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Adalbert Ames. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1728).

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Ames, Adelbert (31 October 1835–13 April 1933), soldier and politician, was born in Rockland, Maine, the son of Jesse Ames, a sea captain, and Martha B. Tolman. After spending some time at sea as a teenager, Ames entered the U.S. Military Academy, graduating in 1861. He was commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned to the Fifth Artillery. During the Civil War he was wounded at First Bull Run (First Manassas) on 21 July, and he later received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism there in refusing to leave his post despite the wound. He served with the Army of the Potomac during the Peninsula campaign of 1862, and for his actions at Malvern Hill he was brevetted lieutenant colonel. On 8 August 1862 he was named colonel in command of the Twentieth Maine Volunteer Infantry, with ...

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Nathaniel Prentiss Banks. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-4780).

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Banks, Nathaniel Prentiss (30 January 1816–01 September 1894), congressman and Civil War general, was born in Waltham, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel P. Banks, a textile mill foreman, and Rebecca Greenwood. He attended a school for factory children until he began work in the mills as a bobbin boy at age eleven. At seventeen he left factory work to assist his father in carpentry and to learn the machinist’s trade....

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Ambrose E. Burnside Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1625).

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Burnside, Ambrose Everett (23 May 1824–13 September 1881), soldier and businessman, was born in Liberty, Indiana, the son of Pamelia Brown and Edghill Burnside, a law clerk and farmer. The Burnsides had nine children and only a modest income, so Ambrose received no more than a rudimentary education before starting work as an apprentice tailor in 1840. His father took advantage of a term in the state legislature to have the boy appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, which he entered on 1 July 1843. He graduated eighteenth out of thirty-eight cadets in the class of 1847 and was commissioned second lieutenant in the Third U.S. Artillery. His battery was serving in the Mexican War, and he joined it in Mexico City, too late to see action. Bored, he gambled away six months’ pay. Further embarrassment was prevented by a posting, in spring 1848, to Fort Adams, Rhode Island....

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Benjamin F. Butler. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1406).

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Butler, Benjamin Franklin (05 November 1818–11 January 1893), governor of Massachusetts and Civil War general, was born in Deerfield, New Hampshire, the son of John Butler, a seaman, and Charlotte Ellison, both of Scots-Irish descent. John Butler died while his son was still an infant, and in 1828 Charlotte moved to Lowell, Massachusetts, to keep a boardinghouse for female factory workers. Butler was educated at Waterville (now Colby) College, which he attended from 1834 to 1838. He studied law while clerking for the Lowell attorney William Smith and was admitted to the bar in 1840. In 1844 he married the actress Sarah Hildreth, with whom he had four children, three of whom survived to adulthood....

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Joshua L. Chamberlain. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1859).

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Chamberlain, Joshua Lawrence (08 September 1828–24 February 1914), soldier, politician, and educator, was born in Brewer, Maine, the son of Joshua Chamberlain, a farmer and shipbuilder, and Sarah Dupee Brastow. After attending a military academy in Ellsworth, Chamberlain entered Bowdoin College in 1848, graduating in 1852. Three years later, after graduating from the Bangor Theological Seminary, he joined Bowdoin’s faculty and taught a broad range of subjects, including logic, natural theology, rhetoric, oratory, and modern languages. In 1855 he married Frances Caroline Adams; of the couple’s five children, three survived to adulthood....

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Cox, Jacob Dolson (27 October 1828–08 August 1900), Union general and Republican political figure, was born in Montreal, Canada, the son of Jacob Dolson Cox, Sr. (whose family name was originally Koch), a New York builder, and Thedia Redelia Kenyon. Cox’s family had moved to Montreal, where his father supervised construction of the Basilica of Notre Dame; they returned to New York City shortly after Jacob’s birth. The family’s financial reverses in the wake of the depression of 1837 forced young Cox to curtail his formal education. He clerked for New York City lawyers and bankers while pursuing a rigorous course of self-study, which by 1846 prepared him to enter Oberlin College. Cox was drawn to Oberlin by Professor (soon to be President) ...

