Charles Henry Tompkins

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Charles Henry Tompkins
Charles Henry Tompkins.jpg
Charles Henry Tompkins
Born(1830-09-12)September 12, 1830
Fort Monroe, Virginia
DiedJanuary 18, 1915(1915-01-18) (aged 84)
Washington, D.C.
Place of burial
Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Army
Union Army
Years of service1856-1861
RankUnion Army colonel rank insignia.png Colonel
Union Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Brevet Brigadier General
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War
AwardsMedal of Honor

Charles Henry Tompkins[1] (September 12, 1830 – January 18, 1915) was a Union Army colonel, who received an appointment to the brevet grade of Brigadier General of volunteers during the American Civil War. He was a recipient of the Medal of Honor for valor in action on June 1, 1861 in the Battle of Fairfax Court House (June 1861). This was the first action in the Civil War for which a Union Army officer would receive the Medal of Honor, although it was not awarded until 1893.[2][3] He is not to be confused with another Union officer, Brevet Brigadier General Charles H. Tompkins (d. 1895) who commanded the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery Regiment.[4]

Early life and career[edit]

Tompkins was born in Fort Monroe, Virginia on September 12, 1830.[4] He was the son of Colonel Daniel D. Tompkins, a career Army officer, and was the grand nephew of Vice President Daniel D. Tompkins.

He received an appointment to West Point from Brooklyn, New York as a member of the class of 1851, though he did not graduate with his class. He resigned in 1849 for unspecified reasons.[5][6] Tompkins pursued private business interests until enlisting as a Private in the First Dragoons in January 1856, rising to the rank of sergeant before his enlistment ended in January 1861. He served on the western frontier and was recognized for his performance at the Second Battle of Pyramid Lake near Pyramid Lake, Nevada in June 1860.[5]

Tompkins received his commission as a 2nd lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry Regiment in March 1861. It was in this unit that he gained fame for his heroism in action at the Battle of Fairfax Court House (June 1861) while a 1st lieutenant, to which he was promoted on April 30, 1861.

Tompkins was reassigned to the 5th U.S. Cavalry Regiment on August 3, 1861 and served as the regimental quartermaster. On April 24, 1862 he received a volunteer commission as colonel of the 1st Vermont Cavalry. He resigned his volunteer commission on September 9, 1862.

During the war, he received brevets (honorary promotions) to major, lieutenant colonel, colonel and brigadier general.

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

"Twice charged through the enemy's lines and, taking a carbine from an enlisted man, shot the enemy's captain." Captain John Quincy Marr was the first Confederate soldier killed in combat during the Civil War.


Tompkins was appointed as one of the nine officers assigned to the military commission investigating the conspirators involved in President Lincoln's assassination. Because of a dispute with General Grant, between 1866 and 1881 he was posted to numerous remote and austere western posts.[5]

He served the remainder of his career in the Quartermaster Corps, rising to Assistant Quartermaster General on January 24, 1881. The position of Assistant Quartermaster General, carried a rank of colonel in the Regular Army, to which Tompkins was promoted the same day. He finished his career serving on the east coast, voluntarily retiring on September 12, 1894.[5]

Tompkins suffered a broken leg in September 1914 and the wound never healed properly.[5] He died of sepsis in Washington, D.C. on January 18, 1915. He is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, DC.[2][7]

Personal life[edit]

Tompkins married Ms. Augusta Root Hobbie of New York on December 17, 1862 . They had seven children, four of whom reached adulthood. His eldest son, Selah Reeve Hobbie (“Tommy”) Tompkins, was an Army officer who became Colonel of the 7th Cavalry Regiment. His second son, Colonel Frank Tompkins, also served as a career army officer including notable participation as a major in the 13th Cavalry in both the raid on Columbus, New Mexico by Pancho Villa and the Punitive Expedition that followed for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.[5]

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army Center of Military History.
  1. ^ A second Union Army officer named Charles Henry Tompkins (May 15, 1834 – August 9, 1895), Colonel and Chief of Artillery of the 6th Corps, Army of the Potomac, also was awarded the grade of Brevet Brigadier General for meritorious services in the American Civil War. Hunt, Roger D. and Jack R. Brown, Brevet Brigadier Generals in Blue. Gaithersburg, MD: Olde Soldier Books, Inc., 1990. ISBN 1-56013-002-4. p. 620.
  2. ^ a b "Charles Henry Tompkins". Archived from the original on 2016-11-04. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  3. ^ "Medal of Honor recipients Civil War (M-Z)". United States Army Center of Military History. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  4. ^ a b Eicher, John H.; Eicher, David J. (2001), Civil War High Commands, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, ISBN 978-0-8047-3641-1
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Fiddler's Green: Charles H. Tompkins". Crossed Sabres. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
  6. ^ C. Douglas Sterner. "West Point Medal of Honor recipients". Archived from the original on 2006-11-11. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
  7. ^ "Charles Henry Tompkins". Claim to Fame: Medal of Honor recipients. Find a Grave. Retrieved 2009-04-05.