George's Top Matches
About George Sykes
George Sykes (October 9, 1822 – February 8, 1880) was a career United States Army officer and a Union General during the American Civil War.
Sykes was born in Dover, Delaware. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1842 and was commissioned as a brevet second lieutenant in the 3rd U.S. Infantry. He served in the Mexican-American War and Seminole War and was brevetted as a captain for actions at the Battle of Cerro Gordo.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Sykes was assigned as a major in the 14th U.S. Infantry. At the First Battle of Bull Run, he commanded the Regular Infantry Battalion, a collection of eight regular army companies from different regiments, the only regulars on the field. He continued his association with regulars in the early defensive positions around Washington, D.C., and then as a division commander of regulars in the Peninsula Campaign, the 2nd Division of the V Corps. His men, who often referred to themselves as "Sykes' Regulars," distinguished themselves defending their position at Gaines' Mill during the Seven Days Battles, before the Union line broke elsewhere.
Sykes continued as a division commander through the battles of Second Bull Run, Antietam (in reserve), and Fredericksburg. At Chancellorsville, his regulars led the advance into the Confederate rear at the start of the battle. Sykes' division engaged Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws' division on the Orange Turnpike. Sykes' division was forced to retreat after being attacked on the right flank by Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes' division, then the army commander, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, nervously recalled his advance to a defensive position and Sykes' men were not engaged for the remainder of the campaign. Sykes was promoted to major general after Antietam, on November 29, 1862. None of these battles demonstrated any aggressive or unique offensive capabilities on his part. He was known to his colleagues by the nicknames "Tardy George" and "Slow Trot" Sykes. When corps commander Maj. Gen. George G. Meade was promoted to lead the Army of the Potomac on June 28, 1863, Sykes assumed command of the V Corps.
At the Battle of Gettysburg, Sykes' corps fought in support of the beleaguered III Corps on the Union left flank. In his 1st Division (Brig. Gen. James Barnes), the fabled defense of Little Round Top was led by brigade commander Col. Strong Vincent and the 20th Maine Infantry under Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. His 3rd Division, the Pennsylvania Reserves, led by Brig. Gen. Samuel W. Crawford, attacked from Little Round Top, drove the Confederates across the "Valley of Death" and ended the deadly fighting in the Wheatfield. But there is little in the historical record that highlights any personal contribution made by Sykes.
In the Mine Run Campaign in the fall of 1863, Meade complained of Sykes' lackluster performance. Meade and general-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant agreed that Sykes was not a good choice for the upcoming Overland Campaign in May 1864, so when the Army of the Potomac was reorganized that spring, Sykes lost his corps and was sent to uneventful duty in the Department of Kansas. During Price's Raid in 1864, he was replaced with James G. Blunt.
After the war, in 1866, Sykes was reverted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He served under the 5th U.S. Infantry and later as colonel in the 20th. He commanded at a number of duty stations from Minnesota to Texas until he died in Texas at Fort Brown. He was interred in West Point Cemetery, West Point, New York.