(1819–1907) Union army officer, born in Alabama, the son of an abolitionist leader. William is the older brother of David Bell Birney. He supervised recruiting of U.S. Colored Troops (USCTs) and was assigned a brigade of USCTs in the Department of the South. He was active in raiding outposts, railroads, mills, etc., and led a division in the all-black XXV Army Corps, Army of the James, in pursuit of Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia retreating from Petersburg (1864). He was stripped of command by Maj. Gen. Edward Ord when Birney accused him of trying to deny his black troops a role in Lee's defeat.
From The Oxford Essential Dictionary of the U.S. Military in Oxford Reference.
Subjects: Warfare and Defence.