A MAN OF TWO TRADES
SUBMITTED BY DAVID A. WELKER AND F. WILLIAM SPANGENBERG, CENTREVILLE, VIRGINIA
NAME: William Findlay Rogers
DATES: March 1, 1820 to December 16, 1899
HIGHEST RANK: Brevet brigadier general
UNIT: 21st New York Infantry
SERVICE RECORD: Organized Company C, 74th New York StateMilitia, in April 1861. Enlisted in the 21st New York Infantry soonthereafter. Elected colonel on May 20. Wounded at the Battle of SouthMountain, Maryland, on September 14, 1862. Assumed command of the3d Brigade briefly on December 12. Mustered out on May 18, 1863.Appointed provost marshal of New York’s 30th District in 1863. Made abrevet brigadier general on March 13, 1865.
At a young age, William Findlay Rogers faced a tough decision: should he enter the military, where his father had found success, or strike out on his own? In a roundabout way, he managed to do both.
His father, Thomas Jones Rogers, a naval officer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, died when William was only 12 years old. Forced to leave school, the boy found a job as an apprentice printer at the Easton Whig. In two years he mastered the trade, and by age 20 he had established his own weekly paper in northern Pennsylvania. Less than a decade later, he became manager of the Republic in Buffalo, New York. But something was still missing: he longed for the soldier’s life, the life his father had led. So, he enlisted in the Buffalo City Guards for a taste of things military.
At the start of the Civil War, Rogers recruited fellow guardsmen for a military unit that became Company C of the 74th New York State Militia. Rogers was the captain. Before long, it was clear the unit would never see action, so the disgusted militiamen enlisted in the 21st New York Infantry. The men elected Rogers colonel on May 20. In the photo to the left he is flanked by members of his staff; below, he sits astride his horse, “Proofreader.”
The 21st served for more than a year in Washington, D.C., and Virginia. Then, on September 14, 1862, Rogers earned a commendation from Brigadier General Abner Doubleday, commander of the I Corps’ 1st Division, for his “bravery and quick thinking” at the Battle of South Mountain, Maryland. Three months later, Rogers assumed temporary command of the division’s 3d Brigade, just in time to lead it at Fredericksburg, Virginia. Although the brigade reported 67 casualties, Rogers saw the bright side: he and his men had fought on the Federal left flank and thus were spared from the futile assault against Marye’s Heights on the right.
Fredericksburg was Rogers’s last fight. The 21st was soon assigned to the Provost Marshal Guard, and served quietly near Aquia Creek, Virginia, until it was mustered out on May 18, 1863. Rogers went home to Buffalo, and became provost marshal of New York’s 30th District. He was made a brevet brigadier general on March 13, 1865. After the war, he parlayed his military deeds into a thriving political career, serving as mayor of Buffalo from 1868 to 1869 and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1883 to 1885. He then accepted the job of superintendent of the New York Soldiers and Sailors Home, remaining there until 1897. He died two years later and was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo.