The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Thoburn, Joseph

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2939510The Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 26 — Thoburn, Joseph

THOBURN, Joseph, American soldier: b. Carrickfergus, Ireland, 29 April 1825; d. Cedar Creek, 19 Oct. 1864. In August following his parents emigrated to America, settling on a farm in Belmont County, Ohio. His education was obtained in the primitive rural schools of the period, supplemented by diligent private study. He became a teacher in the public schools at the age of 17 and later, having advanced to the principalship of a village school, he began the study of medicine. He was graduated from Starling Medical College, Columbus, Ohio, in 1850. After a term as an interne in hospital service, he located for the practice of his profession at Wheelling, (West) Va. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was commissioned surgeon of the first regiment raised in Virginia for the Union service. At the battle of Philippi, its colonel (Benjamin F. Kelley) was seriously wounded and, the other field officers not being available for duty, the command of the regiment devolved upon the surgeon, who continued to act in that capacity until the expiration of its 100-day term of service. When the regiment reënlisted for three years he was commissioned as its colonel. After a year of service as a regimental commander, he was assigned to the command of the Fourth Brigade, Second Division, Third Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, but had to be given an extended leave on account of a severe wound. He was with his regiment throughout the spring and summer of 1862, later being transferred to the Department of West Virginia, where he was again assigned to the command of a brigade. In May 1864 he took part in the disastrous Lynchburg raid. On 22 July 1864 he was assigned to the command of the First Division of the Department of the Kanawha (later known as the Army of West Virginia and also as the Eighth Army Corps), in which capacity he participated in most of the active movements of the Shenandoah campaign, including the battles of Kernstown, Opequan and Fisher's Hill. In the disposition of the forces at Cedar Creek by Gen. Horatio G. Wright (in the absence of General Sheridan) Colonel Thoburn's division was placed in a peculiarly exposed position, over his protest. In the surprise attack with which the battle of Cedar Creek began (19 Oct. 1864), his command was driven from its camp in utter rout at dawn and, while striving to rally his men for defensive action, he fell mortally wounded. A commission as brigadier-general of volunteers was made out to him the day of his death. His remains were buried with full military honors at Wheeling. Consult ‘Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies’ (Series I, Vols. 12, 25, 27, 29, 33, 37, 43, 51) and Pond, George E., ‘Personal Memoirs of General Philip H. Sheridan’ and ‘The Shenandoah Campaign.’