Gen. David Perry:
A Notable Portrait
Brigadier General David Perry is believed to be the only Ridgefield native who rose to the rank of a general in the U.S Army. Consequently, he is probably also the highest-ranking military officer to have been born here.
He was, according to a 1908 Ridgefield Press profile, “best known for his bravery as an Indian fighter, although he had served with distinction in the Civil War.”
Today, however, he may be better known for a portrait that was painted of him.
Perry was born in Ridgefield on June 11, 1841, a son of Samuel and Sophia Perry, and attended the private school on Main Street operated by the Rev. David H. Short. He enlisted from New Jersey, receiving his commission as a second lieutenant in the 1st Cavalry in March 1862. Three months later he was promoted to first lieutenant, and to captain in November 1864.
During the Civil War, he fought in many battles and skirmishes with the Army of the Potomac.
After the war, he spent nearly two decades in the West, fighting American Indians. In 1873, he gained some distinction by capturing Captain Jack and his band of Modoc Indians in California after they had killed Gen. E.R.S. Canby and some peace commissioners. Captain Perry was wounded by the Modocs in one of the engagements.
Perry fought against the Nez Perce under Chief Joseph in 1877 and in the Bannock campaign in 1878. He was also a commander of Fort Custer in Montana.
He was breveted — promoted — three times due to gallantry in battle, once in the Civil War and twice in the American Indian Wars.
He became a lieutenant colonel of the 10th Cavalry in 1891 and colonel of the all-black 9th Cavalry in 1896. At the time of his retirement in 1904, he was promoted to brigadier general.
In 1907, Perry had his portrait painted by Robert Henri, a noted American painter and teacher. Henri was a leader of the Ashcan School movement of American realism that portrayed scenes in the daily life, usually of poor people. The portrait of Perry sold at a 1992 auction for $28,600 ($48,000 in today’s dollars) and is now in the collection of the Denver Art Museum.
Perry died in Washington, D.C., in 1908 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His wife, S. Louise Hoyt, who died in 1938, is buried beside him.
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