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Harney, William S.

Born: 1800-08-22 Davidson County, Tennessee

Died: 1889-05-09 Orlando, Florida

Harney attended Cumberland College and later joined the U.S. Army, earning a commission as second lieutenant in 1818. He spent most of his career on the frontier and fought in the Black Hawk War. In 1833, he married Mary Mullanphy, with whom he had three children. During the Second Seminole War, Harney distinguished himself as second-in-command of the Second Dragoons. He took command of the unit as a colonel during the Mexican War but angered Winfield Scott when he entered Mexico from Texas without orders. He subsequently led the capture of Cerro Gordo. Harney won promotion to brigadier general in 1858 and assumed command of the Department of Oregon. Again, he became embroiled in controversy for moving troops without orders, as he stationed troops on British-held San Juan Island, and he was removed from command. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln placed Harney in command of the Department of the West, with its base of operations at St. Louis, Missouri. A Unionist, Harney agreed to Confederate General Sterling Price's condition that he would not attack secessionist forces as long as they did not take any offensive action. Lincoln reacted by removing Harney from command and replacing him with John C. Fremont. Harney retired in 1863, and in 1865 he was breveted major general.

Richmond L. Clow, "Harney, William Selby," American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 10:121-22.