Captain Thomas English spent a considerable portion of his military career at Ft. Steilacoom. Born in Pennsylvania on Dec. 22, 1827, English entered the USMA in 1845 and graduated in July 1849.
Initially posted to the 5th Infantry in Texas as a Bvt. 2nd Lieutenant, he garnered an official 2nd lieutenancy a year later on July 31, 1850. His promotion to the rank of 1st Lieutenant coincided with the formation of the newly-reconstituted 9th Infantry Regiment in March 1855.
With this promotion came English’s assignment as the Ninth’s regimental adjutant, a position that he held until May 1856. English undoubtedly helped manage the regiment’s departure from Fortress Monroe in Virgina, to its crossing of the Isthmus of Panama, and its deployment to posts throughout the Pacific Coast.
Following his work as adjutant, Lt. English served in Company H/9th Infantry under Captain Presley N. Guthrie at Ft. Steilacoom. After Guthrie’s death in 1857, English secured promotion to Captain of the company that December. From 1857 to 1861, English commanded Co. H/9th Infantry at Ft. Steilacoom. According to the 1860 Census, Capt. English was married to wife Cami, and he was the father of two young children, William (3 yrs.) and Harriet (2 mos.).
His company was ordered to replace Capt. Geo. Pickett’s Co. D/9th on San Juan Island in July 1861. English’s Co. H would remain on the island until November 1861. With the American Civil War in full swing, Capt. English secured a volunteer commission as a Lt. Colonel in the 1st Washington Territory Infantry. As Regular Army soldiers left Ft. Steilacoom for deployment elsewhere, Lt. Col. English remained on post in command of Cos. G and K/1st Wash. Infantry in 1862.
By June 1863, his command was reduced on post to that of only Co. K/1st Washington Territory Infantry. Lt. Col. English requested additional troops of his department commander, but his request was refused in August 1863. In October 1863, Brig. General Alvord ordered English to take command of Ft. Boise, but English’s departure was delayed by an injury that he had suffered one month earlier. Within two weeks, English received new orders ordering his presence in Portland, Oregon as Acting Assistant Provost-Marshal-General for the State of Oregon and Washington Territory. He arrived by steamer in late December 1863. On February 23, 1864, English would take over command of the entire 1st Washington Territory Infantry after the mustering-out of Col. Steinberger.
This promotion required English’s presence at Ft. Walla Walla, a post consisting of Cos. A and B/1st Washington Territorial Infantry. Not long after arriving, English was ordered to send one of his companies on an expedition against the Snake Indians. Records reveal his frustration with the presence of obsolete or broken tack as well as issues with volunteer subordinates. In July 1864, Col. Steinberger’s return to command allowed English to resume his recruiting duties in Portland, Oregon later that September.
The end of the Civil War in 1865 witnessed English’s mustering out of volunteer service. Earlier in the war, in 1863, Captain English had been promoted to the rank of major in the 5th Infantry. By leaving the volunteer service, now Major English reported for duty in his new regiment.
On Oct. 11, 1867, Major English sat on the court martial of Geo. A. Custer, a position that involved English in Custer’s subsequent suspension of rank, pay, and duty for one year. By February 1869, Major English secured a promotion to Lt. Colonel in the 16th Infantry Regiment. He died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 10, 1876.
Thomas Cooper English