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Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (F)
Forsyth, James


(1836-1906) James William Forsyth, born in Ohio, attended West Point from 1851-56 and received a commission as second lieutenant in the 9th U.S. Infantry. After serving in Washington Territory at Fort Bellingham and Camp Pickett, Suan Juan Island, Forsyth was promoted to first lieutenant in 1861 and returned to the East to command Union forces in the Civil War. From 1862-63 he served with the Army of the Potomac and in 1864 became Chief of Staff for Major General Philip H. Sheridan.

Forsyth continued on Sheridan's staff after the war and served as acting inspector general in the Military Division of the Gulf. Forsyth moved with Sheridan when the latter became commander of the Department of the Missouri in 1866. Forsyth served first as the department's secretary and then as an inspector, with an appointment in the cavalry. He took part in military campaigns against the Comanche, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Kiowa Indians in 1868-69. Forsyth went to Europe in 1870 as an official observer of the Franco-Prussian War.

During the late 1870s Forsyth spent much of his time inspecting Indian agencies and reporting on the relations with Indians on and off reservations in the military department of the Missouri, roughly Montana and the Dakotas. Forsyth commanded cavalry units in the 1878 Bannock campaign, and in succeeding years, spent most of his time inspecting cavalry units throughout the West.

In 1885 Forsyth was in command of Fort Maginnis, Montana, where the army was monitoring the Crow, Cree, and the Gros Ventres (Atsina) Indians. He was promoted to colonel in 1886 and placed in command of the 7th Cavalry stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. In December 1890, Forsyth led his troops to the Pine Ridge Agency in South Dakota. Sioux Indians had left the agency and many were involved in the Ghost Dance religion. On December 29, in the midst of mounting tension, Forsyth's attempt to disarm the Indians turned into a fight, later known as the Wounded Knee massacre. On the following day, Forsyth again engaged the Indians at Drexel Mission. Forsyth's actions were investigated at General Miles's instigation, and although he was cleared of any wrongdoing, Forsyth resented Miles's accusations.

Forsyth was commissioned brigadier general in December 1894 and appointed commander of the Department of California. He served in this position until his promotion to Major General in May 1897 when he retired from the military.

In 1867 James Forsyth married the daughter of the governor of Ohio, William Dennison. She died around 1888. By 1877, the couple had four children: a son, William Dennison Forsyth, who also entered the military, Marion, Betsy, who married Dallas Bache, a career military officer, and a fourth child. On retirement, Forsyth moved back to his native Ohio. He died in Columbus on October 24, 1906.

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