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Upton, Emory

Upton, Emory (1838–1881), Civil War general, military educator and reformer. Emory Upton, born in Batavia, New York, graduated eighth in the U.S. Military Academy's Class of May 1861. In four years, during the Civil War, he rose from second lieutenant to brevet (temporary) major general. First commanding a Regular Army artillery battery and later serving as divisional chief of artillery, he became colonel of the 121st New York Infantry in October 1862. Upton won special distinction at Spotsylvania on 10 May 1864 when his twelve‐regiment assaulting column successfully pierced the Confederate salient, the deployment offering an alternative to traditional and costly linear tactics; he won promotion to brigadier general two days later. After recovering from a wound suffered in September 1864, Upton actively led a cavalry division at war's end.

After the war, Upton became an articulate advocate of military efficiency and effectiveness. He drew upon his own broad experience to begin substantial revisions of the army's infantry, cavalry, and artillery tactics, an ambitious and contentious effort he continued to supervise while commandant of cadets at West Point (1870–75). The protégé of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, he went on a multinational tour of military establishments and published his observations in The Armies of Asia and Europe (1878), in part to suggest ways in which organizational and personnel reforms might create a more professional U.S. army.

As superintendent of the Artillery School at Fort Monroe (1877–80), Upton introduced combined arms training and theory‐based case studies to add intellectual rigor to its limited practical curriculum. His institution became the model for advanced officer education throughout the army. Years after Upton committed suicide in March 1881 (the reasons for which remain uncertain) the reformist secretary of war Elihu Root published Upton's most enduring work, The Military Policy of the United States (1904), a treatise that challenged contemporary notions of the “minuteman tradition,” arguing instead for a professional army, headed by a General Staff, to be the proper foundation for national defense.
[See also Academies, Service; Army Combat Branches; Militia and National Guard.]


Peter S. Michie , The Life and Letters of Emory Upton, 1885.
Stephen E. Ambrose , Upton and the Army, 1964.

Carol Reardon

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