He gave his arm for us; now give him your vote


Kearny municipal leaders are urging residents to get the vote.

No, not for the presidential contest whose outcome we already know.

This time around, folks are being asked to make known their preferences for the military hero for whom the town is named – Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny Jr. – one of many nominees for entry to the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

It’s particularly important to do so, says Third Ward Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle, because the Hall is planning to bring its mobile museum to Kearny next spring to participate in the town’s sesquicentennial anniversary celebration.

So the inclusion of the man for whom Kearny is named among the other honored entries in the Hall would be a welcome attraction for visitors to the mobile unit, Doyle said.

Why is the military figure worthy of inclusion in the hallowed Hall?

A posting on the Kearny municipal website makes that clear:

“Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny is a famed Civil War hero. He served as lieutenant of cavalry with the 1st U.S. Dragoons and studied cavalry tactics in France. He was chosen as our town’s namesake for his outstanding bravery and leadership.

“Show your Kearny pride and vote to induct Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny into the N.J. Hall of Fame. [He] stands out in history for his bravery, leadership and service in the Mexican-American War and Civil War. He was the owner of the marvelous Belle Grove mansion, also known as Kearny Castle.”

While serving as commander of the First New Jersey Brigade, he was killed in action in the 1862 Battle of Chantilly in Virginia.

A biography posted on Wikipedia says that Kearny was born in New York City on June 1, 1815, to Philip Kearny Sr. and Susan Watts. His dad was a Harvard-educated NYC financier who owned his own brokerage firm and was a founder of the New York Stock Exchange.

Philip Jr.’s parents died when he was still a boy and he was raised by his wealthy grandfather who, despite Jr.’s desire to make a career in the military, insisted that his grandson pursue the law. So Jr. went to Columbia College and got his law degree in 1833.

Three years later, his granddad died and Jr. inherited more than $1 million, freeing him to enter the Army and in 1837, he was commissioned a 2nd Lt. of Cavalry, assigned to the 1st U.S. Dragoons, led by his uncle, Col. Stephen W. Kearny. The unit’s adjutant general happened to be a fellow named Jefferson Davis, who, you may recall, later became the President of the Confederacy.

In 1839 Philip Jr. was dispatched to France to study cavalry tactics and participated in several battles with the Chasseurs d’Afrique in Algiers. He was reported to have gone into action gripping a sword with his right hand, a pistol in his left and the reins in his teeth, for which his comrades dubbed him “Kearny le Magnifique” or “Kearny the Magnificent.”

After returning to the U.S., Kearny was eventually assigned to the staff of Gen. Winfield Scott, who was to command U.S. troops in the Mexican-American War and who, a bit later, was named by President Lincoln to lead the Union troops in the War Between the States.

While leading a cavalry charge in a battle in Mexico, Capt. Kearny was wounded in his left arm which later had to be amputated but he quickly returned to action.

After the war Kearny served as an Army recruiter in New York City and was promoted to major. In 1851, he fought the Rogue River Native American tribe in Oregon before resigning his commission in the Army to travel around the world.

In 1855, Kearny moved into Belle Grove, overlooking the Passaic River, with his second wife, Agnes Maxwell. Four years later, however, Kearny was back in action but this time, with his old comrades in the Chasseurs d’Afrique, fighting the Austrians. For his service, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor, becoming the first American to be so honored.

When the Civil War erupted, Kearny returned home to be appointed brigadier general in charge of the First New Jersey Brigade.

While commanding the 3rd Div., III Corps, in the Battle of Williamsburg, Kearny was reported to have urged on his troops, shouting, “I’m a one-armed Jersey son-of-a-gun, follow me!”

Kearny is credited with devising the first unit insignia patches used by the U.S. Army – a red cloth patch on the front of their caps – later evolving into the modern shoulder patch.

He was promoted to major general on July 4, 1862.

On Sept. 1, 1862, during the Union Army’s retreat toward Washington, from the disastrous Second Battle of Bull Run, Kearny – during a violent lightning and rain storm – was investigating a gap in the Union lines and met with Confederate soldiers. Ignoring a command to surrender, Kearny – who reportedly was being considered by Lincoln as a replacement for Maj. Gen. George McClellan as Army of the Potomac commander – rode off but was fired upon and killed.

Reportedly, Confederate Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill, recognizing his fallen adversary, declared: “You’ve killed Phil Kearny – he deserved a better fate than to die in the mud.” Kearny’s body was returned to the Union lines by Gen. Robert E. Lee with a note of condolence.

He was initially interred in Trinity Churchyard in New York City but, in 1912, his remains were removed and reburied in Arlington National Cemetery where an equestrian statue stands at the gravesite – one of only two such statues in Arlington. A statue of Kearny was erected in Newark’s Military Park.

During WWII, the U.S. Navy named a Liberty Ship as the SS Philip Kearny.

Kearny County in Kansas is named for the general.

And the actor Robert Anderson played Kearny in the 1966 episode “The Firebrand” in the syndicated western TV series, “Death Valley Days.”

To vote for Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny Jr., go to http://njhalloffame.org/2016-nominees/. You can vote as many times as you like. The voting deadline is Nov. 28.

Incidentally, another nominee with a military connection is Clara Maass, for whom Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville is named. Maass, an East Orange native, was an American nurse who died while volunteering for medical experiments to study yellow fever. Her death led to a ban on using humans for medical experimentation. In 1895, she became one of the first graduates of Newark German Hospital’s Chirstina Trefz Training School for Nurses. She volunteered as a contract nurse for the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War.

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