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Civil War Streets: General Joseph King Fenno Mansfield

Originally Published on December 26th, 2018.

After one passes Scott Avenue heading north, the next street is Mansfield, named after General Joseph King Fenno Mansfield. He was born on December 22, 1803, in New Haven, Connecticut. He entered West Point when he was only 14 years old, making him one of the youngest people to be admitted to that prestigious school. He graduated second in his class of forty cadets. After he graduated he was assigned to the Corps of Engineers.

By the time of the Mexican War, he held the rank of Major. He was involved in the fighting and was wounded. After the war, he stayed in the army and, just before the Civil War, he was promoted to Colonel and held the position of Inspector General of the army. He thought that he should have been promoted to Commanding General of the Army of the Potomac, but President Lincoln gave that position to General McDowell. It was probably a good thing for his military career that he wasn’t in command of the Army of the Potomac because the first battle that the army fought, they ended up losing. The job was next given to General McCullum.

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Mansfield had no combat command experience so he was transferred to command a battery of artillery in Hampton Rhodes, Virginia. His battery actually traded fire with that first ironclad ship, the CSA Virginia, also known as the Merrimack.

In September of 1862, he had served forty years in the army. In that same month, Confederate Generals Lee and Jackson invaded the north and the two armies collided quite by accident at a town called Sharpsburg, Maryland, along with a creek called Antietam Creek. Mansfield was given command of 12th Corp which consisted of 4 divisions.

This battle was fought in three phases. The first phase started early on the morning of September 17 with the right side of the Army of the Potomac attacking the left side of the Confederate army. He was in the process of bringing up reinforcements when he saw a group of his men firing at who he thought were other union troops. He rode his horse forward and to his surprise, he discovered that the troops that his men were firing at were indeed Confederate troops. Those same troops fired a volley at him and he and his horse were hit. He rode off the field but was helped off his horse severely wounded. The men were quite eager to help him back to the rear to locate a field hospital as the fighting in that part of the field was heavily resulting in hundreds dead or wounded. In fact, this one day battle claimed the lives of more soldiers than all the other battles of the war.

General Joseph Mansfield died the next day. At this time he was 59 years old which made him the oldest general to die in the war. If you have been reading these series of articles regarding Port Huron streets named after Civil war generals you will remember that General Richardson was killed on the same day.


Mark E. Pearson was born and raised in Kansas City, Mo.  In 1970 he moved to Michigan where he met and married the girl of his dreams, Mary Lou Davis, together they have two sons.  He attended Briercrest Bible Institute in Saskatchewan, Canada, and later received his associates degree in business from St. Clair Community College.  He was a bookkeeper and worked in retail sales for 30 years and has spent the last fifteen years as a Jeweler at Coughlin’s Jewelers in St Clair, MI.  He is a voracious reader of history and as a result of being an avid reader he began to write short stories and articles for editorial columns and magazines on current events and comparing and relating past events to current happenings.  

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