No Shave November – George Sykes


No Shave November

Each Saturday in November, an Old Guard veteran will be featured that sports impressive facial hair.

George Sykes was born in Dover, DE in 1822. Sykes graduated from West Point in the Class of 1842 and was assigned to the 3d Infantry Regiment. Sykes served with the Regiment from 1842-1861. During that time, Sykes fought in the Regiment during the Second Seminole War, the Mexican War, and the Indian War campaigns of the West, rising to the rank of Captain.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Sykes was promoted to major and joined the 14th Infantry Regiment. Fighting at the Battle of First Bull Run, Sykes was recognized and promoted to the war-time rank of brigadier general and commanded a division that became known as “Sykes Regulars” as they were one of the few units predominantly filled with Regular Army soldiers, rather than unit fielded by states that were mustered into Federal service. Sykes moved up to major general and commanded the V Corps, but was relieved from commanded following a poor showing during the Mine Run Campaign.
After the Civil War, he reverted back to the peace-time rank of lieutenant colonel, joining up the 5th Infantry Regiment and then commanding the 20th Infantry Regiment, which still carries his name today (Sykes Regulars). Colonel Sykes died in 1880, at the age of 57, while still serving in the Army. He is interred in the West Point Cemetery.

No Shave November – Thomas Childs Woodbury

No Shave November
Each Saturday in November, an Old Guard veteran will be featured that sports impressive facial hair.

Thomas Childs (T.C.) Woodbury was born in 1850 in Kentucky. Both his father and grandfather graduated from West Point Military Academy, in 1836 and 1814, respectively. T.C. Woodbury attended West Point, graduating in 1872. He was assigned to the 16th Infantry Regiment, serving with the unit along the Gulf Coast, in Indian Territory and in Utah. Woodbury deployed as to Cuba in the War with Spain and was wounded at the Battle of San Juan Hill in 1898.
The following year he deployed again, this time as part of the Army’s response to the Philippine Insurrection. He was promoted to major while in the Philippines and commanded the 3d Battalion, 19th Infantry. Woodbury served as military governor of the Island of Bohol for just over a year following the surrender of the insurrectionists. He returned to the U.S. in 1903 and took command of the 3rd Infantry Regiment the following year. The Old Guard was supposed to deploy for duty along the Panama Canal, but instead deployed to the Alaskan frontier.
Woodbury commanded the 3rd Infantry during a trying time. They traveled by steamship from San Francisco to Camp Skagway, Alaska until Fort William H. Seward was completed (present-day Haines, AK). The discovery of gold in the Yukon was a draw for thousands flooding into the frontier. The Army maintained 1,500 miles of telegraph lines connecting Juneau, Valdez, and Sitka, with the Old Guard running lines all the way to Nome. One additional mission was to restrict over-harvesting of the caribou population native to the region. In order to accomplish its mission, the Regiment was broken up, with companies serving at outposts stretched far apart. During the two-year deployment, elements of the Regiment served at Forts Liscum, Davis, Egbert, Gibbon, and St. Michael. The unit returned to Washington State in 1906, many seeing their families for the first time in two years.
Woodbury served in Washington State for two years commanding the Department of the Columbia from 1907-1908. Woodbury was tasked to return to the Philippines to serve on the general staff. His service was cut short by illness. During the trip on the transport back to the United States, he was struck by paralysis, succumbing to his illness on September 26, 1911, at the age of 61. He was later laid to rest in Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington D.C. beside his father.

No Shave November – Edmund B. Alexander

No Shave November
Each Saturday in November, an Old Guard veteran will be featured that sports impressive facial hair.
Edmund Brooke Alexander was born 1802 in Haymarket, Virginia. Alexander attended West Point Military Academy and graduated in 1823. On July 1, 1823, he was promoted to second lieutenant and joined the ranks of the 3d Infantry Regiment. Duty with the Third took him to the frontier, serving at: Jefferson Barracks, Missouri; Natchitoches, Louisiana; Fort Towson, Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). Along the way, he served as assistant quartermaster, all the while being  promoted to first lieutenant (Dec 1827) and captain (Jul 1838).
When the War with Mexico started, Alexander served in most of the major campaigns, earning himself a Brevet Major promotion* as a result of the Battle of Cerro Gordo. During the battle, Alexander led the 3d Infantry in a bayonet charge up El Telégrafo. The uphill charge was under made under heavy fire and resulted in the taking of the enemy breastworks. General Winfield Scott recognized Alexander in his official report giving him “highest praise” for his actions. Later in the war, at the Battle of Contreras, Alexander was recognized for his leadership. This time he led a bayonet charge against a convent being used by the Mexican Army as a defensive position. His actions resulted in the convent being taken, along with 1,200+ prisoners and several pieces of artillery captured. Among the captured men were three Mexican general and eighty-five deserters who had joined the Mexican Army. He was again recognized with a promotion to Brevet Lieutenant Colonel.
After the war, he commanded the 8th and 10th Infantry Regiments and took part in the Utah War. During the Civil War, he would be appointed to serve in various capacities in St. Louis, MO, due to mistrust held by many against Southern-born officers serving in the Union Army. He served with excellence receiving a brevet promotion to brigadier general. Alexander retired in 1868, having served for 45 years active duty. He is buried today at Oakland Cemetery near Saint Paul, MN.
As a coincidental note — In Summer 1940, the United States signed the “Destroyer for Bases” agreement with Great Britain. The agreement transferred fifty surplus destroyers to England in exchange for U.S. leases on British bases, one of the bases being Fort Pepperrell Air Force Base located at St. John’s, Newfoundland. As the base did not have barracks, the Army Transportation Service purchased the USS America, to be converted to a floating barracks so that soldiers could live on the ship while barracks were constructed. The America was re-christened the US Army Transport Edmund B. Alexander. One of the first units to mobilize as a result of “Destroyers for Bases” was the 3d Infantry Regiment, stationed at Fort Snelling, MN. When the unit prepared to ship out from New York City, it was the USAT Edmund B. Alexander that they boarded and lived on from January 1941 until June 1941.

*A brevet promotion was one that recognized a soldier’s meritorious service. These promotions did not result in higher pay or rank that was officially recognized, but showed a commander’s recognition of individual bravery or leadership.