Happiness may not have been his companion but on Valentine’s Day in 1862 would Cupid force General Gouverneur Warren to Smile?


Sergeant Major
Aug 6, 2016
“But I don’t know what to do – when I am with you
it is ‘sweet confusion’ and when away it is ‘bitter confusion” {1}


So began the romance between an 1850 West Point graduate named Gouverneur Kemble Warren and Emily Forbes Chase the daughter of a Baltimore dry-goods merchant. It’s February 14, 1862 and the officers of the Fifth New York were sponsoring a party to celebrate Valentine’s day. During the winter of 1861-1862, the 5th New York was stationed in Baltimore where they helped design and build Fort Federal Hill. Warren had written his brother in 1854 that he gave no thought of marriage for at least another ten years but love has a way of changing the best laid plan.

Attending the party was a Captain Cambrilling and he had invited a young lady by the name of Emily Forbes Chase. Emily’s mother Mary Augusta Chase had once been engaged to New Yorker Hamilton Fish (who would later serve as Secretary of State in the Grant Administration). Emily’s family had arrived in Baltimore via stays in New York and Boston. Mrs. Chase was notable for

“having defiantly flown the Stars and Stripes from the family home when Union troops passing through Baltimore were attacked by Confederate sympathizers in the spring of 1861” {2}

But on that romantic night of February 14 it was “love at first sight” for the Colonel and his lady.

At West Point Gouverneur Warren had excelled in his studies graduating 2nd in his class. During the 1850’s he was known as an excellent “map maker” in the West. From the Missouri River, Central Plains, and Dakotas he was in his element, but when the Civil War arrived he transitioned from his maps to his troops.

It was a difficult adjustment. Within four months after meeting and falling in love, Warren was engaged in the Seven Days Battle. Writing Emily:

“I am very, very sorry that you should have been so unhappy about recent events. I think darling that much good to us all, will come from them and I have gone through, without harm and with credit though having to mourn the loss of many of our brave comrades . . . you were unhappy while I was full of life and hope and exertion and in the place of all others on the face of the earth where I would choose to be.”

He concludes this message:

“Do not fear I will trifle with your love. You are safe at home and well. . . Could I slink away from here at such a time. No darling, I could not. I sleep sweeter wrapped in my blanket here on the turf in the front rank with those who meet their country’s foes, than I could at home on a couch of roses locked in your own dear arms.” {2}

His tone changes in a later letter he pens to Emily. In this one we get a sense that he is not quite filled with the convictions he held earlier and expresses a theme of happiness that follows him the rest of his life:

“Don’t dear Emily trust your earthly happiness with one like me. [Circumstances] have fixed my career and though I expect it is for good I feel as if I must keep on though unhappily . . . Dear One happiness is not my companion. It might be found with you but I cannot be there.” {2}

After he sent it he worried that it might not be well received but rejoiced later when he heard from his Emily and she had sent a photograph. He quickly responded:

“You have no idea how happy I feel to have your photograph to look at as I do almost all the time and when I put it in my bosom I feel as if an angel was at my heart. I cannot look at it and realize that you have said your fate was bound up in mine for better of for worse.” {2}

In 1863 between the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, General Warren was finally able to obtain a leave and make his way to the Baltimore home on St. Paul Street where Emily awaited along with her family and uncle, the Reverend Henry Burroughs (rector of Boston’s Old North Church). There in the family’s drawing room on June 17, the couple were united in marriage. After a brief honeymoon in Washington’s Willard Hotel Warren received orders to report to headquarters “At Once” and by June 20 Emily was headed back to Baltimore while Warren was on his way to history at Gettysburg.​

Warren’s heroic actions at Gettysburg would soon be diminished in less than two years at a place called Five Forks when he’d be so publicly relieved from his command. As Emily wrote on April 5, 1865:

“The account we get of your having been relieved of your command in the face of the enemy and front of your troops has been a great shock to me and the suspense of not hearing any thing from you has been terrible to bear. . . . through good or ill fortune, in joy or in sorrow you are all the same the pride, love and joy of my live.” {2}

How difficult a turn for the Warren’s. He writes her in response:

“It is very hard for me to bear my present position and have to await my vindication which must come . . .” {2}

The actions at Five Forks Consumes the Rest of their Lives

After the war Emily journeyed and met up with her husband at Petersburg. There is no doubt that her arrival helped Warren, however Emily was obviously concerned over her husband’s state of mind as she writes her father on May 1 of 1865 that Warren was “almost crazy sometimes over this affair of his.” {1}

On May 3 the Fifth Corps was passing through Petersburg on their way to Washington for the Grand Review Parade. His former men passed the Bolingbroke Hotel while Warren, Emily and members of his staff took their place as General Chamberlain later described:

“Drums ruffled, bands played, colors dipped, officers saluted with their swords; but for the men it was impossible to hold the ‘carry’, or keep the touch of elbow and the guide right. Up turned the worn, bronzed faces; up went the poor old caps; out rang the cheers from manly hearts along with Fifth Corps column; one half the numbers, old and new together, that on this very day a year ago mustered on the banks of the Rapidan . . One half the corps had gone, passing the death-streams of all Virginias rivers; two hundred miles of furrowed earth and the infinite of heaven held each their own. Warren, too, had gone in spirit, never to rise, with deeper wound than any one had gone before.” {2}

One can only imagine what must have been passing through the mind of Emily as she stood there with her husband. Always on Warren’s mind was an inquest to give him exoneration for his actions at Five Forks. Emily had told her father that “he is determined to leave the army”, but that was not meant to be. Warren soon found himself sent to Vicksburg but it was mostly patrolling, receiving and transporting prisoners and looking after surrendered public property. On May 20 he wrote Emily that he was resigning his commission as major general of volunteers and returning to the position of major. Unfortunately, for Warren his actions at Five Forks was quickly receding into the back pages of history. Too much was happening in the country and the public was losing interest in him. He did manage to bring his wife Emily an unusual remembrance from the war. He was visited by Nathan Bedford Forrest and he was able to get his autograph which he gave to his wife.​


After his resignation was accepted his rank was reduced to a Major in the Corps of Engineers, however Warren was working in the field he had enjoyed and excelled in. His new assignments meant he was forced to spend time away from Emily. She traveled to his assignments whenever possible but when she gave birth to a son Algernon Sydney (“Siddy”) Chase in December of 1866 her traveling was curtailed.