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Crawford, Samuel Johnson (10 April 1835–21 October 1913), politician and soldier, was born near Bedford, Lawrence County, Indiana, the son of William Crawford and Jane Morrow, farmers. Crawford attended public schools and an academy in Bedford before reading law in the office of a local attorney. In 1857 he entered the Law School of Cincinnati College, from which he graduated in 1858....

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John Adams Dix. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109924).

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Dix, John Adams (24 July 1798–21 April 1879), politician and general, was born in Boscawen, New Hampshire, the son of Timothy Dix, a merchant, and Abigail Wilkins. He received a varied liberal education, including a year at Phillips Exeter Academy and fifteen months at the College of Montreal. At age fourteen, while being tutored in Boston, Dix pleaded to join the army to defend the nation in the War of 1812. His father, a major, helped him to obtain a commission, and he served in battles at Chrysler’s Field (1813) and Lundy’s Lane (1814). His father’s death during the war caused Dix to stay in the army to help support his stepmother and siblings. Serving as an aide to Major General ...

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Drake, Francis Marion (30 December 1830–20 November 1903), army officer, railroad promoter and executive, and governor of Iowa, was born in the western Illinois hamlet of Rushville, the son of John Adams Drake, a merchant and small-time capitalist, and Harriet Jane O’Neal. Drake grew up in a family of modest means. In 1837 his father relocated the family to the raw frontier settlement of Fort Madison, Iowa, then part of Wisconsin Territory. The Drakes stayed in this Mississippi River community until March 1846, when they moved to inland Davis County. There Francis’s father founded the town of Drakesville and pursued agricultural and banking interests. Like his thirteen brothers and sisters Francis received rudimentary formal education. He attended public schools in Fort Madison, although he never graduated from high school. But Drake expanded his knowledge through his own initiative; he read widely and enthusiastically and associated with “learned” people....

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Fairchild, Lucius (27 December 1831–23 May 1896), soldier, governor, and diplomat, was born in Portage County, Ohio, the son of Jairus Cassius Fairchild, a tanner and storekeeper, and Sally Blair. In 1846 the family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where Jairus Fairchild became state treasurer. After a local education supplemented by a brief stint at Carroll College, Lucius Fairchild left Wisconsin for the gold fields of California. From March 1849 to May 1855 he prospected and farmed in the Shasta Valley, where he also owned an interest in a general store. Returning home, he developed an interest in politics, joined the Democratic party, and in 1858 was elected clerk of the circuit court of Dane County, Wisconsin....

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John W. Geary. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-2033).

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Geary, John White (30 December 1819–08 February 1873), soldier and governor of Kansas Territory and Pennsylvania, was born near Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, the son of Richard Geary and Margaret White. After failing in the iron industry, Geary’s father opened a school, where he taught for many years. Geary was a student at Jefferson (now Washington and Jefferson) College when his father died. Forced by the family’s debts to drop out of college, he opened a school before finally completing college. He then spent several years clerking and studying engineering and law and was admitted to the bar. Until 1846 he worked as an engineer for Kentucky and Pennsylvania railroads. In 1843 he married Margaret Ann Logan, with whom he had two children. By the time of his maturity, Geary was an impressive figure, towering six feet five and a half inches, weighing 260 pounds, with an iron jaw and penetrating gray eyes. When the United States declared war against Mexico, Geary, who for ten years had been active in the state militia, organized a company known as the American Highlanders. They joined the Second Pennsylvania Regiment, in which he was elected lieutenant colonel....

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John F. Hartranft. Seated, center, with his staff. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8171-7758).

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Hartranft, John Frederick (16 December 1830–17 October 1889), Civil War officer and politician, was born near Pottstown, Pennsylvania, the child of Samuel E. Hartranft, a local landowner, and Lydia Bucher, both of German ancestry. He graduated from Union College in 1853 with a degree in civil engineering. About the same time as his marriage to Sallie Sebring (with whom he had one son and two daughters) in 1854, Hartranft changed his life’s vocation to law and politics....