George H. Sharpe

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George Henry Sharpe
George H. Sharpe.jpg
George Henry Sharpe
Member of the Board of General Appraisers
In office
November 16, 1890 – March 1, 1899
Appointed byBenjamin Harrison
Preceded byBoard created
Succeeded byWilliam Barberie Howell
Personal details
Born(1828-02-26)February 26, 1828
Kingston, New York
DiedJanuary 13, 1900(1900-01-13) (aged 71)
Manhattan, New York City
Political partyRepublican
Alma materYale College
Rutgers College

George Henry Sharpe (February 26, 1828 – January 13, 1900) was an American lawyer, soldier, secret service officer, diplomat, politician and a Member of the Board of General Appraisers.[1]

Early life[edit]

Sharpe was born in Kingston, Ulster County, New York. He graduated from Rutgers in 1847, then studied law at Yale College. He was admitted to the bar in 1849 and practiced law at the firm of Bidwell & Strong (now known as Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft).[2] Then he traveled to Europe and served 1851-52 as Secretary of Legation at Vienna. After his return in 1854, he practiced law until he joined the Union Army in 1861 as captain of Company B of the 20th New York State Militia (known as the "Ulster Guard") for three-months service.[3][4]

Civil War[edit]

Sharpe and John C. Babcock

Sharpe was appointed colonel of volunteers of the 120th New York Infantry in 1862, and took part in all the battles of the Army of the Potomac. He served on the staffs of Generals Joseph Hooker, George G. Meade, and Ulysses S. Grant, and was appointed brevet brigadier general of volunteers in 1864 and brevet major general of volunteers in 1865.

In January 1863, Sharpe assumed the intelligence role for Hooker that Allan Pinkerton had performed for McClellan. His estimates of enemy troop strength proved to be far more accurate than those of his predecessor.

In April 1865, as head of the Bureau of Military Information and assistant provost marshal, he paroled 28,000 Confederate Army soldiers, among them General Robert E. Lee, after the surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House.

Postbellum career[edit]

In 1867, on request of William H. Seward, Sharpe became a special agent of the U.S. State Department and went to Europe to locate and investigate Americans who might have been involved in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Seward was particularly interested in finding John Surratt, whose mother Mary Surratt had been hanged as one of the assassination conspirators. Surratt was brought back to the United States and put on trial in a civilian court. The trial ended with a hung jury, and Surratt was soon set free, never to be tried again.

On May 5, 1869 he was elected as a veteran companion of the New York Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.

From 1870 to 1873, he was United States Marshal for the Southern District of New York, and took the census that demonstrated the great election frauds of 1868 in New York City, which led to the enforcement of the federal election laws for the first time in 1871, and helped to smash the Tweed Ring.

In 1873 he was appointed Surveyor of the Port of New York. In 1877, President Rutherford Hayes asked the Collector of Customs Chester A. Arthur and his principal subordinates, Surveyor Sharpe and Naval Officer Alonzo B. Cornell to resign, which they refused to do. They were removed from office the next year.

Afterward he became head of the commission appointed to promote the commercial relations between the United States and Central/South American countries with the rank of Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary. He resigned after the inauguration of President Grover Cleveland in 1885.

He was a member of the New York State Assembly (Ulster Co., 1st D.) in 1879, 1880, 1881 and 1882; and was Speaker in 1880 and 1881.

Federal Judicial Service[edit]

On July 2, 1890, President Harrison nominated Sharpe to serve as a Member of the newly created Board of General Appraisers. He was confirmed by the Senate on July 16, 1890, and received his commission on November 16, 1890. He served on the board until his resignation on March 1, 1899 and was succeeded on the board by Judge William Barberie Howell.[5]

Personal life and death[edit]

Sharpe was married to Caroline Hasbrouck, daughter of Abraham Bruyn Hasbrouck, and their children were Severyn Bruyn Sharpe, a county judge, Henry G. Sharpe, a U.S. Army officer, and Katherine Lawrence Sharpe who married Ira Davenport. He died while visiting the Davenport's residence at 31 East 39th Street in Manhattan, New York City.[1] He was buried at Wiltwyck Cemetery in Kingston, New York.


  1. ^ a b "Gen. G. H. Sharpe Dead. Long Distinguished, Both In Military And Civil Life. A Favorite Of Gen. Grant. Perilous Work as a Federal Official When The Tweed Ring Flourished In New York". New York Times. January 15, 1900.
  2. ^ The Nominees for Surveyor of the Port and United States Marshal, The New York Times, March 15, 1873.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Rutgers in the Civil War," Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries Vol. 66 (2014), page 106
  5. ^ "Biographical Directory of Federal Judges". Retrieved 2018-01-18.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas G. Alvord
Speaker of the New York State Assembly
1880 - 1881
Succeeded by
Charles E. Patterson