Brigadier General Julius Penn

Brigadier General Julius Penn
4th of july decorations
Image by Robert of Fairfax
American Civil War Soldiers database: Julius Penn enlisted as a Captain on 23 April 1861 at the age of 43. Joined Company E, 22nd Infantry Regiment Ohio on 27 Apr 1861. Promoted to Full Major on May 23rd, 1861. Mustered Out Company E, 22nd Infantry Regiment Ohio on Aug 19th, 1861 at Athens, OH.

Partial Transcription of Memoriam, RGK1958:
In Memory of General Julius Augustus Penn, United States Army

Extract from Sixty-sixth Annual Report of the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, June 11th, 1935.

NO. 3165 CLASS OF 1886
[Classmate of General John J Pershing]

Died May 13th, 1934, at Batavia, Ohio, aged 69 years.

Brigadier General Julius A. Penn was born February 19th, [about 1865], in Matoon, Coles County, Illinois, the son of Major Julius A. Penn and Mary Brock Penn. Answering a frequent question I shall state here that he is not a lineal descendant of William Penn the Founder, as there are no Penns living who are lineal descendants. The General’s Mother was of Scotch descent. A very strong religious nature and her unusual unselfishness were predominant characteristics.

Major Penn [the father of BGen Penn] spent the greater part of his life in the practice of law in Batavia, Ohio. At the call of the President of the United States, April 17th, 1861, for volunteers for the suppression of treason, he organized the first company to leave Batavia for the Civil War and left with the company as its Captain. He was later promoted to major.

Major Penn cast his vote for the first Prohibition candidate for President and was a most ardent advocate of the cause. His advice to his son on this subject held good through the years.

General U.S. Grant had known Major Penn when they were boys in Clermont and Brown Counties. On the General’s return to Batavia to visit relatives after the Civil War he addressed Major Penn as Julius and took his son, embryo brigadier-general, on his knee, an incident never forgotten by the boy. The original muster roll of the above mentioned company and the Major’s epaulets and sash are still in existence in Batavia.

Julius A. Penn, Jr. was dubbed Pennie by a small girl who could not say Julius and he was called by this affectionate nickname for many years. Pennie spent his boyhood days in and around Batavia and was an honored member of the first class to graduate from the Batavia Hishg School. He took a completive examination with thirty boys of the 6th District of Ohio at Hamilton, Ohio, in 1881. Hon. H.L. Morey took this method of deciding who should be sent to West Point. Penn stood number one but lacked a year of being old enough. The number two young man was sent and failed in the January examination. He returned to his Ohio district and Julius Penn helped him secure enough signatures to a petition for reinstatement. Since his principal failed the second time, Penn was now old enough. Through the recommendation of Judge James B. Swing, he received the appointment of Hon. H. L. Morey and entered the Academy June, 1882. Major Penn died June 6th, 1882 with the knowledge that his son had reached West Point safely and with the satisfaction that his son should receive an education in a school which he himself had always wanted to attend. A condensed résumé of the services of General Penn follows. Upon his graduation from the United States Military Academy, July 1, 1886, General Penn was appointed a second lieutenant, 13th Infantry, and in the course of promotion reached the grade of colonel on March 2nd, 1917. While an officer of the Regular Army, he held commissions in the United States Volunteers as Captain, Assistant Quartermaster, from May 30, 1898 to November 30th, 1898, as Major, 34th Infantry, from July 11th, 1899 to April 17th, 1901, and as temporary brigadier general from August 30th, 1917, to March 1st, 1919. He was retired as a colonel, December 5th, 1924 because of disability in line of duty, and was advanced on the retired list, to his highest war time rank of brigadier general in accordance with the provisions of legislation enacted June 21st, 1930.

General Penn was a graduate of the Army War College, and valedictorian when he graduated from the Infantry and Cavalry School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1891. His thesis "Mounted Infantry" was published in one of the service journals. He was detailed in the General staff Corps from September 15th, 1906, to August 11th, 1909 and in the Adjutant General’s Department from October 8th, 1919 to July 11th, 1922.

