January 28, 1821–July 19, 1870
Ohioan William Thomas Harbaugh Brooks was a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.
Brooks was born in New Lebanon, Ohio on January 28, 1821. He received a public-school education and enrolled at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He graduated in 1841, ranking forty-sixth out of fifty-two classmates. Commissioned as a second lieutenant, Brooks first served in the American West but soon found himself involved in the Seminole War in Florida and the U.S.-Mexican War.
Brooks saw limited combat in the Seminole War but proved himself to be a brave leader in the U.S. Mexican War. He fought in the Battles of Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, Monterrey, Vera Cruz, Ocalaca, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, and Churubusco. Following the Battle of Monterrey, officials promoted Brooks to the rank of brevet captain for his "gallant and meritorious conduct." Following the Battle of Contreras, authorities promoted Brooks as a brevet major. He concluded the war by serving on General David E. Twiggs's staff.
Following the U.S.-Mexican War, Brooks returned to duty on the American frontier, serving in the New Mexico Territory until 1858, and then at Fort Clark, in Texas until 1861. His final duty before the American Civil War occurred at Fort Hamilton in New York. On November 10, 1851, officials promoted Brooks to the rank of captain.
In September 1861, Brooks became a brigadier-general of volunteers in the Union Army. He initially commanded the Second Brigade, Second Division of the Fourth Corps in the Peninsula Campaign before leading the Second Brigade, Second Corps of the Sixth Corps in the Seven Days Battles. During the Seven Days, Confederate forces wounded Brooks at the Battle of Savage's Station. After a brief absence to recover from his wound, Brooks returned to duty, leading his men during the Maryland Campaign. His brigade performed valiantly at the Battle of Crampton's Gap but saw limited action in the Battle of Antietam during the Maryland Campaign.
Following the Battle of Antietam, Brooks became commander of the First Division of the Sixth Corps. He led his men into battle at the Battles of Fredericksburg and of Chancellorsville. Officials promoted him to the rank of major general in June 1863, but rumors circulated that he spoke harshly of Ambrose Burnside, his commander at the Battle of Fredericksburg, causing military authorities to return him to the rank of brigadier-general. Following his promotion and demotion, Brooks served as the commander of the Department of the Monongahela. His primary responsibility was fortifying Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania against potential Confederate attack. In 1864, he returned to the battlefield, fighting in the Battle of Cold Harbor and briefly participating in the Siege of Petersburg. In July 1864, he retired from military duty due to poor health.
Following the Civil War, Brooks left Ohio and moved to Huntsville, Alabama, where he engaged in farming. He died on July 19, 1870, and he was buried in the Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville.