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 First Lieutenant 23d Penn. Vols. (Infantry), November 29, 1861; Captain and A. A. G. (U. S. Vols.), August I, 1862; Major, September 15, 1863; died at Washington, D. C., June 17, 1864, of disease contracted in the service.
Fitzhugh Birney was the youngest son of James G. Birney, the distinguished Kentuckian, who, born and bred a slaveholder, emancipated his slaves in 1835, and, in the distribution of his father's estate, took the negroes for his portion, that he might set them also free. When a young man he had been Attorney-General of Alabama. His ability, virtue, and sacrifices made him the candidate of the Liberty Party for the Presidency, in 1844. By a first marriage with a relative of General McDowell, Mr. Birney had five sons and one daughter. In 1841, he married Elizabeth P. Fitzhugh, a daughter of the New York branch of an old Maryland family. Fitzhugh Birney was born at Saginaw, Michigan, January 9, 1842. The following April his parents removed to Bay City, near the mouth of the sluggish Saginaw River. In 1842, the site of the town had been cleared of pine forests, but the only buildings yet erected were the warehouse, the hotel, and the bank. In the hotel Mr. Birney and his family temporarily lodged. In the bank he had an office and a Sunday school. The settlement was much visited by the Ojibway Indians, with whom the boy became a favorite. The first words he learned to speak were in the Indian tongue. Fitzhugh was an athletic and adventurous child. He could not remember when he began to swim. Once, before he was five years old, having pushed out on the river in a sail-boat with two little companions, he was discovered at the helm, assuring them that there was no danger, and promising to take them ashore if they would ‘stop crying.’ At seven, he skated by moonlight from Saginaw to Bay City, a distance of twelve miles.
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