John Edward Summers

John Edward Summers was born on January 22, 1822, in Fauquier County, Virginia, to John Edward Summers, Sr., and Sally C. Moffatt. His father was a farmer who owned at least nine slaves. The younger John enrolled at the University of Virginia in 1844 and spent the next year studying medicine, chemistry, and anatomy.

During the Mexican-American War, Summers applied to join the medical staff of the United States Army, and his examination took place in May 1847. On December 13, 1847, he received an appointment as assistant surgeon in the regular army, which he accepted on February 22, 1848. On April 2, 1849, he became the post surgeon in San Diego County, California, where he remained for the next several years.

Summers married Jane Stuart in California on February 20, 1850, and they had three children together: Caroline, born around 1856; John Edward, born January 2, 1858; and Matilda, born February 24, 1859. On December 13, 1852, Summers was promoted to the rank of captain. The army transferred him to the Minnesota Territory by 1856 and then to Fort Kearney in the Nebraska Territory by 1858.

Summers remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War, and on May 21, 1861, he received a promotion to surgeon with the rank of major. During the war, he served as the medical director of the Department of Tennessee, and was also placed in charge of the military hospital in Alexandria, Virginia. He was promoted to medical inspector on February 27, 1863. After the war, Summers returned to his rank as a full surgeon in the regular army. Former Confederates viewed officers like Summers as hope for a quick reconciliation after the war. As one editor explained, Summers was a Virginian and former slaveholder who was “disposed to treat with magnanimity a brave but vanquished foe.” If “Radicals would imitate the example of such men,” the editor insisted, peace would quickly return and the “Union [would] be stronger by the recent estrangement.” Summers’ attitude toward Reconstruction is unknown, but he remained in the United States Army for the next twenty years.

The army stationed him in St. Paul, Minnesota, for several years before transferring him to Fortress Monroe in Virginia in 1870. Four years later, the army sent him to Omaha to become post surgeon in the Department of the Platte. He received a promotion to lieutenant colonel on March 17, 1880, and to colonel on January 9, 1885. He retired from active duty on January 24, 1886, but chose to remain in Omaha. By 1900, he was living in Washington, D.C. He died on October 1, 1908, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Image: John Edward Summers (printed in Julius Sterling Morton, Illustrated History of Nebraska, vol. 1 (Lincoln: Western Publishing and Engraving Company, 1911), 394).

Name:Summers, John Edward
Alternative names:
  • Soldier
  • UVA (Union)
U.S. Army Medical Department
Branch of service:Army
Muster In1847-12-13
Muster Out1886-01-24Retired
Residence at UVA:Fauquier County, VA
UVA Begin Year:1844
UVA End Year:1845
Residence at enlistment:
Rank In:Assistant Surgeon
Rank Out:Colonel
Highest rank achieved:Brigadier General
Birth date:1822-01-22
Birth date certainty:Certain
Birth place:Fauquier County, VA
Death date:1908-10-01
Death place:Atlantic City, NJ
Causes of death:
Occupations:Soldier, Surgeon
Person 1Relation TypePerson 2
Summers, John Edwardparent ofSummers, Caroline
Summers, John Edwardparent ofSummers, John
Summers, John Edwardparent ofSummers, Matilda
Summers, Caroline Janewife ofSummers, John Edward

Compiled Service Records for John E. Summers, RG 94, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.; United States Census, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900, accessed through; UVA Student Catalogue, Jefferson's University: Early Life; Alumni Bulletin of the University of Virginia, Volumes 1-7 (1894); U.S., Select Military Registers, 1862-1985 for John E. Summers, accessed through; "Brig. Gen. John E. Summers," The New York Times, October 3, 1908; Jerry D. Thompson, Civil War to the Bloody End (2006); Franics Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (1903); Arthur C. Wakeley, Omaha (1917); The Selma Times, June 21, 1866; The Baltimore Sun, June 11, 1847 and October 1, 1870; Richmond Dispatch, October 10, 1874.