Francis Engle Patterson was born March 7th 1821 into a military family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of General Robert and Sarah [Engle] Patterson. Patterson began his military career as a Second Lieutenant in the United State artillery during the Mexican American War. After the war he stayed in the military, transferring to the infantry. He received a promotion in 1855 to Captain as part of the 9th United Infantry. Patterson left the military in 1857.
When the Civil War started Patterson rejoined the army. He served under his father in the 17th Pennsylvania with a rank of Colonel. In April 1862 Patterson was placed in command of the 2nd New Jersey and promoted to Brigadier General. He led his troops in the Battles of Fair Oaks and Seven Pines.
While posted at Catlett’s Station in November he received unconfirmed reports that there were Confederate troops in the area, and he purportedly ordered a withdrawal. His Division commander Union General Daniel E Sickles had him relieved of his command, and requested that an inquiry into Patterson’s actions be held, however before that could happen Patterson died. His death on November 22nd 1862 was caused by a self-inflicted gunshot, while in his tent near Occoquan, Virginia. It was determined the shot was an accidental discharge, but there was talk about suicide. Patterson is buried in the Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.