ewferal /Raald Slidell lackenzie
Jladian litiig Cavalry maH
EDWARD S. WALLACE
ON the morning of January 2o, 1889, the New York Sun-
day Times carried an account of the Yale Junior Prom-
enade with the names of all the young women who had
attended that festivity. On other pages were discussions of the
prospects of the Harvard and Cornell crews for the coming row-
ing season and lists of the candidates reporting for practice. The
balance of the paper bore foreign and domestic news of no
startling importance. Tucked away in the back pages, a brief
notice in the obituary column read:
[Died] Mackenzie--At New Brighton, Staten Island, on the 19th
January. Brig.-Gen. Ranald Slidell Mackenzie, United States Army, in
the 48th year of his age.
This was all the attention given to the death of a man whom
U. S. Grant had once called "the most promising young officer
in the Army," an officer who during the Civil War had received
seven brevets1 for gallantry in action and six severe wounds and
who, before his twenty-fifth birthday, had risen to the rank of
major general of volunteers and commanded one of General
Philip Sheridan's cavalry corps. Later, Mackenzie, with the possi-
ble exception of General George Crook, became the most success-
ful of Indian fighters on the western frontier, winning every en-
gagement he was in by his offensive tactics and surprise attacks.
After George Custer's tragic defeat at the Little Big Horn River
in 1876, Mackenzie was sent against the victorious Cheyenne
and in one fight gave that formidable tribe a thorough thrashing
which soon led to its surrender. His career was one of the most
brilliant in the United States Army, but his death was eclipsed
by the girls at the Yale Prom and the candidates for the Harvard
crew. The times were out of joint-not the man.
It is difficult to write about a man whose relatives were
1A brevet was a sort of figurative but not literal promotion which often caused
confusion. It was abolished before World War I.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 56, July 1952 - April, 1953. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101145/. Accessed July 5, 2015.