Harney, William Selby

Harney, William Selby,

1800–1889, American general, b. Haysboro, near Nashville, Tenn. He entered the army in 1818 and gained a colonel's rank in the Florida campaigns against Native Americans. Ranking cavalry officer under Winfield Scott in the Mexican War, Harney was disliked by that general, who arbitrarily relieved him of his command and had him court-martialed for resuming it in defiance of orders. Harney apologized, but at the same time appealed to superiors in Washington, who supported him. Restored to his position, he performed brilliantly at Cerro GordoCerro Gordo
, mountain pass, E Mexico, on the road between Veracruz and Xalapa, site of a decisive battle (Apr. 17–18, 1847) of the Mexican War. General Santa Anna, having established himself firmly at and behind the pass, attempted to halt the advance of Gen.
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 (1847). In the Platte country after the war, Harney defeated the Sioux. As commander of the Dept. of Oregon, he ordered (1859) the occupation of San Juan Island, which the British claimed; the San Juan Boundary DisputeSan Juan Boundary Dispute,
controversy between the United States and Great Britain over the U.S.–British Columbia boundary. It is sometimes called the Northwest Boundary Dispute.
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 was thus brought to a crisis. For this action he was recalled. At the opening of the Civil War, Harney commanded the Dept. of the West, with headquarters in St. Louis. He agreed with Gen. Sterling PricePrice, Sterling,
1809–67, Confederate general in the American Civil War, b. Prince Edward co., Va. After moving to Missouri, he practiced law and entered politics. He served in Congress (1844–46), resigning to lead a Missouri regiment in the Mexican War.
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 of the pro-secessionist Missouri militia to make no hostile move if the militia kept the peace. The radical Unionists, irked at his conciliatory policy, had him deprived of his command in May, 1861. He was retired in 1863.


See biography by L. U. Reavis (1878).

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