United States Army Officer, Humorist. Known as the grandfather of Western humor, he was born in Dedham, Massachusetts; the son of an eccentric writer for New England newspapers. A graduate of West Point, he was 7th in his class, followed by classmates Stonewall Jackson and George Edward Pickett. He was commissioned in the U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers, AND distinguished himself in the Mexican War in which he was severely wounded at Cerro Gordo. The peacetime field reports of Brevet First Lieutenant Derby were written mock-serious, often flippant; for this he was rewarded with assignment to distant California and was nearly forgotten by the Army. Lieutenant Derby remained in the Army and was given occasional assignments while also leading expeditions into gold country. To relieve boredom, he wrote burlesque letters to California newspapers signing them "John Phoenix" or by his nickname "Squibob." He became well known in the West through a series of sketches he wrote for the San Francisco magazine "Pioneer". In 1855 his friend J.J. Ames, editor of the San Diego "Herald", selected some his sketches and published "Phoenixiana" also known as "Sketches and Burlesques," a volume that became immensely popular. In 1856 George Derby was transferred to the East and continued writing his burlesques as "Squibob." One month after the cannonading of Fort Sumter, Derby suffered sunstroke and died insane in New York City. He was interred in his wife's family plot in Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis. Thirty-eight years later his remains were removed and returned to New York to the cemetery at West Point. His uncollected writings were published by his wife at the end of the Civil War as "The Squibob Papers."
Bio by: Connie Nisinger