Kearny, Stephen Watts

Kearny, Stephen Watts

(kär`nē), 1794–1848, American general in the Mexican War, b. Newark, N.J. At the beginning of the Mexican War he was made commander of the Army of the West with the rank (June, 1846) of brigadier general. With about 1,600 men he marched over the Santa Fe Trail to New Mexico, entered the city of Santa Fe without opposition, and organized a civil government for the territory. On his way to join the forces of Commodore Robert F. StocktonStockton, Robert Field,
1795–1866, American naval officer, b. Princeton, N.J. He left the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) to enter the U.S. Navy at 16 and served in the War of 1812 and in the subsequent campaigns against the Barbary pirates.
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 in California he was besieged at San Pasqual, where he was wounded and suffered casualties of a third of his command before being rescued by relief forces from Stockton. After several skirmishes the combined forces reached Los Angeles and occupied the town. A dispute arose between Kearny and Stockton as to the chief command, and Col. John C. FrémontFrémont, John Charles,
1813–90, American explorer, soldier, and political leader, b. Savannah, Ga. He taught mathematics to U.S. naval cadets, then became an assistant on a surveying expedition (1838–39) between the upper Mississippi River and the Missouri.
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, appointed civil governor of California by Stockton, refused to obey Kearny's orders. When orders from Washington sustained Kearny, he had Frémont court-martialed. Kearny was military governor of the territory until the end of May, 1847. Afterward he went to Mexico, where he was governor of Veracruz and then of Mexico City for brief periods in 1848. Fort Kearney, erected in 1848 on the Platte River in what is now Nebraska, was named for Kearny but misspelled.

Bibliography

See biography by D. L. Clarke (1961).

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Kearny, Stephen Watts

(1794–1848) soldier; born in Newark, N.J. The youngest of 15 children, he joined the army as the War of 1812 approached. From 1819 on he served on the western frontier, where he achieved a reputation as a tough disciplinarian. He conquered the territory of New Mexico shortly after the outbreak of war with Mexico, and then led a small force westward. After joining in the fighting that led to the taking of Los Angeles in early 1847, he engaged in jurisdictional conflicts with other Americans in California. He later served as military governor of Vera Cruz and Mexico City, and died of a disease he contracted there.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.