Brevet Maj. General Ranald S. MacKenzie (USA) ("Bad Hand")

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Brevet Maj. General Ranald S. MacKenzie (USA) ("Bad Hand")'s Geni Profile

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Ranald Slidell Mackenzie

Also Known As: "Bad Hand"
Birthdate: (48)
Birthplace: Westchester, NY, USA
Death: January 19, 1889 (48)
Staten Island, NY, USA
Place of Burial: Norfolk, VA, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Alexander Slidell Mackenzie and Catherine Slidell
Brother of Lt. Commander Alexander S. MacKenzie (USN)

Occupation: a career United States Army officer and general in the Union Army during the American Civil War
Managed by: Joel Scott Cognevich
Last Updated:

About Brevet Maj. General Ranald S. MacKenzie (USA) ("Bad Hand")

Ranald Slidell (Bad Hand) Mackenzie, army officer, was born on July 27, 1840, in New York City, the son of Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, a popular author and naval officer who had taken his mother's family name of Mackenzie, and Catherine (Robinson) Mackenzie. He received his education at Williams College and at the United States Military Academy, where he graduated on June 17, 1862, at the head of his class. He was commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned to the Army of the Potomac. Within two years he had fought in eight major battles and been promoted to the rank of colonel. Later, in the Shenandoah valley, he commanded troops in five battles, and in the final campaign against Robert E. Lee he was a brevet major general. At Appomattox he took custody of surrendered Confederate property and afterward commanded the cavalry in the Department of Virginia. In three years he had received seven brevets and six wounds.

In 1867 Mackenzie accepted an appointment as colonel of the Forty-first Infantry, a newly formed black regiment reorganized two years later as part of the Twenty-fourth United States Infantry. The unit had its headquarters at Fort Brown, Fort Clark, and later at Fort McKavett. On February 25, 1871, he assumed command of the Fourth United States Cavalry at Fort Concho and a month later moved its headquarters to Fort Richardson.

That summer he began a series of expeditions into the uncharted Panhandle and Llano Estacado in an effort to drive renegade Indians back onto their reservations. In October his troops skirmished with a band of Comanches in Blanco Canyon, where he was wounded, and on September 29, 1872, they defeated another near the site of the present town of Lefors. In 1873 Mackenzie was assigned to Fort Clark to put an end to the plunder of Texas livestock by Indian raiders from Mexico. On May 18, in an extralegal raid, he burned a Kickapoo village near Remolino, Coahuila , and returned with forty captives. That and effective border patrols stopped the raiding.

In July 1874 Lt. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan ordered five commands to converge on the Indian hideouts along the eastern edge of the Llano Estacado. Mackenzie, in the most daring and decisive battle of the campaign, destroyed five Indian villages on September 28 in Palo Duro Canyon and on November 5 near Tahoka Lake won a minor engagement, his last, with the Comanches. His destruction of the Indians' horses after the battle of Palo Duro Canyon, even more than the battle itself, destroyed the Indians' resistance.

In March 1875 Mackenzie assumed command at Fort Sill and control over the Comanche-Kiowa and Cheyenne-Arapaho reservations. On June 2 Quanah Parker arrived at Fort Sill with 407 followers and 1,500 horses. The Red River War was over.

After Lt. Col. George A. Custer's troops had been annihilated on the Little Bighorn River in 1876, Mackenzie was placed in command of the District of the Black Hills and of Camp Robinson, Nebraska. In October he forced Sioux Chief Red Cloud, who had won a campaign in 1868 against the United States, to return his band to the reservation.

On November 25 Mackenzie decisively defeated the Northern Cheyennes. After a short tour of duty in Washington, during which he commanded troops mustered to keep the peace in the event of disturbances following the presidential election of 1876, Mackenzie returned to the Black Hills, then to Fort Sill. In late 1877 Indians from Mexico were again raiding in South Texas, and by March 1878 Mackenzie was again at Fort Clark. He began patrols and in June led an expedition into Mexico. His incursion prompted the Mexican government to act, and by October the raiding had ceased.

In October 1879 Mackenzie was sent to Colorado with six companies of cavalry to prevent an uprising of the Utes at the Los Pinos agency. The Indian Bureau eventually negotiated a removal treaty, but the chiefs refused to leave until Mackenzie informed them that the only alternative was war. Two days later, the Utes started for Utah. On September 2, 1881, Mackenzie received orders to move his cavalry to Arizona, take field command of all troops there, and subdue the Apaches. After a short and brilliant campaign, despite the opposition of the department and division commanders, Mackenzie was assigned on October 30 to command the District of New Mexico, where the Apaches ignored departmental and international lines and the Navajos were restless. Within a year the army was in control. Mackenzie was promoted to the rank of brigadier general, but was seriously ill. On October 27, 1883, he was reassigned to command the Department of Texas. He planned to marry and retire soon on land that he had bought near Boerne, but by December 18 he was suffering "paralysis of the insane." A few days later he was escorted to New York City and placed in the Bloomingdale Asylum. On March 24, 1884, he was retired from the army. In June he went to his boyhood home in Morristown to live. In 1886 he was moved to New Brighton, Staten Island, where he died on January 19, 1889. He was buried in the military cemetery at West Point.

