★ ★  Birney, David Bell

David Bell Birney

Born: May 29, 1825

Birthplace: Huntsville, Alabama

Father: James Gillespie Birney Jr. 1792 – 1857
(Buried: Williamsburg Cemetery, Groveland, New York)​

Mother: Elizabeth Potts Fitzhugh 1802 – 1869
(Buried: Williamsburg Cemetery, Groveland, New York)​

Wife: Marie Antoinette Jennison 1831 – 1902
(Buried: Woodlands Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)​


Agatha McDowell Birney 1848 – 1868​
(Buried: Woodlands Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)​
Belle Birney 1853 – 1874​
(Buried: Woodlands Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)​
Dr. David Bell Birney II 1862 – 1909​
(Buried: Woodlands Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)​


Graduated from Phillips Academy

Occupation before War:

1856 – 1861: Attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Civil War Career:

1861: Lt. Colonel of 23rd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment

1861 – 1862: Colonel of 23rd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment

1862 – 1863: Brigadier General of Union Army Volunteers

1862: Brigade Commander during the Virginia Peninsula Campaign

1862: Court martialed due to a misunderstanding of orders

1862: Acquitted in his court martial and restored to command

1862: Brigade Commander in the Seven Days Campaign

1862: Served in the Battle of Glendale, Virginia

1862: Served in the Second Battle of Bull Run

1862: Served in the Battle of Chantilly, Virginia

1862: Division Commander in Washington, D.C.

1862: Served in the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia

1863: Division Commander in the Battle of Chancellorsville

1863 – 1864: Major General of Union Army, Volunteers

1863: Division Commander in the Battle of Gettysburg

1863: Temporary Commander of 3rd Army Corps, Army of the Potomac

1864: Division Commander during the Overland Campaign

1864: Served in the Battle of the Wilderness, Virginia

1864: Wounded during the Battle of Spotsylvania, Virginia

1864: Served in the Battle of Cold Harbor, Virginia

1864: Commander of X Corps in the Army of the James

1864: Suffered from the effects of diarrhea at Petersburg

1864: Suffered from Diarrhea and delirious in Philadelphia

1864: Suffered from Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Died: October 18, 1864

Place of Death: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Cause of Death: Dysentery (some say it was caused by typhoid fever)

Age at time of Death: 39 years old

Burial Place: Woodlands Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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Luke Freet

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Nov 8, 2018
Palm Coast, Florida
Birney had a pretty out-there life before the war. He was born to Abolitionists parents in Alabama; moved to Kentucky, then to Philedelphia, where, according to Gordon C. Rhea he became the top lawyer in the city. He commanded 3rd Corps at Gettysburg after Sickles' was wounded, and would command the remnants of 3rd Corps in a merged division in 2nd Corps for the Overland and Petersburg Campaign. He'd breifly command 2nd Corps, then 10th Corps, before his health failed him.


Jul 31, 2005
Birney was in charge of Second Corps during its worst or second worst showing of the war on June 22, 1864 at the Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road. Hancock 's Gettysburg wound had yet again flared up and caused him to miss the entire Second Offensive.

Tom Elmore

1st Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Jan 16, 2015
William Price Shreve of the 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters was serving as an aide to Col. Berdan at Gettysburg when he was loaned to Birney at the latter's request on July 4, and he recalled: "This was the first time in my recollection of coming in contact with the General and the impression then made was never effaced. There was that in his manner that attracted me, while there appeared the dignity or haughtiness - different people called it by different names either as they were favorably or unfavorably disposed toward him - that he never threw down and, in all the subsequent acquaintance, I never succeeded in surmounting." (Shreve Papers, McCain Library and Archives, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg)
Sep 15, 2018
South Texas
That court-martial that he was acquitted of was for his action at the Battle of Seven Pines.According to his Corp Commander, Gen.Samuel Heintzelman, he "halted his command a mile from the enemy". Phil Kearney testified on Birney's behalf and it was said he just may have misunderstood orders.