Torbert Stands Tall Outside Museum

Mar 5 2013 /

torbertBy Bostik Johnson

Standing tall in front of the Milford Museum is a seven-foot bronze statue of General Alfred Torbert, a civil war hero, and Milford’s highest ranking military figure. Alfred Thomas Archimedes Torbert was born on July 1, 1833 in Georgetown, Delaware. His military career began after he graduated from West Point in 1855, ranked 21 out of 34 in his class. He received the opportunity to become first lieutenant in the Confederate army but turned down the commission to show his loyalty to the Union.

“Many people during the time questioned his loyalty to the Union because he had friends in the south and was born in Delaware, which was a border state,” said Marvin Schelhouse, president of the Milford Historical Society. “…but there is no question he remained loyal to the Union.”

Torbert accepted an appointment as colonel of the 1st New Jersey Infantry in 1861, in the Army of the Potomac. He then was named brigade commander of the Sixth Corps in August 1862 which lead to his promotion to brigade general. Torbert lead his army in battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg.

In 1864, he became the Chief of Cavalry of the 1st Division of the Army of the Potomac under Union General Philip Sheridan. He helped command this division during the Overland Campaign and Sheridan’s Valley Campaign of 1864. Torbert led his troops to victory over the Confederate cavalry at the Battle of Tom’s Brook and remained in command until the end of the war. After the war, he married, and started a family in Milford.

Torbert died in 1880 while aboard the steamer Vera Cruz when it shipwrecked off the coast of Florida during a violent storm. He is buried in the Methodist Episcopal Cemetery in Milford.

Schelhouse, a marine veteran and civil war historian, has been researching Torbert’s life since 1964 and has built a great appreciation to the general. That appreciation and dedication led him to start the project of getting a statue built in the general’s honor. Richard Johnson was instrumental in helping raise the money for the statue and committed $36,000, of his own money, of the $100,000 dollars it took to build the statue.

“When you go around trying to raise money in a small community, you want someone to help you get started and Richard was the guy that got all of us going,” stated David Kenton, Chairman of the Milford Museum. “Richard deserves a lot of the credit for having that statue put up.” The effort to build the statue started in 2007 and required assistant from the community to help pay for the statue’s cost. “75 to 80 private individuals contributed to the capital fundraising campaign to get this project done,” added Kenton.

The statue was created in Beijing, China and required the help of Ze Feng Tao, project liaison, who translated all of the information Schelhouse wanted for the statue and reported progress back to Milford. The statue finally got unveiled on June 29, 2008.  Claudia Leister, Executive Director of the Milford Museum, said she is very happy that the statue is in front of the museum.

“The museum is happy to have the grounds to showcase General Torbert, now future generations will have the ability to see Milford’s most esteemed Civil War hero.”

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