Darius N. Couch

Darius Nash Couch (July 23, 1822 – February 12, 1897) was a United States Army officer, naturalist, and a Union major general in the American Civil War. Couch rose to command a corps in the Army of the Potomac, and led divisions in both the Eastern Theater and Western Theater. Militia under his command played a strategic role during the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign in delaying the advance of Confederate troops from the Army of Northern Virginia and denying them passage across the critical Susquehanna River.

Early life

Couch, who pronounced his name , was born at the village of South East in Putnam County, New York, and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1846, placing 13th out of 59 cadets. Among his many classmates were George B. McClellan, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, and George Pickett. Brevetted as a second lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Artillery, Couch saw action in the Mexican-American War. He was awarded the brevet of first lieutenant on February 23, 1847, for gallant conduct at the Battle of Buena Vista, and received a full commission to first lieutenant in December of that year.

After a brief assignment to garrison duty, Couch served in the Second Seminole War from 1849 through 1850. He took a one-year leave of absence from the army from 1853 to 1854 to conduct a scientific mission for the Smithsonian Institution in northern Mexico. There, he discovered the species that became known as Couch's Kingbird and Couch's Spadefoot Toad. He resigned from the service in 1855, moved to Taunton, Massachusetts, and worked as a copper fabricator in the company owned by his wife's family.

Civil War

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Couch reentered the army as Colonel of the 7th Massachusetts Infantry in April 1861, but was soon promoted to brigadier general on May 17. He was a brigade and division commander in the IV and a division commander in VI Corps of the Army of the Potomac. He achieved some success in those roles in the Peninsula Campaign, where he performed well at the Battle of Seven Pines, leading a division of IV Corps. He played that role in the Seven Days Battles, and was involved in the Maryland Campaign although absent from the Battle of Antietam itself. He was promoted to major general in July 1862. He assumed command of the II Corps on November 14, 1862, and led it in the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. Couch was senior corps commander in the latter campaign.

Couch requested reassignment quarreling with Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, and he commanded the newly created Department of the Susquehanna during the Gettysburg Campaign in 1863. Fort Couch in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania, was constructed under his direction and was named in his honor. Assigned to protect Harrisburg from a threatened attack by Confederates under Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, militia from Couch's department skirmished with enemy cavalry elements at Sporting Hill, one of the war's northernmost engagements. Couch's militia then joined in the pursuit of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia into Maryland following the Battle of Gettysburg.

Couch's son Robert, a captain in the 56th Massachusetts, was killed at the Battle of Cold Harbor in June 1864. Later that summer, Confederates again invaded Couch's Department of the Susquehanna, as Brig. Gen. John McCausland burned the town of Chambersburg. In December, Couch returned to the front lines with an assignment to the Western Theater, where he commanded a division in the XXIII Corps of the Army of the Ohio in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign, and for the remainder of the war. Couch finished his military service after the Carolinas Campaign in 1865.


Couch returned to civilian life in Taunton after the war, unsuccessfully running as a Democrat for Governor of Massachusetts in 1865. He later briefly served as president of a mining company in West Virginia. Couch moved to Connecticut in 1871 and served as the Quartermaster General, and then Adjutant General, for the state militia until 1884.

He died in Norwalk, Connecticut, and is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Taunton.

See also


  • Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Gambone, A. M., Major General Darius Nash Couch: Enigmatic Valor, Butternut & Blue, 2000, ISBN 0-935523-75-8.
  • Heidler, David S., and Heidler, Jeanne T., "Darius Nash Couch," Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History, Heidler, David S., and Heidler, Jeanne T., eds., W. W. Norton & Company, 2000, ISBN 0-393-04758-X.


External links


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