Burnside, Ambrose

Burnside, Ambrose (Everett)

(1824–81) soldier; born in Liberty, Ind. Recognized more for his famous sidewhiskers than his generalship, he graduated from West Point (1847), served on the frontier, then resigned from the army to manufacture a breechloading rifle of his own design. He returned to service in 1861, became the second commander of the Army of the Potomac (November 1862), and precipitated the Union disaster at Fredericksburg (December 1862), the most one-sided of the major battles of the Civil War. Relieved in January 1863, Burnside led the small army that took Knoxville, Tenn. (1863), before returning east to command a corps in Meade's army. He left on leave after the failure of his assault in the Battle of the Crater (1864) and was not recalled. Burnside was a postwar governor of Rhode Island and a U.S. senator from that state (1875–81).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.