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Born at Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, June 11, 1822, he entered West Point at age 20 and graduated in the class of 1846.
During the Mexican War, he served as a Lieutenant of Dragoons and was captured and held for eight days as a prisoner of war while making a reconnaissance near Buena Vista, Mexico. After the war, he served in the West, was promoted to First Lieutenant and Captain, took part in a number of Indian campaigns.
At the outbreak of the Civil War he was in command of Fort Smith, Arkansas, with part of his regiment, the 1st U.S. Cavalry. Many of his fellow officers defected to the South; however, he refused to surrender and managed to march his remaining troops with much of their government property to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was promoted to Major and at Wilson's Creek in August he succeeded to command of the Federal forces after the fall of General Nathaniel Lyon. The following March he was appointed Brigadier General of Volunteers to rank from August 10, 1861, the day of the battle. After a tour of duty in the Washington defenses, he was ordered to the front to support General John Pope's Army of Virginia just prior to the Battle of Second Manassas. While attempting to secure priority for movement of his troops on the railroad, he was told that he must wait his turn as other troops and supplies were going forward to support Pope. His reaction was his now-famous remark, "I don't care for John Pope one pinch of owl dung."
He fought in the Maryland campaign, at Fredericksburg in charge of a IX Corps Division, and Sharpsburg, where Frrero's Brigade of his Division finally carried Burnside's Brigade. He went west with IX Corps in 1863 and later had a number of relatively unimportant commands in Tennessee and Mississippi. He also served as Chief of Cavalry of the Department of the Ohio. In June 1864 he was routed by Nathan Bedford Forrest at the Battle of Brice's Cross Roads, Mississippi, an encounter which terminated his Civil War service.
He was breveted Brigadier General and Major General, U.S. Army, in March 1865 and mustered out of the volunteer service in August. He reverted to his regular rank of Lieutenant Colonel of the 6th U.S. Cavalry. On May 6, 1869 be became Colonel of the 7th U.S. Cavalry and his Lieutenant Colonel Was George Armstrong Custer. He was stationed at a number of Western forts during the two decades that followed the war and for four years he was Governor of the Soldiers Home in Washington. He was retired for age in 1886 and died at St. Paul, Minnesota, September 28, 1889. He was apparently on recruiting duty when Custer and the 7th Cavalry were literally destroyed at the Little Big Horn. One of Sturgis' sons was an officer with the 7th and was killed in that battle.
He is buried among other family members in Section 2 of Arlington National Cemetery
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