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Compatriot Medal of Honor Recipients

Orlando Bolivar Willcox

Orlando Bolivar Willcox

Orlando Bolivar Willcox was born on April 26, 1823, in Detroit, Michigan. He graduated eighth in his class from West Point in 1847. Following graduation, he served in garrisons in Mexico City and Cuernavaca at the close of Mexican War and then served in garrisons in the New Mexico Territory, Massachusetts, and Florida. Willcox resigned his commission in 1857 and returned to Detroit to practice law. At the start of the Civil War, Willcox returned to the Army in 1861 as colonel of the 1st Michigan Volunteer Infantry.

At the First Battle of Bull Run or First Manassas, Willcox was wounded and captured while in command of a brigade and remained a prisoner for more than a year. On the day of his release, August 19, 1862, he was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers to rank from the date of the battle in which he had been captured the previous year and was given command of the 1st Division of Ambrose Burnside’s IX Corps. He led the Division, and sometimes the Corps itself, at Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Knoxville, and during Grant’s Overland Campaign against Richmond in the summer of 1864.

Willcox was brevetted major general in both the Regulars and the Volunteers. In 1895, after thirty-four years, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his “most distinguished gallantry” at the battle of Manassas. His citation states that he “led repeated charges until wounded and taken prisoner.” He was mustered out of service in January 1866 and returned to Detroit to resume his law practice.

With the enlargement of the Regular Army in July 1866, Willcox was reappointed as a colonel of the 29th US Infantry. He was transferred to the 12th U.S. Infantry in 1869 and served in San Francisco almost continuously until 1878, when he assumed command of the Department of Arizona during a period when Apache warfare was at its zenith. Willcox remained in this post until 1882. The town of Willcox, Arizona, was later named for him.

He retired from the Army in 1887. Two years later, Willcox served as the governor of the U.S. Soldiers’ Home in Washington, D.C. General Willcox joined the District of Columbia SAR and served as its fifth president from 1896 to 1897. His SAR National number is 1981 and his D.C. Society number is 181. He died at the age of eighty-four on May 10, 1907, in Coburg, Ontario, Canada, of acute bronchitis. Brigadier General Willcox is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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