Some of the more intriguing threads I like to pull are the ones that link well known figures by blood or marriage – family ties. I’ve explored this before in the case of Peyton Manning (establishing that such a link probably doesn’t exist, see here, here and here), and you probably know the story of how a descendant’s relationship to First Bull Run Medal of Honor recipient Adelbert Ames led him to a memorable and often repeated encounter with the 35th President of the United States (if not don’t fret, I’ll talk about it later). Today let’s take a look at one of Ames’s classmates who had not one, but two descendants who are household names in the US today.
In May, 1861 Hugh Judson Kilpatrick graduated from the US Military Academy 17th out of his class of 45. Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st US Artillery on May 6, 1861, three days later he accepted a captaincy in the 5th New York Infantry, Duryee’s Zouaves. He was with that regiment in the expedition to Big Bethel in June, and in the battle there on June 10th he was severely wounded but did not retire from the field until too weak from loss of blood. Later he organized the 2nd NY Cavalry and by Dec. 1862 had risen to the colonelcy of that regiment. In June of 1863 he became a brigadier general of volunteers in command of a division of cavalry in the Army of the Potomac. He was hand-picked by Sherman to lead his cavalry in Georgia and the Carolinas, and ended the war a Major General USV and Brevet Maj. Gen. USA. After the war he twice served as US envoy to Chile, and he died in that country in 1881, of Bright’s disease at the age of 46.
Today, he serves mainly as a punch-line for Civil War authors working backwards from their conclusions and assumptions regarding his character.
Kilpatrick and his Chilean wife Luisa had a daughter, Laura Delphine, who married an American diplomat named Harry Morgan (no, not that Harry Morgan, though a like-named son would become an actor). Laura and Harry had a daughter named Gloria Laura Mercedes Morgan, who married Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, an heir to the Vanderbilt fortune. The fruit of that union was Gloria Laura Vanderbilt, the poor little rich girl who became the centerpiece of a bitter custody battle between her widowed mother and the powerful Vanderbilt clan. Eventually, her name graced the butts of hundreds of thousands of women in the 1970’s and ‘80’s. Little Gloria Vanderbilt is the great-granddaughter of Hugh Judson Kilpatrick.
Little Gloria’s fourth marriage, to Wyatt Emory Cooper, produced two sons. Older brother Carter committed suicide in 1988, jumping from the window of the family’s 14th floor apartment before his mother’s eyes. Kilpatrick’s other great-great-grandson, Anderson, pursued a career in journalism, and today has his own news program on CNN. See the resemblance?
By the way, another CNN talking head is named Campbell Brown. She gets her first name from her mother’s side and her last from her father’s. So it seems she’s not related to the stepson of Richard S. Ewell, a Confederate brigade commander at First Bull Run. That Campbell Brown wrote a Century Magazine article on his step-dad at Bull Run that can be found in Volume I of Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, and also published The First Manassas: Correspondence between Generals R. S. Ewell and G. T. Beauregard in further defense of Ewell in the face of Beauregard’s unfairly critical recollections. This book is a collection of his Civil War related writings.
See Part II here.