Emerson Opdycke

Emerson Opdycke

Samuel Emerson Opdycke (January 7, 1830April 25, 1884) was a businessman and Union brigadier general during the American Civil War.

Early years

Opdycke was born on a farm in Hubbard, Ohio, to a military family. His father fought in the War of 1812 and his grandfather was a captain in New Jersey militia in the American Revolution. His older brother Henry would serve in the Kansas cavalry during the Civil War. Opdycke was educated in the Hubbard schools. He engaged in various business pursuits in Ohio and California.

American Civil War

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Opdycke enlisted as a private in the 41st Ohio Volunteer Infantry and quickly rose to the rank of captain of Company A. Most of Opdycke's service was in the Western Theater. He displayed great bravery seizing and carrying the regiment's colors at the Battle of Shiloh, despite a painful wound. At the recommendation of Brig. Gen. William B. Hazen, Opdycke was subsequently promoted to colonel and sent home to recruit and command the 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. This regiment became nicknamed "Opdycke's Tigers" for its battle prowess, most notably at the Battle of Chickamauga, where Opdycke persistently held an exposed position despite losing a full third of his men. He commanded part of a brigade during the assault up Missionary Ridge, and distinguished himself in the Atlanta Campaign. In August 1864, he was assigned command of a brigade in Thomas J. Wood's division of the IV Corps.

A notable incident occurred at the Battle of Franklin in November 1864. After the breaching of the Union line by John Bell Hood's Confederates, without orders Opdycke rallied his brigade and counterattacked the Confederates, eventually stopping the assault and sealing the breach.

In the early summer of 1865, he was promoted to brigadier general and assigned command of a division in Texas. He was brevetted a major general to date from the fight at Franklin.


Opdycke resigned from the Regular Army in 1866 and moved to New York City, where he engaged in the dry goods business. He wrote several articles on the war, and was active in veterans affairs. He died in New York at the age of 54 of an accidental gunshot, apparently while he was cleaning the weapon, he shot himself in the foot.

See also


  • Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964, ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.
  • U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 70 volumes in 4 series. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.

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