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Gilbert C. Kniffin, U.S.V.
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
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,
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
Source: Officers of the Volunteer Army and Navy who
served in the Civil War, published by L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1893, 419
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