Brevet Maj. Gen.(USA), Romeyn B. Ayres

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Romeyn Beck Ayres

Birthplace: East Creek, Montgomery County, New York, United States
Death: December 04, 1888 (62)
Fort Hamilton, New York, United States
Place of Burial: Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Daniel Ayres and Electra Ayres
Husband of Emily Louis Gerry Ayres and Juliet Opie Ayres
Father of Col Charles Greenlief Ayres

Managed by: Private User
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About Brevet Maj. Gen.(USA), Romeyn B. Ayres

Romeyn Beck Ayres (December 20, 1825 – December 4, 1888) was a Union Army general in the American Civil War.

Early life

Ayres was born at East Creek, New York, along the Mohawk River in Montgomery County. He was the son of a small-town doctor who urged all of his sons into professional careers. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1847 and was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Artillery. Although graduating in time for the Mexican-American War, Ayres served only on garrison duty in Puebla and Mexico City until 1850, seeing no fighting in the war.

Between the wars, Ayres was stationed at various posts on the frontier and served at the Fort Monroe Artillery School from 1859 to 1861. In 1849 he married Emily Louis Gerry Dearborn in Bangor, Maine. His second wife was Juliet Opie Hopkins Butcher, the daughter of Juliet Opie Hopkins, a woman who later became prominent establishing hospitals for Confederate soldiers in Richmond, Virginia.

Civil War

After the start of the Civil War, Ayres was promoted to captain and commanded a battery in the 5th U.S. Artillery, which he led in the First Bull Run Campaign, and was heavily involved in the Battle of Blackburn's Ford, immediately before the larger First Battle of Bull Run. At First Bull Run, his battery, attached to the brigade of William T. Sherman, was held in reserve and he did not see action during the battle proper, but distinguished himself by providing cover for retreating Union Army troops pursued by Confederate cavalry.

On October 3, 1861, Ayres was appointed chief of artillery for William F. "Baldy" Smith's division (later designated the 2nd Division of the VI Corps) of the Army of the Potomac. He served in that position in the Peninsula Campaign, the Seven Days Battles, and at the Battle of Antietam. Just before the Battle of Fredericksburg, he was promoted to chief of artillery of the VI Corps as a brigadier general, as of November 29, 1862. At Fredericksburg he commanded the corps artillery stationed across the Rappahannock River on Falmouth Heights.

While recuperating from an injury caused when his horse fell, Ayres considered his military career and realized that artillery officers had a much slower rate of promotion than their colleagues in the infantry. Thus, he arranged for a transfer and became a brigade commander in the 2nd Division of the V Corps as of April 21, 1863. This division was known as the Regular Division because it consisted entirely of regular army (versus state volunteers) soldiers and he led its 1st Brigade in the Battle of Chancellorsville. On the first day of the battle (May 1, 1863) his brigade formed the left flank of Sykes' division when it 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.

In the Gettysburg Campaign, as part of a general shuffling of senior officers when Maj. Gen. George G. Meade was promoted from commander of the V Corps to be commander of the Army of the Potomac and Maj. Gen. George Sykes took command of the corps, Ayres was promoted to command the Regular Division. He had risen to division command quickly for an officer with little infantry experience. At the Battle of Gettysburg, he did not have an opportunity to shine in his new assignment. His division arrived on the battlefield around midday on the second day of battle, July 2, 1863. After a brief rest in camp near Power's Hill, two brigades from his division were sent to reinforce Union troops from Maj. Gen. John C. Caldwell's division (II Corps), who were counterattacking Confederate forces in the Wheatfield. Due to a great Confederate assault nearby at the Peach Orchard, Caldwell's division retreated so that his two brigades were at risk of being surrounded. They were forced to retreat as well, suffering heavy casualties. Nevertheless, Ayres received praise for his performance and he received a brevet promotion to major in the regular army for his actions at Gettysburg. After the battle, the Regular Division was sent in New York City to suppress the draft riots there.

In March 1864, the Army of the Potomac was reorganized, reducing the number of corps commanders and subordinates down the chain of command were affected; Ayres was reduced to commanding the 4th Brigade of the 1st Division, V Corps. He led the brigade in Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Overland Campaign of 1864. He received command of a new 2nd Division of the V Corps for the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign. On August 1, 1864, he received a brevet promotion to major general for his contributions in these campaigns; he received particular commendations and brevet promotions for Weldon Railroad and Five Forks.

