Biographical Sketches

Maj. James Brewerton Ricketts

Bookmark and Share


James Brewerton Ricketts (June 21, 1817 September 22, 1887), served as a Union General in the Eastern Theater.

Ricketts was born in New York City. He graduated 16th in a class of 31 at the United States Military Academy in 1839 and was assigned to the 1st U.S. Artillery. Ricketts was married twice, first with Harriet Pierce, in 1840, daughter of Benjamin Kendrick Pierce (brother of future U.S. President Franklin Pierce) and Josette Laframboise. After Harriet's early death in 1854, he married Frances "Fannie" Lawrence. He served during the Canada border disturbances on garrison duty and then was promoted to first lieutenant in April 1846. Ricketts saw considerable action during the Mexican-American War, participating in the Battle of Monterrey, and as commander of a gun, along with Abner Doubleday, held the Rinconada Pass during the Battle of Buena Vista. Despite his active service, he received no brevet promotions during the Mexican-American War, unlike many of his fellow officers.

Following his return from Mexico, Ricketts served in various army posts. He was promoted to captain in August 1853 and served in Florida against the Seminole Indians, and subsequently on frontier duty in Texas.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Ricketts served in the defenses of Washington, D.C., and commanded an artillery battery in the capture of Confederate-held Alexandria, Virginia, in early 1861. His battery was then attached to William B. Franklin's Brigade of Samuel Heintzelman's Division. He was shot four times and captured at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, when his battery was overrun by Confederate infantry. For his personal bravery in the face of overwhelming odds, on that same day Ricketts was brevetted as a lieutenant colonel in the Regular Army He was confined as a prisoner of war in Richmond, although his wife Fannie was allowed to travel to Richmond and stay with him as his nurse. On December 18, 1861, he was exchanged for Confederate Colonel Julius A. De Lagnel. Ricketts was not paroled until January 1862, when he was placed on medical leave to recuperate. On April 30, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Ricketts a brigadier general of volunteers to rank from July 21, 1861.[1] The President had nominated Ricketts for the promotion on March 27, 1862, and the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on April 28, 1862.[1]

1. Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3. p. 727
2. Eicher, 2001, p. 714
3. Eicher, 2001, p. 736
4. Eicher, 2001, p. 708
5, Eicher, 2001, p. 702


Featured Books & CD-ROMS