In the early years of his military service, General Penn was on frontier duty in the Southwest and West. He took part in an expedition against the Bannock Indians in Wyoming and Idaho in 1865 and was Instructor of Military Tactics at Omaha High School, Omaha, Nebraska. During the War with Spain he served a Assistant Brigade Adjutant, and Brigade and Division Quartermaster a Chickamauga, Georgia, and at Tampa, Florida. He was later senior Assistant Instructor of Infantry Tactics at the United States Military Academy until July, 1899. He then joined his regiment and proceeded to the Philippine Islands. There he participated in a number of actions and expeditions against hostile natives at the time of the Insurrection. The 34th Volunteer Infantry, which he helped to organize at Denver, Colorado, was the first volunteer regiment to reach the islands. In subsequent years he served three more tours of duty in the Philippines, during one of which he was Aide-de-Camp and Military Secretary to Lieutenant General H. C. Corbin. He also served on staff duty with Lieutenant General J. C. Bates, Lieutenant General Adna R. Chaffee and General Frederick Grant. General Penn was on recruiting duty at Fort Wayne, Indiana and was Chief of Staff to General T.J. Wint at Base of Operations, Newport News, Virginia in 1906. He was an instructor at the Army War College, Washington, D.C., and an Inspector-Instructor of the Militia of Nebraska and served a tour of duty in the Hawaiian Department. In 1916 he commanded the 3rd Infantry at Madison Barracks, New York, and later on the Mexican border. He next organized and commanded the 37th Infantry at Camp Wilson, Texas, and upon entry of the United States into the World war was on duty at the Headquarters Central Department, Chicago, Illinois. He was later with the National Guard of Ohio at Columbus and commanded the 170th Infantry Brigade, 85th Division, at Camp Custer, Michigan. He sailed with his Brigade for France July, 1918. While serving overseas with the American Expeditionary Forces he was Chief of the Personnel Bureau at General Headquarters and was assigned to Command the 76th Infantry Brigade, 38th Division. He was an observer with the 2nd Division during the Meuse-Argonne operations. Returning to his country in December, 1918, in command of the 38th Division Cadre, he subsequently commanded Camp Zachary Taylor, Kentucky. He was on duty in the office of the Adjutant General, was Adjutant 3rd Corps Area, and was Commandant of the Atlantic Branch U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Jay, New York.

The outstanding work of his military career was the part he played in the rescue of Lieutenant J. C. Gilmore of the Navy and 25 others American prisoners. These prisoners had been hurried from on prison t another each a little farther north as American troops advanced north in Luzon, P.I. The Philippine officer in charge of them had been ordered to take them into the mountains and shoot them. Losing courage he abandoned them to their fate without food, tools or arms. On hundred and twenty men of the 33rd and 34th United States Volunteer Infantry found these men trying to build rafts to float down an unknown river. Before they could reach them however, they engaged several skirmishes, one of which at Tangnadin Pass took upon itself the proportions of a major engagement. The fortifications at Tangnadin Pass consisting of tiers of trenches had required the work of hundreds of Filipinos for a year and were well nigh impregnable from a frontal attack. The enemy was well entrenched and well armed. These American troops were in a deplorable condition from lack of sufficient food and shoes about worn out from the long, long march through mud and water. As arranged, the fight began at 10 a.m., General Penn with detachments of F and H of the 2nd Battalion, 34th Volunteer Infantry made a long detour and hard rough climb, wit a scarcity of water, cutting their way through tangled vines and under brush to reach a point overlooking the trenches, unprotected for the angle of the spur upon which he was finally able to place his men. Heavy firing continued through the day and it was not until nearly dark that the welcome sound of General Penn’s Krags were heard firing from above and directly into the trenches of the enemy. Pandemonium reigned, the enemy was completely surprised and broke in demoralized confusion. the loss of the enemy was 180 found dead in the trenches. The loss of the 34th, three killed and ten wounded. General Tinio with his scattered forces hurriedly beat a retreat taking the Gilmore party with him. On the same day that Gilmore was rescued Captain W. E. Dame and E company also of the 2nd Battalion, 34th United States Volunteer Infantry had a skirmish with natives and captured the United States Launch flag that was on Gilmore’s boat when he and his crew were taken at Baler, P.I. April 12th, 1899. Thirty years after the fight of Tangnadin Pass which made the rescue of Lieutenant Gilmore and 25 Americans possible, and four months before his death General Penn received a silver star decoration and the following citation, "For gallantry in action in pursuit of superior forces of the enemy under the Insurgent General Tinio, in Northern Luzon, P.I. December 4th to 18th, 1899, through a most dangerous and difficult country, through great hardships and exposure, thereby forcing the enemy to liberate twenty-two American prisoners held by him December 18, 1899." Four others were liberated later. Subsequently the Spanish General Pena and 2,000 Spanish prisoners were liberated at Bangued Abra Province and at Dingras, IIiose Norte. General Penn was awarded a Spanish War Service Medal, a Mexican Border Service Medal and a World War Victory Medal.

July 2nd, 1934, General Douglas MacArthur, Chief of Staff, wrote of General Penn, "Throughout his long years of faithful service, extending over a period thirty-eight years General Penn displayed those fine professional and gentlemanly qualities which earned for him the confidence and esteem of all which whom he came in contact. Gifted with sound judgment, thoroughly reliable, and devoted to duty, he was entrusted with many important assignments and the successful manner in which he discharged these responsibilities fully justified the confidence placed in him. His death is deeply regretted."

