At the bottom of this page, from the famous Gardner photo of October 1862, are a group of officers of the Army of the Potomac with President Lincoln. It may be one of the most recognizable images of Antietam.

Prominent among these men by his size and attitude–if not location, at far left–is Colonel Delos B. Sackett, McClellan’s Inspector General. Due to that prominence, if for no other reason, it’s long past time I looked into him.

D.B. Sackettclick to see larger image
Delos Bennett Sackett (1822-1885)

Here he is, nearly as large as life, in Colonel’s blues.

Sackett was a career Army officer of lengthy service, ultimately achieving the rank of Brigadier General and Inspector General of the US Army in 1881. He died in that office in 1885 after 45 years in service…

He’d entered the US Military Academy at West Point in 1840 and graduated in 1845. He finished 32nd in his class of 41, though it took him five years where most of his classmates did it in four. He ranked ahead of later more famous names Bernard Bee (33rd, KIA Bull Run; ask Harry), and Gordon Granger, but below later AoP luminaries John Hatch, Fitz Porter, and Charles Stone. A year behind him in the storied Class of ’46 was George McClellan.

From West Point he was commissioned into the 2nd US Dragoons and served in the occupation of Texas until Spring of 1846 when, like McClellan and most of his classmates, Sackett saw action in Mexico. He was honored by brevet for his Gallant and Meritorious Conduct in action there in May, appointed 2nd Lieutenant, 1st Dragoons in June, and was in action at Monterey in September.

During 1847 and ’48 he was on the frontier–country now Oklahoma and Texas–where he met his first wife …

… the daughter of Richard Fields, a Cherokee citizen of Alabama… an army officer who visited in the home of Mr. Fields in Indian Territory after his daughters had returned from school relates that one of them was very fair and a beauty while both were vivacious.

The Fields family had the reputation of being the handsomest and laziest family in the nation, the laziness being attributed to the fact that they were great book lovers and indulged this taste in preference to manual labor. Amanda Fields, like many other Cherokee girls was sought after by young army officers stationed at Fort Gibson

Died on the 8th.,(Little Rock) Mrs. Amanda Sackett, wife of Lt. D. B. Sackett of the 1st. Dragoons . . . her little girl was only one with her . . . her husband at far off post. (Arkansas Gazette), August 9, 1849.)

In 1848 and 49 he was stationed in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Denizens of Las Cruces proudly share the legend of their founding:

More than 150 years ago, United States Army Lt. Delos Bennett Sackett, using rawhide rope and stakes, plotted out 84 city blocks to form what is known today as Las Cruces, NM. Sackett came to the Mesilla Valley from Fort Gibson, Okla.

During the summer of 1848, with the First Dragoon of Company H [sic]., his mission, along with the 87 other soldiers, was to protect small communities from Apache raids. These communities included El Paso (or Paso del Norte) and Do?ɬa Ana, a small village headed by alcalde Don Pablo Melendres.

By 1848, the Mexican War with the United States had ended with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. That treaty, among other things, converted Do?ɬa Ana from Mexican to United States territory. Many settlers headed for the area, trying to claim rights to the undeeded land just acquired by the treaty. In an attempt to maintain order in Do?ɬa Ana, Don Pablo Melendres sought relief from the US Army to help in surveying and platting out a new town site. Using rugged equipment, Las Cruces, at least in concept, was born.

In 1850 Sackett returned East to recruiting duty, then was assigned the post of assistant instructor in cavalry tactics at West Point, where he taught into 1855. He was promoted Captain in the new First US Cavalry while stationed at the Academy. He was in Kansas 1855-56 “removing intruders from Indian lands”, but back in Washington DC into 1857 as a member of the board revising Army Regulations.

In 1856 he re-married. His new bride Frances Ann Williams (1834-1899) of New York City, was a woman from rather nearer his hometown of Cape Vincent, New York. They had four sons and a daughter between 1858 and 1872. Firstborn Maynard (1858-63) and second son Delos Bennett, Jr (1861-62) both died as small children during the War. Their following sons Francis (1867) and Cornelius (1870) and daughter Eliza (1872) all survived to marry and have families of their own.

From 1857 through the outbreak of the Civil War, Captain Sackett saw a variety of assignments in the West including inspecting horses at Cincinnati, Ohio (1857), ‘quelling disturbances’ out of Fort Riley, Kansas (1857-58), serving on the Utah (Mormon) and Cheyenne Expeditions (1857), duty at Fort Smith, Arkansas (1858-59), a respite on leave in Europe (1859-60), and , finally, a stint at Fort Arbuckle, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma, 1860-61).

In January 1861 he was promoted Major of his regiment. In May he marched with his unit from Ft Arbuckle to Ft Leavenworth, by which time he had been appointed Lieutenant Colonel, 2nd US Cavalry. He was acting Inspector General at Washington, and mustering officer at New York through the remainder of 1861.

In December 1861 he was appointed Colonel and Inspector General of the Army of the Potomac. He served as such until January 1863, following the battle of Fredericksburg.

Harrison's Landing, Va. Col. Albert V. Colburn, Col. Delos B. Sacket, and Gen. John Sedgwickclick to see larger image
Harrison’s Landing, Va. Col. Albert V. Colburn, Col. Delos B. Sacket, and Gen. John Sedgwick (DB Woodbury, August 1862, Library of Congress)

With the AoP, he was at Headquarters, Washington to March of 1862 and from there into the field with General George McClellan on the Peninsula and Maryland Campaigns. He remained with the AoP after McClellan was relieved in November, and was at Frederickburg on General Ambrose Burnside’s staff.

