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Lieutenant-Colonel Gilbert C. Kniffin, U.S.V.

Lieutenant-Colonel Gilbert C. Kniffin (Staff, Army of the Cumberland) was born in Le Roy, New York, October 10, 1831. His father, Rev. William C. Kniffin, and his mother, Catherine Ward Kniffin, were both children of Revolutionary soldiers, and the subject of this sketch became early imbued with patriotic affection for his country and zeal for the honor of its flag.

The outbreak of the Rebellion found him in Kentucky, where his father had been the honored pastor of an influential Presbyterian church in the heart of the Blue Grass region. Although bound by the strongest social ties to the pro-slavery element of the community in which he lived, he did not hesitate to raise the standard of the Union and call for volunteers for the United States Army.

He took an active part in the distribution of arms supplied by the general government among the loyal men of Kentucky, and commenced recruiting for the brigade which was being organized by Brigadier-General William Nelson, United States Volunteers, at Camp Dick Robinson, Kentucky, in the summer of j861. Recognizing the energy displayed in this hazardous duty, General Nelson, on the arrival of Captain Kniffin in camp with sixty recruits for the Fourth Kentucky Infantry, called him to head-quarters to assist in organizing the command. Here he acted as aide-de-camp, filling every staff office until the arrival of Brigadier-General George H. Thomas, United States Volunteers, who obtained for him the commission of captain and commissary of subsistence.

He was appointed lieutenant-colonel in January, 1863, as chief commissary of subsistence of the Twenty-first Army Corps, under command of Major-General Thomas L. Crittenden, and at the reorganization of the army in October, 1863, he was appointed by General Rosecrans assistant chief commissary of subsistence of the Army of the Cumberland. General George H. Thomas wrote of him thus: " To the vigilance and executive ability displayed by Colonel G. C. Kniffin is partially due the fact that the army was enabled to maintain possession of Chattanooga during the trying period that intervened between the battles of Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge." Colonel Kniffin's term of service extended during the entire war, participating as a staff officer in every engagement in which the Army of the Cumberland was engaged, from Mill Springs in January, 1862, to Nashville in December, 1864.

In a recent letter written to Hon. Redfield Proctor, Secretary of War, General Rosecrans refers to his old staff officer as follows: " A young Kentuckian, of Northern birth, when the war-clouds began to gather over the hills and valleys of Kentucky, in April, 1861, G. C. Kniffin was one of the Union men of Paris, Kentucky, who was warned by posters to leave the place, but who, instead of heeding the warning, went to a public meeting called to raise men to help the South, asked, obtained, and used permission to address the meeting; called for volunteers, got a great many from the assembled crowd, armed and conducted them to `Camp Dick Robinson.' When General Nelson was ordered to organize Union troops there, Kniffin was appointed acting adjutant-general and quartermaster and commissary, and when General George H. Thomas succeeded Nelson he retained Kniffin, and had him made captain commissary of subsistence, in the discharge of the duties of which he distinguished himself. In the battle of Pittsburg Landing, siege of Corinth, marches through Northern Alabama, Middle Tennessee, Kentucky, in the battle of Perryville, the marches back to Middle Tennessee, and the battle of Stone River, he was distinguished for sound judgment, courage and efficiency. After Stone River he was made lieutenant-colonel and chief commissary of the Twenty-first Corps. After the campaigns of Tullahoma and Chattanooga he served as chief commissary of the Army of the Cumberland until relieved by Colonel Porter, U. S. A. His entire war record was distinguished for ability, integrity, courage, and efficiency."

For several years Colonel Kniffin was Washington correspondent of the Louisville (Kentucky) Commercial, and in 1880 he was honored by the Union men of Kentucky designating him to write Kentucky's part in the war for the Union, which he has epitomized in a very accurate and able manner by the publication of a volume giving the history of Kentucky.

To Colonel Kniffin's enviable record of patriotic and military service, his large experience, his knowledge of men and events in the war, are added literary taste and practice, laborious habits, good broad sense, and sound judgment.

Source: Officers of the Volunteer Army and Navy who served in the Civil War, published by L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1893, 419 pgs.

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