Régis de Trobriand
|Philippe Régis Denis de Keredern de Trobriand|
Maj. Gen. Régis de Trobriand.
June 4, 1816|
near Tours, France
|Died||July 15, 1897
Bayport, New York
|Place of burial||St. Anne's Cemetery
Sayville, New York
|Allegiance|| United States of America
|Service/branch|| United States Army
|Years of service||1861–1879|
|Rank||Brevet Major General|
|Commands held|| 55th New York Infantry
38th New York Infantry
Philippe Régis Denis de Keredern de Trobriand (June 4, 1816 – July 15, 1897) was a French aristocrat, lawyer, poet, and novelist who emigrated at a young age to the United States. During the American Civil War he was a general in the Union Army.
Trobriand was born at Chateau des Rochettes, near Tours, France, the son of a baron who had been a general in Napoleon Bonaparte's army. In his youth he studied law and wrote poetry and prose, publishing his first novel in 1840. He was an expert swordsman who fought a number of duels. In 1841, to answer a dare, he emigrated to the United States at the age of 25 and immediately became popular as a bon vivant with the social elite of New York City. He married an heiress named Mary Jones, and although the wedding was in Paris and they lived in Venice for a time, socializing with the local nobility, they returned to the United States and took up permanent residence in New York. In the 1850s he earned a living writing and editing for French language publications. He was the publisher of Revue du Nouveau Monde and the editor of Le Courrier des Etats-Unis.
After the Civil War broke out, Trobriand became a naturalized citizen of the United States and on August 28, 1861, he was given command of the 55th New York Infantry, the predominantly French-immigrant regiment known as the Gardes Lafayette. He and his regiment were attached to Peck's Brigade of Couch's Division, Keyes's IV Corps of the Army of the Potomac in September 1861 and took part in the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, seeing first combat on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Williamsburg. Soon after, he was debilitated with a malady diagnosed as "swamp fever", missed the remainder of the campaign, and was unable to return to duty until July. His regiment's next engagement, part of the brigade of Brig. Gen. J. H. Hobart Ward, III Corps of the Army of the Potomac, was at the Battle of Fredericksburg, but they were held in reserve and escaped the terrible bloodshed of the Union defeat.
In December 1862 the 55th and 38th New York were merged and Trobriand became the colonel of the now-named 38th. He led his new regiment at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, but was not heavily engaged. After the III Corps was reorganized following its severe casualties at Chancellorsville, Trobriand was given command of a new brigade.
Trobriand's military career is best known for the Battle of Gettysburg, where he first saw significant action. He arrived on the second day of battle, July 2, 1863, and took up positions in the area known as the Wheatfield. His brigade put up a spirited defense against powerful assaults by Confederate Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood's division, particularly a Georgia brigade under Brig. Gen. George T. Anderson and a South Carolina brigade under Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw. They were able to successfully hold out until relieved by units of Maj. Gen. John C. Caldwell's division of the II Corps, but it came at a terrible price—every third man in Trobriand's brigade was a casualty. After the battle, his division commander, Maj. Gen. David B. Birney, wrote:
Colonel de Trobriand deserves my heartiest thanks for his skillful disposition of his command by gallantly holding his advanced position until relieved by other troops. This officer is one of the oldest in commission as colonel in the volunteer service [and] has been distinguished in nearly every engagement of the Army of the Potomac, and certainly deserves the rank of brigadier-general of volunteers, to which he has been recommended.
— David B. Birney, Report on Battle of Gettysburg
Despite the recommendation and his excellent performance at Gettysburg, Col. Trobriand would not receive his promotion to brigadier general until his appointment to that grade by President Abraham Lincoln on April 10, 1864, to rank from January 5, 1864, after the U.S. Senate had confirmed the appointment on April 7, 1864. He finally assumed command of a brigade to match his rank when Brig. Gen. J. H. Hobart Ward was dismissed from the Army for intoxication. Late in the war, he occasionally led a division during the Petersburg Campaign and the Appomattox Campaign, especially when Gershom Mott was wounded in the latter campaign. On January 13, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated de Tobriand for the brevet grade of major general to rank from April 9, 1865 and the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination on March 12, 1866. De Trobriand was mustered out of the volunteer service on January 15, 1866. On December 3, 1867 President Johnson nominated him for the brevet grade of brigadier general in the regular army, to rank from March 2, 1867 and the U.S. Senate confirmed the award on February 14, 1868.
After the war, Trobriand continued to serve with the Army. He served as the commander of Fort Stevenson in Dakota Territory from 1867 to 1870, and then as part of the occupation forces in the South, particularly New Orleans, during Reconstruction. He resided in New Orleans from 1875, but did not retire from the Army until March 20, 1879.
During his retirement he wrote a number of books including Quatre ans de campagnes à l'Armée du Potomac, published in 1867 (English translation, Four Years with the Army of the Potomac, 1889), Vie militaire dans le Dakota, notes et souvenirs (1867–1869) (published posthumously in 1926, with its English translation, Army Life in Dakota), and Our Noble Blood (posthumous, 1997). He spent his summers with his daughter on Long Island.
- Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
- Tagg, Larry. The Generals of Gettysburg. Campbell, CA: Savas Publishing, 1998. ISBN 1-882810-30-9.
- Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964. ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.