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Remembering General Slocum, the man

Henry Warner Slocum. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On September 24, 1827, Union General Henry Slocum was born.  Though the namesake of the steamship fire that became one of the largest losses of life in NYC history (second only to 9/11), General Slocum the man was also an important figure in his own right, having served prominent in the Civil War, and served as a congressman from New York.

Henry Warner Slocum, Sr. was born in Delphi, NY and attended the State Normal School in Albany and the Cazenovia Seminary in Madison County. At the age of 16, he received a Public School Teacher’s Certificate from the County Superintendent of Schools, and worked occasionally as a teacher for the next five years.  In 1848 he enrolled in West Point and graduated 7th in his class.

During the American Civil War, Slocum was initially appointed as a Colonel.  But after his performance in the Battle of First Bull Run and the Seven Days Battles, he was promoted to Major General.  General Slocum also fought in other major battles of the war, such as Gettysburg and General Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Equestrian statue of Slocum by Frederick William MacMonnies in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

After the war, General Slocum was prominent in New York politics, having moved with his family to the borough of Brooklyn.  He was involved in many civic endeavors, from surface transportation to advocating early on for the Brooklyn Bridge (his name is prominent on a bronze tablet that is located on one of the bridge’s towers).  Slocum died of liver disease in Brooklyn, New York, on April 14, 1894. He was interred at Green-Wood Cemetery.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

While the steamship General Slocum is remembered as a terrible tragedy in the history of the city and Kleindeutschland neighborhood of the East Village, General Slocum the man was an upstanding individual with a strong sense of national and civic duty.  A former member of his staff wrote of him, in memoriam:

“In all the sterling qualities that go to make up a man, I have seldom met the equal or superior of Major General Henry W. Slocum. Firm and resolute of purpose, yet with so much modesty, so little of self-assertion; so faithful in the performance of whatever he believed to be his duty; so independent in his speech and conduct, whatever might be the future result.”

The General Slocum (image courtesy Gare Maritime)

To read more about the tragedy that bears his name, feel free to check out more of our blog posts on the subject here.

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