cavalry service: New Market, Piedmont, Lynchburg, Hillsboro', Snicker's Gap, Ashby's Gap, Kearnestown, Winchester, Martinsburg, Charlestown, Halltown, Nineveh, Roods Hill, and Liberty Mill or Gordonsville. He was mustered out under General Order No. 168, to date from Jan. 15, 1866.

For several years past Gen. Tibbits has been a great sufferer, resulting from injuries received while in the service. Such is the merest outline of the career of a man whose sound judgment when advice was needed, whose bravery when fighting was to be done, and whose celerity in movement when action was required, won for him, in the stations which he filled, the reputation of being a skillful soldier, and, at the same time, one of the most intrepid spirits of the war.

Send comments or suggestions to:
Debby Masterson
Go Back to Rensselaer Co. Biographies
Go Back to Home Page