For the duration of the War, however, Colonel Sackett saw no further active combat duty. He was on various boards and commissions in Washington, DC through Spring 1864, then on Inspection duty in the Departments of Tennessee, the Cumberland, Arkansas, and New Mexico to August 1865.

Those more knowledgeable about Sackett and his politics can probably enlighten us, but this period looks like virtual retirement for an officer of Sackett’s experience. Presumably his close association with George McClellan was a factor.

After the War he was idle at New York City awaiting orders until April 1866. He then continued his Regular Army career in successively larger and more senior administrative posts as Inspector General across the nation.

D.B. Sackett
Brigadier General DB Sackett, IG USA

When his longtime predecessor, Randolph B. Marcy retired in 1881 after 12 years in the position, Sackett was appointed Brigadier General and Inspector-General of the US Army. He died in Washington DC at age 63, still wearing his country’s uniform.
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Notes

His military career is well documented in Cullum’s Biographical Register (online at the USMA). Sackett’s Cullum Number is 1262.

There is a recent discussion online about the identification of a group of Cherokee Confederates photographed in Washington DC in 1866. Among them may be Richard Fields, father of Delos’ first wife Amanda. The Fields family Cherokee connection is quoted from a piece called A Cherokee Pioneer, by Carolyn Thomas Foreman, in Chronicles of Oklahoma (the journal of the Oklahoma Historical Society), Volume 7, Number 4 (December 1929).

See also some lovely epemera about the Utah Expedition upon which I chanced chasing Sackett.

Information about his second wife and subsequent children from Simon Sackett’s Ancestors & Decendents, a family genealogy page.

The top photo of Sackett, probably War era, is from the Library of Congress (Call # LC-B813- 1387 A[P&P]), as is the photo of him on the Peninsula in 1862 (LC-B815- 653[P&P]).

For more fun: Colburn (Cullum #1693, ’55, LtCol & AADC to McClellan at Antietam), Sedgwick, and Sackett were closely associated at War’s start and before (see one of Don’s unit history posts, for example).

The fuzzy image of Sackett late in his Army career is from the US Army Military History Institute (RG98S-CWP 70.69), found online at Theodore C. Smith’s Sackett Family Album; original obtained from USAMHI by Daniel Sackett.

“Sackett” is found in some records, including Cullum, with only one “t”. I chose the spelling I did in conformance with the family tradition and more common usage. I’m not certain which he would have found correct.

4 Responses to “Delos B Sackett, Inspector General, USA”

  1. Eric Wittenberg says:

    Brian,

    During the period from 1861-May 1862, Sackett worked very closely with Major John Buford, West Point Class of 1848, and a commissioned officer in the 2nd Dragoons. Buford was assigned to the IG’s office when the 2nd Dragoons came east and were re-designated as the 2nd U. S. Cavalry. Buford was specifically assigned to the IG’s office because it was generally acknowledged that there were few, if any, other officers in the Army more knowledgeable or more intimately familiar with good horseflesh. His grandfather and great uncle had pretty much started the thoroughbred horse racing industry in Kentucky, and it was well known throughout the Army that John Buford was THE guy on cavalry horses.

    The duty was indispensable, but Buford was bored to death in it. However, it does appear that he enjoyed Sackett’s company, as two old horse cavalrymen would. Sackett also served with John Buford’s first cousin, Capt. Abraham Buford, who was a member of the West Point Class of 1841, and who would have served with Sackett in the 1st Dragoons. Abe Buford was known as a “hell roarer”, and was quite the character. He undoubtedly left an indelible mark on Sackett’s memory, as he did with most who met him. He was over six feet tall, and weighed about 250 pounds, huge for the day, and enormous for a cavalryman.

    Eric

  2. Brian says:

    Thanks very much for the further illumination, Eric.

    From his photos, I’d say Sackett was large for a cavalryman as well …

  3. Don says:

    The link might go back even farther. Buford and Sackett were both in the 1st dragoons at the same time in 1848. Buford was a brevet secnd lieutenant who transferred to the 2nd Dragoons the next year, and Sackett was a lieutenant. Sackett was in Company H, I can’t recall which one Buford was in.

    They were also both on the Utah Expedition, which brought Buford a good deal of recognition for his efforts as the logistician who engineered the regiment’s winter march to Utah with little notice and fewer supplies.

    I hadn’t made the connection until you two made these comments. While he was teaching cavalry tactics at West Point he influenced several interesting future cavalry leaders, but I’ll post on that tomorrow. 8^)

  4. Kevin Kieff says:

    My family’s connection to General Sacket dates back to the 1870s when the General engaged my Swedish immigrant Gr-grandfather, Fredrick Johnson, to leave his employment in the Hudson Valley and come to Cape Vincent to oversee the construction of the General’s mansion. As estate manager and head gardner, my gr-grandfather stayed in the service of the family for 52 years. Our family still resides in the 1888 house built for my gr-grandparents by the General’s widow Frances Williams Sacket.
    The family, certainly here in Cape Vincent, always used the spelling with one “t” Sacket. The General, his wife, his daughters by his first and second marriages are all buried behind the Episcopal Church on Market Street in Cape Vincent. All with the “Sacket” spelling. His sons and wives are buried in Riverside Cemetery, Cape Vincent. Neither of the sons had children.
    Eliza Ross Sacket deValin, the General’s daughter, had one child, a daughter, Frances deValin Haigh, who had one daughter, Susan (the General’s gr-grandaughter).
    Mrs. Haigh sold the family mansion in 1951 and the Sacket family’s presence in Cape Vincent ended.
    There are reports of Generals Sherman and Sheridan visiting General Sacket in Cape Vincent.
    The family played a prominent role in the civic affairs of our village for over 125 years.
    Thank you for the research included here as it provided me with much new information on the General’s first marriage.

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