My 14th, 1934, General W. E. Horton wrote, "He was a fine soldier, a splendid citizen, and a devoted brother".

May 14th, 1934, Colonel J. A. Moss wrote, "He was one of the finest characters I have ever known and my association with him is one of the happiest memories of my life".

May 14th, 1934, Colonel P. M. Ashburn wrote, "No man stood in higher esteem with us than did your beloved and distinguished brother. He has nobly served his country and his generation".

May 14th, 1934, Dr. and Mrs. Frank B. Dyer, Cincinnati, Ohio, "We have always regarded Julius as one of the finest men we ever knew, brave, generous, kind, filled with a large charity and loving his neighbor as himself, a fine soldier, a gallant gentleman, without fear and without reproach".

Mr. David W. Roberts, editor of The Clermont Sun, said in his paper May 17th, 1934, "General Penn was beloved by all his acquaintances in Batavia and vicinity particularly the children".

General Penn put on young lady through High School and The University of Illinois, another through Ohio State University at Columbus, Ohio, another through several years training for a graduate nurse, and helped several others financially with their education. He gave his sister five years at Cincinnati Art Academy and numerous trips and favors too numerous to mention, for which she is everlastingly grateful.

General Penn delighted in entertaining the army children wherever stationed or on army transports to or from the Philippines. In later years scarcely a week passed without a wedding invitation from one of these little friends grown up and without exception they met a generous response.

When General H. C. Corbin was in Cincinnati July, 1908, attending the Taft notification ceremonies, he spent an evening with Judge P. F. Swing and Judge James B. Swing. In a letter of July 30 Judge J. B. Swing wrote to Captain Penn, "Peter asked him what he thought of Captain Penn. General Corbin said with real earnestness, ‘He is the best officer of his rank in the Army. He could command an army in a war today.’ This high compliment, which I am sure is entirely merited, I think you ought to know of. I was very glad indeed to hear General Corbin say it and in such a cordial and hearty way. I think one who is worthy ought to know that he is appreciated. You ought to know while you are living of the high esteem in whish you are hoed by others who know of your abilities and character." I quote an extract from a letter written by General John J. Pershing to the graduates of the class of ’86, which was read at their twenty-fifth reunion at West Point and also read by General Pershing at the thirty-eighth reunion of ’86 at West Point. "The class of ’86 at West Point was in many ways remarkable. There were no cliques, no dissentions, and personal prejudices or selfishness. From the very day we entered, the class as a unit has always stood for the very best traditions of West Point. The class of ’86 has always been known in the army and is known today as a class of all around solid men – men capable of ably performing any duty and of loyally fulfilling any trust. The individual character of each man has made itself felt upon his fellows in the army from the start. In civil life, as professional men, or as men of affairs wherever placed, the class of ’86 has always made good. Well may we congratulate ourselves on the achievements of the class."

May 16th, 1934, General Pershing wrote of Brigadier General Penn, "I especially recall his services on my staff at the General Headquarters of the American Expeditionary Forces in France. He had a long and distinguished career in the army, and you may well be proud, as his classmates are, of his faithful and loyal service".

General Penn was and honorary Aide-de-Camp to President Harding on a trip from Washington, D.D., to Point Pleasant, Ohio, April 21 to 24, 1922 to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the birth of General U.S. Grant. General Penn was a cousin of Colonel P.M. Ashburn and Major General T. Q. Ashburn of the Army. The accompanying picture was taken in 1906 when General Penn was forty-one years of age, serving on the staff of Lieutenant General H. C. Corbin at Saint Louis, Missouri.

General Penn was a Methodist, a 32nd degree Mason, Member of Sacket Harbor Lodge F. and A.M., U.S. Army Square Club, Governor’s Island, New York, Scottish Rite of Columbus, Ohio, an honorary member of Batavia, Ohio, Masonic Lodge, an honorary member of The Michigan Sovereign Consistory, member Military Order of the Carabao, member Ohio Society of New York, and a member of Terrace Park Golf and Country Club of Hamilton County, Ohio.

The last ten years of General Penn’s life were spent with his sister, Miss Jennie Penn, at the old homestead near Batavia. There he enjoyed a happy contented life and retained a keen interest in everything to the last. His death May 13th, 1934 was caused by heart trouble. His funeral took place from the family home May 15th, 1934. The interment was at the Citizens’ Cemetery, Batavia, Ohio.

I have never known a person more honorable, more deserving of full confidence; more devoted and loyal to Country, to immediate family, relatives and friends than the late General Penn.

J.P. [Jennie Penn?]