Born in Mount Pleasant, Pa., December 30, 1819, Geary was a man equally at home in politics and the military. He was a student at Jefferson College in Canons-burg, Pa., when the death of his father forced him to begin adult life early. Geary tested a number of professions before settling on law. Enlisting in the volunteer army for the Mexican War, he won praise as colonel of the 2d Pennsylvania Infantry, then organized postal service in California, served for a time as mayor of San Francisco, and was territorial governor of Kansas until his strong antislavery views forced his resignation.
When the Civil War began, Geary immediately issued a call in his home state for troops; so well respected was he that 68 companies responded to his proclamation. Geary selected 15 and organized the oversized 28th Pennsylvania Infantry. Service with Brig. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks along the upper Potomac River brought him a brigadiers commission 25 Apr. 1862. At the Battle of Cedar Mountain in August of that year, Geary was wounded in the foot and shoulder. Yet this tall, full-bearded officer with sharp eyes and an equally sharp tongue soon returned to duty and assumed command of a division in the XII Corps. He displayed resoluteness at Chancellorsville, steadfastness at Gettysburg, extraordinary valor at Lookout Mountain, and administrative skills in Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. Geary received brevet promotion to major general while military governor of Savannah.
In 1866 he was elected to the first of 2 Consecutive terms as Republican governor of Pennsylvania. On 8 Feb. 1873, less than 3 weeks after leaving the governors post, Geary was fatally stricken while preparing breakfast for his infant son. He was buried with state honors in Mount Kalma Cemetery, Harrisburg, Pa.