Emory was a native Marylander who graduated from West Point in 1831, the same year that his commander in the Valley, Phil Sheridan, was born. After four years of service in the 4th U.S. Artillery that included duty at notable posts such as Fort McHenry in Baltimore and Charleston Harbor, SC, he resigned from the army and became an assistant United States Engineer. He quickly gained a reputation as a first rate cartographer and rejoined the army after a two year separation as a topographical engineer. During the Mexican War, Emory commanded a regiment of volunteers from Maryland and District of Columbia, which he led in Winfield Scott’s campaign from Vera Cruz to Mexico City.
When the Civil War broke out, Emory became Colonel of the 5th U. S. Cavalry and by the time of McClellan’s 1862 Peninsula Campaign, the Marylander was commander of the Army of the Potomac’s Reserve Brigade of cavalry. Later that year, Emory was transferred to the infantry and ended up serving as a division commander under Nathaniel Banks during the 1863 Port Hudson Campaign. In the spring of 1864, Emory gained distinction during Banks’ failed Red River Campaign by covering the retreat and saving Banks’ army from further damage. After that, he commanded the detachment of the Nineteenth Corps that was sent to Virginia as reinforcements to General Grant at Petersburg. However, Jubal Early’s Raid on Washington changed those plans, and Emory ended up going to the relief of Washington and subsequently campaigning in the Shenandoah Valley under Wright, Hunter and Sheridan.
On a personal note, Emory was married to Matilda Wilkins Bache, a great Granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin. One of his sons also served in the Civil War in the U. S. Army and another attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and went on to become and Admiral in the U. S. Navy after the Civil War.