Ayres continued to lead his division through the Appomattox Campaign and the Confederate surrender.


After the war, Ayres commanded a division in the Provisional Corps, and then commanded the District of the Shenandoah Valley until April 30, 1866, when he was mustered out of the volunteer service. As part of the general reduction of ranks that was typical following many American wars, Ayres returned to the regular army with the rank of lieutenant colonel and he performed mostly garrison duty in a number of posts in the South, including Little Rock, Arkansas, Jackson Barracks, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Key West, Florida. In 1879 he was promoted to colonel of the 2nd U.S. Artillery.

Ayres died in Fort Hamilton, New York, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, alongside his mother-in-law, Juliet Opie Hopkins.

Civil War Union Army Brigadier General. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1847, placing 22nd out of 38 (his class included future Confederate Generals A.P. Hill, George Steuart and Henry Heth, as well as future Union Generals Ambrose E. Burnside, John Gibbon and Charles Griffin). He served in Mexican garrison postings after graduation, having missed the fighting in the Mexican War. After the start of the Civil War he was promoted to Captain, 5th United States Artillery in May 1861, and was assigned to command its Battery E. He led the unit in the First Bull Run Campaign, and was heavily involved in the Battle of Blackburn's Ford, which was a precursor to the larger First Battle of Bull Run. In that battle his gun were held in reserve, and he did not see action. In October 1861 he was named as Chief of Artillery for Brigadier General William F. Smith's Division, which would become part of the Army of the Potomac's VI Corps. He would hold this position for over a year, and fought in the Spring 1862 Peninsular Campaign, the Seven Day's Battles, and the Antietam Campaign. In November 1862 he was promoted to Brigadier General, US Volunteers and made Chief of Artillery for the entire VI Corps. At the December 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg, he commanded his Corps cannons as they made up part of the formidable Union artillery position on Falmouth Heights. In April 1863 he was transferred to an infantry command, being assigned to lead the V Corp's 2nd Division's 1st Brigade, which was made up of Regular Army units. In the subsequent May 1863 Battle of Chancellorsville, his unit was only lightly engaged. In late June of that year he was advanced to command the Division itself, due to the reshuffling of his superior officers (Corps commander Major General George G. Meade was given command of the Army of the Potomac, and previous division commander Brigadier General George Sykes now command the V Corps). In the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) he led the Division of Regulars into the maelstrom of the Wheatfield Area in the 2nd Day of the Battle. He committed his troops to bolster the flagging Union troops, which were under attack from Lieutenant General James Longstreet's Corps. He fed the Regulars into the Rose Woods, where they encountered first Union troops retreating from the Peach Orchard, then pursuing Confederates, who threatened to flank and surround the Regulars. He then ordered a retreat, which saved the Division. His men rallied just north of Little Round Top, where they remained for the rest of the Battle. He would remain with the V Corps for the rest of the war, leading his Division in the suppression of the New York City Draft Riots, and in the Mine Run Campaign. In March 1864 the Army of the Potomac was reorganized, and General Ayres was reduced to commanding only the 4th Brigade of the V Corps' 1st Division. After leading the brigade though the initial battles of Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Overland Campaign, he again ascended to Divisional command, leading the V Corps 2nd Division through the Petersburg Campaign and to the surrender of Confederate forces at Appomattox in April 1865. During the later part of the war he was Brigadier General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's immediate superior officer, and he praised General Chamberlain highly in his reports. His war services won him brevets of Major General in both the Regular Army and the Volunteers. Upon his muster out of the Volunteer Army in April 1866 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the 28th United States Regular Infantry. He would continued to serve in the Regular Army after the War, performing garrison duty on a number of posts in the South. In 1879 he was promoted to Colonel of the 2nd United States Artillery, and was serving on active duty on Fort Hamilton, New York City, New York when he died in 1888. He was the son-in-law of famed Confederate nurse Juliet Opie Hopkins, who is interred in the Ayers plot in Arlington National Cemetery. Today in the Gettysburg National Military Park a monument for his Division is located at the North End of Houck's Ridge, and an Avenue his named after him.

Bio by: Russ Dodge

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Brevet Maj. Gen.(USA), Romeyn B. Ayres's Timeline

December 20, 1825
East Creek, Montgomery County, New York, United States
February 26, 1854
New York, USA
December 4, 1888
Age 62
Fort Hamilton, New York, United States
Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, United States