From The Handbook of Texas Online Copyright © The Texas State Historical Association.

Ranald Slidell Mackenzie (July 27, 1840 – January 19, 1889) was a career United States Army officer and general in the Union Army during the American Civil War, described by General Ulysses S. Grant as its most promising young officer. He also served with great distinction in the following Indian Wars.

Early life and education

Mackenzie was born in Westchester County, New York, the nephew of Confederate States of America diplomat John Slidell and the brother of Lt. Commander Alexander Slidell MacKenzie, United States Navy. He initially attended Williams College where he was a member of the Kappa Alpha Society and then accepted a nomination to the United States Military Academy where he graduated at the head of his class in 1862 and immediately joined the Union forces already fighting in the Civil War.

Military career

Commissioned a second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers, Mackenzie served in the battles of Second Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, and through the Overland Campaign and Petersburg in 1864. He was wounded at Bull Run, Gettysburg and Jerusalem Plank Road. His wounding at Jerusalem Plank Road during the siege of Petersburg cost him two of his fingers and was the probable cause for his nickname, "Bad Hand". By June, 1864 he had been brevetted to Lieutenant Colonel in the Regular Army due to bravery.

In July 1864, he was appointed colonel of the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery. He moved with the VI Corps when it opposed Early's Washington Raid at the battle of Fort Stevens. He was again wounded at Opequon. He was given command of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, VI Corps and was again wounded at the Battle of Cedar Creek. Upon his recovery, he was appointed brigadier general of volunteers and assumed command of the Cavalry Division in the Army of the James, which he led at the battles of Five Forks and Appomattox Courthouse. He was appointed brevet major general of volunteers in 1865 for services in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign. Mackenzie was known for his harsh discipline and was not well liked by troops serving under him, who called him the "Perpetual Punisher". However, he was respected by his peers and superiors for his skill and abilities, prompting General Ulysses S. Grant to refer to him as the "most promising young officer" in the entire Union army. He had been wounded six times and received seven brevets.

Service in the Indian Wars

After the Civil War, Mackenzie stayed in the regular army and reverted to his permanent rank of captain in the Army Corps of Engineers. Appointed colonel of the 41st U.S. Infantry (later 24th U.S. Infantry, one of the Buffalo Soldier regiments) in 1867, Mackenzie spent the rest of his career on the Frontier. Some officers were reluctant to lead African-American regiments, but Mackenzie did well with the 41st. On February 25, 1871, he took command of the 4th U.S. Cavalry at Fort Richardson in Jacksboro, Texas. He led the regiment at the Battle of the North Fork in the Llano Estacado of West Texas. In late 1871 he was wounded a seventh time by an arrow in the leg.

Mackenzie fought in the Red River War, routing a combined Indian force at the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon far to the north from his headquarters at Fort Concho in San Angelo, Texas. In 1876, he defeated the Cheyenne in the Dull Knife Fight, which helped bring about the end of the Black Hills War. This led to his appointment as commander of the District of New Mexico in 1881. In 1882, he was appointed brigadier general and assigned to the Department of Texas (October 30, 1883). He bought a Texas ranch and was engaged to be married; however he began to demonstrate odd behavior which was attributed to a fall from a wagon at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in which he injured his head. Showing signs of mental instability, he was retired from the Army on March 24, 1884 for "General paresis of the insane".(Handbook of Texas bio (below))

Mackenzie died at his sister's home in New Brighton, Staten Island, New York, and is buried in West Point National Cemetery. The New York Times, which had once followed and reported on his career so closely over the years, printed but a short notice of his death. However, the Army and Navy Journal carried a lengthy article on his career and personal life, beginning the article with "The sorrow with which the Army will learn of the death of the once brilliant Ranald Slidell MacKenzie derives an additional pang from the recollection of the cloud which overshadowed his later years and consigned him to a living death."

The 1958-1959 syndicated television series, Mackenzie's Raiders, starring Richard Carlson in the title role, is loosely based on Mackenzie's time in Texas.

In 1964, the Texas historian Ernest Wallace published Ranald S. Mackenzie and the Texas Frontier, a definitive study of the officer. Wallace also wrote the historical article "Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie's Expedition Across the South Plains" in Volume 38 of the West Texas Historical Association Year Book.

Additionally he is discussed at length in the recently published work (May 2010) by S.C. Gwynne titled "Empire of the Summer Moon" giving an account of Quanah Parker and the fall of the Comanches, which was due to the leadership of this man, Colonel Mackenzie.

  On Oct. 3, 1871, he received the order from the General in Chief of the Army, General William Tecumseh Sherman to go forth and kill Comanches. It was the end of anything like tolerance, and the beginning of the final solution to the continued threat to settlers by the Indians. His Fourth Calvary and Eleventh Infantry were known as Mackenzie's Raiders during this period.


During Operation Iraqi Freedom FOB Mackenzie was named for him.

Mackenzie Park in Lubbock, Texas is named for General Mackenzie.

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Brevet Maj. General Ranald S. MacKenzie (USA) ("Bad Hand")'s Timeline

July 27, 1840
Westchester, NY, USA
January 19, 1889
Age 48
Staten Island, NY, USA
Norfolk, VA, USA