Stanley, David Sloane (1828–1902)

By: Thomas W. Cutrer

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: June 1, 1995

David Sloane Stanley, United States Army officer, was born in Cedar Valley, Ohio, on June 1, 1828, the son of John Bratton and Sarah (Peterson) Stanley. He was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point on July 1, 1848. He graduated ninth in the class of 1852, of which his close friend Philip H. Sheridan was a member, and was brevetted second lieutenant in the Second United States Dragoons on July 1 and assigned as quartermaster to Lt. Amiel W. Whipple's surveying party, which charted the route of a railroad from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to San Diego, California. Stanley was promoted to the substantive grade of second lieutenant on September 6, 1853. In 1854 he was ordered to Fort Chadbourne on the Texas frontier. He was transferred to Capt. George B. McClellan's Troop D of the First United States Cavalry on March 3, 1855, and was promoted to first lieutenant on March 27. In 1856 he was sent with his regiment to Kansas to quell the disturbances there between proslavery advocates and "free soilers." On April 2, 1857, he married Anna Maria Wright, whom he had first met while he was a cadet at West Point; the couple had seven children. After service against the Cheyenne Indians on the Great Plains-in which his life was saved by J. E. B. Stuart in a fight near Fort Kearny, Nebraska-he was assigned to Fort Smith, Arkansas, in 1860. He was promoted to captain on March 16, 1861, and transferred to the Fourth United States Cavalry on August 3. At the outbreak of the Civil War Stanley, himself a slaveowner, was offered a colonel's commission in the Confederate Army and command of an Arkansas regiment, but he declined the offer and joined other Union forces at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers on September 28, 1861. He fought in the battles of Wilson's Creek, New Madrid, and Island Number Ten in the Missouri campaign of 1862. In consequence of his good work at the battle of Corinth, Mississippi, in October 1862 he was promoted to major general on November 29 and appointed chief of cavalry of the Army of the Cumberland. Stanley was brevetted to lieutenant colonel in the regular army on December 31 of the same year for "gallantry and meritorious service" at the battle of Stone River, Tennessee; to colonel on May 15, 1864, for his role in the battle of Resaca, Georgia; and to brigadier general on March 13, 1865, for his part in the action at Ruff's Station, Georgia. He was severely wounded at the battle of Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30, 1864, in which he commanded the Fourth Corps of Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas's Army of the Cumberland. For his "distinguished bravery" at Franklin he was brevetted to major general on March 13, 1865, and awarded the Medal of Honor on March 29, 1893. He was posted to the Fifth United States Cavalry as a major in the regular army on December 1, 1863. He was mustered out of volunteer service on February 1, 1866, and promoted to colonel of the Twenty-second United States Infantry on July 28, 1866.

After recovering from his wound, Stanley led the Fourth Corps into Texas in June 1865 to counter growing French involvement in Mexican internal affairs and the threat posed by the emperor Maximilian. He debarked at Indianola and established his headquarters at Victoria, where he found the weather "very warm and tiresome" but enjoyed the companionship of John J. Linn. In October he moved his headquarters to San Antonio; there he remained until the last of his regiments was mustered out of service in March 1866. By this time, Stanley admitted, his men "were not happy and discipline none too good." While commandant at San Antonio, he ordered the sale to a circus of the remaining camels from Camp Verde, thus bringing to an end the United States Army's camel corps experiment. In 1866 he was back on the Indian frontier; in 1873 he was involved in the Yellowstone expedition, and from 1879 through 1882 he was involved in suppressing various Indian uprisings in Texas. On March 24, 1884, upon the retirement of Ranald S. Mackenzie, Stanley was promoted to brigadier general in the regular United States Army and named commander of the Department of Texas. He retired on June 1, 1892. From September 13, 1893, until April 15, 1898, he was governor of the Soldiers' Home in Washington, D.C. General Stanley died in Washington on March 13, 1902, and was buried in the Soldiers Home cemetery. His autobiography, Personal Memoirs of Major-General D. S. Stanley, U.S.A., published in 1917, contains many colorful pictures of service on the Texas frontier. From 1917 to 1947 Camp Stanley, a military installation near San Antonio, was named in honor of the general.

Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1903; rpt., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Ezra J. Warner, Generals in Blue (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Stanley, David Sloane,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 19, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995