The actions of his superiors on April 2, 1865 weighed heavily on his heart and was never far from his thoughts. Moving forward proved a difficult task. When General Ulysses Grant became the President, Warren was well aware his requests for an inquiry would never be entertained or investigated. He had to wait as his frustration, anger and disappointments fermented.

He arrived in Newport Rhode Island in the early 1870’s to serve as a district engineer. Hoping that he would be able to remain in a permanent location, he was forced to travel to continue his projects. Initially the family lived apart with Emily and her son staying in New York. This was a lonely time for him and he fretted at being an “absentee parent”. He requested his wife: “tell Siddy his father expects him to grow into a man”. A daughter Emily Braem arrived in April of 1875 but Mrs. Warren was still staying with her aged father in New York. Emily’s father Algernon died on November 3, 1878 freeing up Emily and her children to join her husband now renting a home in Newport. There would be little peace as in 1879 Rutherford B. Hayes, was sworn in as President of the United States and he ordered an inquiry of the removal of General Gouverneur K. Warren from duty on that April day.

At almost fifty years of age, he is challenged financially when he needed to hire an attorney and he is not feeling well. He decided on New York lawyer Albert Stickney to serve on his behalf and Stickney originally offered to serve at no cost, but Warren refused his offer. His annual pay was $4,576 and Emily’ was receiving an income based on the estate of her father. He wrote to Emily on January 8, 1880 (fifteen years after Five Forks):​

" [he was still] fighting that same battle . . . now for the honor of my name, as an inheritance for our children.” {2}


Lieutenant Colonel Gouverneur Warren died on August 8, 1882 in Newport from diabetes complicated with a heart that was broken. He was fifty-two years old. Per his request he was buried in civilian dress not wanting to be buried in his uniform. He was laid to rest in the Island Cemetery in Newport. General Henry L Abbott in a “Biographical Memoir”, read before the National Academy of Sciences on April 17, 1884 stated:

“The Chief of Engineers, in announcing the death of this valued officer, says: ‘In scientific investigations General Warren had few superiors; and his elaborate reports on some of the most important works which have been confided to the Corps of Engineers are among the most valuable contributions to its literature’.” {6}

General Abbott went on to give his impressions of the soldier​

"The lives of few graduates more perfectly illustrate the fruits of what we are proud to call West Point culture than that of General Warren. Everything with him was subordinated to duty, and he put forth his whole strength in whatever he had to do. His tastes were cultivated and refined, and his reading in both literature and science was extensive. A man of warm affections and sympathetic nature, he was ever ready to listen to the cry of distress. Even after his long experience in war, the misery of the wounded, and the severe hardships of all his soldiers in some of the winter movements south of Petersburg, so touched his heart that he wrote to his brother: 'I do not feel it much in my own person, but I sympathize so much with the sufferings around me that it seems at times I can hardly endure it.' He is now peacefully at rest, beyond the reach of praise or censure; but his memory is a sacred legacy to West Point and to the Army of the Potomac. There is no nobler name upon either roll.” {6}

Emily lived forty-six years after her husband’s death in Newport and passed away on December 27, 1928. She was eighty-eight. She joined her husband and son (died 1907) in the family plot in Newport. It was daughter Emily who worked to rehabilitate her father’s reputation. In 1932, author Emerson Gifford Taylor published a biography on General Warren aided with the release of papers by Warren’s daughter Emily. Emily may have been happy with the finished product - but it had it’s share of critics and Gouverneur Warren’s Five Forks dismissal is still debated to this day {*}.​


Shortly after that distant Valentine’s day of 1862, Gouverneur Warren had written the young lady he had met

“It was very sweet of you to write me such a dear note late at night.
If you are like me, only those thoughts which are real, influence that hour,

Little did the two sweethearts suspect the challenges dropped upon their lives. Emily Warren never lost her love of her husband and stood by him during the difficult struggles he faced after April 2, of 1865. The incident started a downward spiral of health and joy in the life of G K Warren - but Emily never forgot the sweet words her future husband wrote that night in 1862 and held with sweet memories in her heart:​


* * * * *

1. https://www.womenhistoryblog.com/2013/12/emily-chase-warren.html
2. “Happiness is Not my Companion, by David Jordan
4. Gettysburg Wives, by Daniel Grossman
6. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer..._States/Army/USMA/Cullums_Register/1451*.html
All Photos in the Public Domain

{*}There are threads on this site that discuss the removal of General Gouverneur Warren at Five Forks. As this thread is focused more on Mrs. Warren, if you care to read more:


And for a biographical background:



First Sergeant
Jun 18, 2018
Nice looking man ...not the over large sideburns, mustache and beard of some of his contemporaries . Even combed his hair...Cump Sherman call home.... like Lew Wallace, I think he got a raw deal but I am no expert on the subject.