George Henry Sharpe (February 26, 1828 – January 13, 1900) was an American lawyer, soldier, secret service officer, diplomat and politician.
Sharpe was born in Kingston, Ulster County, New York. He graduated from Rutgers in 1847, then studied law at Yale College, and was admitted to the bar in 1849. Then he traveled to Europe and served 1851-52 as Secretary of Legation at Vienna. After his return in 1854, he practiced law until he joined the Union Army in 1861 as captain of volunteers in the 20th New York Infantry.
Sharpe was appointed colonel of volunteers of the 120th New York Infantry in 1862, and took part in all the battles of the Army of the Potomac. He served on the staffs of Generals Joseph Hooker, George G. Meade, and Ulysses S. Grant, and was appointed brevet brigadier general of volunteers in 1864 and brevet major general of volunteers in 1865.
In April 1865, as head of the Bureau of Military Information and assistant provost marshal, he paroled 28,000 Confederate Army soldiers, among them General Robert E. Lee, after the surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House.
In 1867, on request of William H. Seward, Sharpe became a special agent of the U.S. State Department and went to Europe to locate and investigate Americans who might have been involved in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Seward was particularly interested in finding John Surratt, whose mother Mary Surratt had been hanged as one of the assassination conspirators. Surratt was brought back to the United States and put on trial in a civilian court. The trial ended with a hung jury, and Surratt was soon set free, never to be tried again.
From 1870 to 1873, he was United States Marshal for the Southern District of New York, and took the census that demonstrated the great election frauds of 1868 in New York City, which led to the enforcement of the federal election laws for the first time in 1871, and helped to smash the Tweed Ring.
In 1873 he was appointed Surveyor of the Port of New York. In 1877, President Rutherford Hayes asked the Collector of Customs Chester A. Arthur and his principal subordinates, Surveyor Sharpe and Naval Officer Alonzo B. Cornell to resign, which they refused to do. They were removed from office the next year.
Afterward he became head of the commission appointed to promote the commercial relations between the United States and Central/South American countries with the rank of Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary. He resigned after the inauguration of President Grover Cleveland in 1885.
He was a Republican member from Ulster County of the New York State Assembly from 1879 to 1883, and was Speaker in 1880 and 1881.
From 1890 to 1899, he was a member of Board of United States General Appraisers.
He was married to Caroline Hasbrouck, daughter of Abraham Bruyn Hasbrouck, and their children were Severyn Bruyn Sharpe, a county judge, Henry G. Sharpe, a U.S. Army officer, and Katherine Lawrence Sharpe who married Ira Davenport. He died while visiting the Davenport's residence at 31 East 39th Street in New York City. He was buried at Wiltwyck Cemetery in Kingston, New York.
- Frank Leslie: Famous Leaders and Battle Scenes of the Civil War (New York, 1896)
- The parole of Gen. Lee
- His lecture on The Last Hours of the Confederacy, in the New York Times, February 21, 1876
- He and his colleagues in a photo of the Secret Service officers in 1863
- Political Graveyard
- Bio at CIA Library
- His work and bio at University of Military Intelligence
- His obituary in New York Times, January 15, 1900
- History of US Marshal, Southern District of NY
|- style="text-align: center;"
|width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
Thomas G. Alvord |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Speaker of the New York State Assembly
1880 - 1881 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
Charles E. Patterson |- |}