Philip Kearny was born in June, 1814, in New York City to a rich and socially prominent family. Because his mother died when he was quite young, Kearny spent his early years in a series of boarding schools and made his home with his maternal grandfather. Kearny attended Columbia University and studied law, but he decided to follow a military career.
He obtained a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Dragoons, commanded by his uncle. After two years' dragoon service, he was sent to study cavalry tactics at France's Saumur Cavalry School; while there, he volunteered for service with the Chasseurs d'Afrique in Algeria.
When Kearny returned to the United States, he served as a staff officer for Gen. Winfield Scott before fighting in the Mexican War. His left arm was amputated after he was wounded at Churubusco while leading a charge. In 1859, he went to Europe again, this time to fight in the Italian War as a member of Napoleon III's Imperial Guard. His daring in leading charges against the Austrians was rewarded with the Legion of Honor.
Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, Kearny was well known and respected and probably had more combat experience than any other Union officer. He was made a Union army brigadier general commanding a New Jersey brigade. He fought in the Peninsular Campaign at Williamsburg and Seven Pines, and after the Seven Days' battles, he was made a major general commanding a III Corps division. While in command of the corps, Kearny was credited with developing the concept of corps badges, which would go on to be adopted by the entire army.
He then fought at 2nd Bull Run and in the September 1, 1862, battle at Chantilly, VA. The action at Chantilly was fought in a driving rainstorm and Kearny rode into Confederate lines. When called upon to surrender, he fled and was killed by a volley of rifle fire. General Robert E. Lee, who held great respect for General Kearny along with many other Confederate officers and men, forwarded his remains under a flag of truce to Union lines in order to ensure that the general received a proper burial.
Kearny was buried at Trinity Churchyard in New York. In 1912, his remains were exhumed and re-interred at Arlington National Cemetery, where there is a statue in his honor, one of only two equestrian statues at Arlington. The statue was dedicated by President Woodrow Wilson in November 1914