Wesley Merritt – another Boy General
George Armstrong Custer wasn’t the only “Boy General” to emerge from the Civil War. Cavalryman Wesley Merritt, an 1860 graduate of West Point, was promoted to Major General at the age of 29.
Merritt was born on June 16, 1834. He graduated 22nd in his class at West Point, and immediately entered service as a 2nd Lieutenant. After serving on frontier duty in Utah, he was sent to Washington, D.C., in the early days of the Civil War.
A dashing cavalryman, Merritt commanded a Cavalry Corps at Gettysburg, took part in the raids on Richmond, and by the time of Lee’s surrender was second in command to General Sheridan. During the War, Merritt was praised for “gallant and meritorious service” at the Battle of Brandy Station.
After the war, Merritt served as superintendent of West Point (as had Robert E. Lee before him), and commanded the first Philippine Expedition of 1898. He retired from the army in 1900, and died in 1910. Eben Swift of the Eighth U.S. Cavalry wrote “Merritt at his high prime was the embodiment of force. He was one of those rare men whose faculties are sharpened and whose view is cleared on the battlefield”