“My Will Is Absolute Law”

A Biography of Union General Robert H. Milroy

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About the Book

When the South fired the first shot of the Civil War in April 1861, hundreds of volunteers flocked to answer President Lincoln’s call to arms, anxious to defend their country and uphold the sanctity of the Union. Among these first volunteers was Robert H. Milroy. Determined to obtain a military education and denied his wish to attend West Point, Milroy had at last secured a position to attend Captain Partridge’s Military Academy at Norwich University in Vermont. After graduating, however, he was thwarted time and again in his desire for a military career, quickly discovering that military appointments tended to favor West Point graduates. A fervent abolitionist and dedicated patriot, Milroy craved military action and viewed the Civil War as his long-awaited opportunity to achieve the glorious reputation he so ardently desired.
Compiled from primary sources such as Milroy’s correspondence and the letters of those who knew him, this biography details the life and times of General Robert H. Milroy. Although perhaps not one of the major players on the stage of Civil War drama, Milroy was one of the staunchest defenders not only of the Union but of the Emancipation Proclamation as well. Focusing primarily on Milroy’s Civil War career, this work serves to provide information about lesser known operations in western Virginia during 1861 and 1862 as well as illustrate the bonds that formed between commanders and their men. It also provides a case study of how an abolitionist general enforced his will in various regions throughout the Confederacy. Appendices contain a portion of Milroy’s unfinished autobiography and a list of troops commanded by Milroy in combat.

About the Author(s)

Jonathan A. Noyalas is a history professor at Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown, Virginia and is director of the College’s Center for Civil War History and Institute of Culture and History. He is the author of Plagued by War: Winchester, Virginia, During the Civil War (Gauley, 2003) and lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Bibliographic Details

Jonathan A. Noyalas
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 218
Bibliographic Info: 19 photos, 8 maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2508-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

Introduction      5

1: “Desirous of fame and renown”      7

2: “The Swamp Devils”      18

3: “I fear I shall not like Fremont”      32

4: “West Point Science”      55

5: “To play the tyrant among these traitors”      79

6: “Halleck hates me without cause”      116

7: “Spreading death and fire”      142

8: “The army of eternal peace”      165

Appendix A: “Sketch of the Military Career of R.H. Milroy”      177

Appendix B: Troops Commanded by Milroy in Combat      184

Notes      186

Bibliography      201

Index      209

Book Reviews

“belongs in your library”—The Civil War News; “valuable and well-researched”—America’s Civil War.