William Selby Harney, United States Army officer, was born in Haysboro, TN (near Nashville), on 22 Aug 1800, the son of Thomas and Margaret (Hudson) Harney.  After preparing for a career in the navy, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the First United States Infantry on 13 Feb 1818.  He displayed great prowess against the Creeks and Seminoles in the First Seminole Indian War and was promoted to First Lieutenant on 7 Jan 1819.  After being transferred to the First Artillery on 16 Nov 1821, he returned to the First Infantry on 21 Dec 1822, and was promoted to Captain on 14 May 1825.

Mary Caroline Harney, born in 1828 or 1829 near Fort Winnebago, Portage, WI, is thought to be the illegitimate child of William Selby Harney.  Her death certificate shows her father as General William Selby Harnois, the French spelling of Harney.  (This according to the descendants of William Selby Harney web site).

In 1833 he married Mary Mullanphy, daughter of a wealthy St. Louis plantation owner; the couple had three children.  Mary died in Aug 1861 in Paris, France, where she had lived a good part of her life.

Harney was made a Major in the Paymaster Corps on 1 May 1833 and Lieutenant Colonel of the Second Dragoons on 15 Aug 1836.  He was brevetted to Colonel on 7 Dec 1840, for "gallant and meritorious conduct" against the Seminoles in the Second Seminole Indian War.  With the end of the Second Seminole War he was transferred to Fort Washita, TX in 1843.  He was promoted to Colonel of the Second Dragoons, then stationed at San Antonio, TX on 30 Jun 1846.

On 23 Sep 1846, with the coming of the Mexican War, Harney led his regiment out of San Antonio as the vanguard of Brig. Gen. John Ellis Wool's campaign against Chihuahua.  After fighting in the battle of Buena Vista under Maj. Gen. Zachary Taylor, he was transferred to the command of Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott and took part in the amphibious landing below Veracruz as Scott's senior cavalry officer.  Harney and Scott were never on friendly terms, and Scott, mistrusting Harney's judgment, relieved him of command.  Harney, however, refused to be removed and appealed to his superiors in Washington, President James K. Polk and Secretary of War William Learned Marcy, who reinstated Harney over Scott's objections.  Despite this unpleasantness, Harney fought brilliantly and was brevetted to Brigadier General on 18Apr 1847, for his role in the battle of Cerro Gordo on 12 Apr 1847.  He continued with Scott's command throughout the campaign that culminated in the capture of Mexico City on 13 Sep 1847, and received the substantive rank of Brigadier General on 14 Jun 1858.

On 14 May 1849, upon the death of Col. William J. Worth, Harney assumed command of Military Department Number Five, which comprised almost the entire settled portion of Texas.  He was replaced on 7 Jul 1849, by Col. George M. Brooke, but returned to command on 9 Mar 1851, after the death of Brooke.  Col. Persifor F. Smith replaced Harney on 16 Sep 1851, but Harney returned to command the department for the final time on 3 Dec 1852. He established his headquarters first at Austin and then at Corpus Christi and was again relieved by Smith on 11 May 1853.  In 1854 he was reassigned to the north plains, where he won the decisive battle of Blue Water in 1855, forcing a peace on the Sioux Indians.  He was rewarded in 1858 with the command of the Department of Oregon but was recalled on 5 Jul 1860, due to his militant anti-British attitude.

General Harney reportedly had a child with Sarah Ashton Stuart in 1858.  The female child was named Ada Stuart Harney.  Ada married Anton Roman, a farmer, who was born in MO in Jan 1866, the son of Anton Roman and Margaret Dietrich.  Anton Roman and Ada Stuart (Harney) had two children, Edward Roman born in MO in Nov 1890, and Mary Francis Roman born in East St. Louis, IL on 23 Dec 1893.  Anton died in 1936 at 70 years of age.

At the outbreak of the Civil War Harney was commander of the Department of the West, with headquarters in St. Louis, and was one of only four generals in the regular United States Army.  Although a Southerner in sympathy and married into a wealthy slave owning Missouri family, Harney remained with the United States Army in 1861.  His Confederate attachments rendered him something of an embarrassment to Union authorities in the Trans-Mississippi Theater, however, and he was relieved of his command on 29 May 1861.

He retired from active duty on August 1, 1863, but received a final brevet, to Major General, on 13 Mar 1865, "for long and faithful service."  Appointed to an Indian peace commission by Andrew Johnson in 1865, Harney was instrumental in the negotiation of the important Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867.  Thereafter he lived in retirement at Pass Christian, MS, and in St. Louis and later in Orlando, FL.

On 12 Nov 1884, Harney married his nurse, a Mrs. Mary E. Cromwell St. Cyr, in St Louis, MO.  Mary was born in Frederick, MD on 24 Jan 1826.  She was the daughter of Richard Cromwell and Caraline Boone.

On 14 Mar 1888, while living in Pass Christian, MS, General Harney applied for and received a Pension (Application number 18,785, Certificate number 17,762) based on his service in the War with Mexico.  Harney died on 9 May 1889 in Orlando, FL at 88 years of age.  He was re-interred at Arlington National Cemetery on 30 Oct 1889, Lot 117 in the Officers Section.

On 7 Oct 1890, Mary filed for and received a Widow’s Pension (Application number 9441, Certificate number 8022).  Mary’s state of residence at this time was MO.  Shey died on 22 Oct 1907 at 81 years of age.


INDIAN TREATIES: General Harney was one of the negotiators in a number of treaties with the Indians.

 Among these are:

-Treaty of Little Arkansas, Kansas with the Comanche and Kiowa, 18 Oct 1865.

-Treaty of Council Camp on the Medicine Lodge Creek, Kansas with the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache, 21 Oct 1867.

-Fort Laramie, Wyoming Treaty with the Lower Brule Sioux, 1868.

-Sioux-Different Tribes, Brules, O’Gullalas, etc., 29 Apr 1868.

-Eastern Band of Shoshonees and Bannack Indians, 3 Jul 1868.


HARNEY PLACE NAMES: There are a number of sites throughout the United States that are named after General William S. Harney. Here are a few:

-The Harney Mansion, summer home in Sullivan, MO, used until 1884 when he moved to Florida. On 26 Aug 2000, a day-long living history event was held at the mansion honoring the 200th anniversary of the birth of General Harney.

-The General William S. Harney Historical Society in St. Louis, MO.

-Harney River on the Southwest coast of Florida. This river no longer exist due to drainage canals depleting the river’s flow.

-The Colonel Harney, a side wheel steamer built in Baltimore in 1840.

-Camp Harney, a temporary military post near Bellville, TX that was opened in 1851.

-Harney Peak in the Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota.

-Harney County, OR

-Harney Lake in Harney County, OR.

-Harney Avenue in Walnut Park, St. Louis, MO.

-Lake Harney in Seminole County, near Geneva, FL.


Adams, George Rollie, General William Selby Harney: Frontier Soldier, 1800-1889 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Arizona, 1983).

Cutrer, Thomas W. , Dictionary of American Biography.

The Handbook of Texas Online.

The Harney Family Genealogy web site.

Heitman, Francis B. , Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (2 vols, Washington: GPO, 1903; rpt., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965).

Hutton, Paul Andrew , ed., Soldiers West: Biographies from the Military Frontier (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987).

Thian, Raphael P. , comp. Notes Illustrating the Military Geography of the United States, 1813-1880 (Washington: GPO, 1881; rpt., with addenda ed. John M. Carroll, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979).

Warner, Ezra J. , Generals in Blue (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964).


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