Part of the Cool Civil War Names series.
Saxton was, in the argot of youth, the bomb diggity. A Massachusetts native, his father was a transcendentalist, feminist, and abolitionist, which helped form Rufus’ anti-slavery sentiments from a young age. He graduated from West Point eighteenth in this class, then spent the rest of his antebellum days fighting the Seminoles in Florida, teaching at West Point, and surveying the Rocky Mountains for the Northern Pacific Railroad with none other than Mr. It’s-Everyone-Else’s-Fault, George McClellan.
And then, as the future Great Emancipator said, the war came. Saxton joined up with McClellan’s staff until partaking in what would become a pivotal moment in his career: leading a defense as brigadier general at Harper’s Ferry to push back Stonewall Jackson’s Shenandoah campaign. Saxton would receive the Medal of Honor for his work there, specifically for “distinguished gallantry and good conduct in the defense.”
But he didn’t stop there. Tasked with raising the first regiment of liberated slaves, Saxton put together the 1st South Carolina Colored Volunteers and helped organize the post-Emancipation recruitment of black soldiers. He continued along this line of work until the war ended, after which he gradually moved up the ranks before retiring to Massachusetts a colonel and all-around cool guy.
Up next in CCWN, the je ne sais quoi JUBAL EARLY.