Leroy S. Elbert was born in Logan County, Ohio on September 4, 1837. His parents moved to Iowa early in his childhood. His father, a prominent doctor, convinced Senator Andrew Hall to nominate Leroy to West Point from Iowa in January 1857. Leroy joined his class there on July 1, 1857.
Elbert graduated near the bottom of the June class of 1861, only six places ahead of George Custer . He was assigned to the Regiment of Mounted Rifles as a brevet second lieutenant upon graduation, all vacancies in the regiment being full at the Adjutant General’s office. Due to the chaos caused by so many officers resigning and declining appointments, however, he was promoted very rapidly. By the time the smoke cleared with General Order #62 from the Adjutant General’s Office in August, Leroy received his appointment, promoted to second lieutenant in Company L and first lieutenant in Company E effective the day of his graduation, June 24, 1861. Over two years would pass before he joined his regiment.
First Lieutenant Elbert remained very active in the meantime. Since his regiment was in New Mexico, Leroy hurried directly to Washington, D.C. immediately after graduation like most of his class. He participated in the Manassas campaign and worked through the winter of 1862 drilling troops and seeking a staff position. Since his company was disbanded following the surrender at San Augustine Springs, he saw no compelling need to join his regiment in New Mexico and had no orders to do so.
He initially applied in January 1862 to serve as an aide de camp to Brigadier General Curtis in St Louis. Despite an endorsement from President Lincoln, this request was denied by Major General McClellan and the Adjutant General’s Office because regular officers were not permitted to serve as aides for generals of volunteers. He served with Captain William P. Chambliss’ squadron of the 5th U.S. Cavalry during the siege of Yorktown and battle of Williamsburg. At the battle of Hanover Court House he served on Brigadier General Emory’s staff as an acting aide de camp. He later served on the staff of Brigadier General Alfred Pleasonton in the same capacity during the Maryland campaign from September to November 1862.
He transferred to the Artillery Reserve of the Army of the Potomac before the battle of Fredericksburg. Placed in charge of the ammunition, First Lieutenant Elbert provided nearly 5,000 rounds to the batteries on the army’s right. Brigadier General Hunt cited his performance in his report on the battle.
During the spring of 1863, Major General Stoneman selected him for the staff of the Cavalry Corps. He served here as an aide de camp through Stoneman’s Raid and the beginning of the Gettysburg campaign. On June 27th, word of his promotion caught up to him. Promoted to Captain of Company G, 3rd U.S. Cavalry on March 11, 1863, he was ordered to immediately join his regiment in the western theater.
Captain Elbert joined his company at Camp McRae, near Memphis, Tennessee. He served there until September, when he became ill with typhoid fever. The regimental commander, Captain George W. Howland, granted him sick leave to go home to Iowa and recover on September 11th. He didn’t make it home.
Captain Leroy S. Elbert died on the steamboat “City of Alton” on September 13, 1863 while en route to St Louis. Captain Samuel Gilbert of the 2nd Iowa Cavalry was with him and sent his body and belongings home from St Louis. He is buried in Oak Lawn Cemetery, Keosauqua, Van Buren County, Iowa.