Upton entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1856, graduating at the start of the Civil War. He then joined the 4th Artillery in 1861 and served with the Army of the Potomac. One year later, Upton was appointed colonel of the 121st New York Volunteer Infantry and saw action in some the heaviest fighting of the war, rising to command a brigade by 1863. Upton studied international military organizations and became an influential advocate for creating a modern Army. Emory Upton committed suicide in 1881.