Richard James Oglesby

Richard James Oglesby (July 25, 1824 April 24, 1899) was a U.S. soldier and political figure. He served in the Mexican-American War and was a major general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He served Illinois in the legislature, including three terms as the governor, and then was a U.S. Senator.

Early years

Oglesby was born in Floydsburg, Oldham County, Kentucky. He was orphaned and moved to live with his uncle in Decatur, Illinois, in 1832, where he later worked as a farmhand, ropemaker, and carpenter. He was commissioned a first lieutenant in the 4th Illinois Infantry regiment in 1846 during the Mexican-American War, but saw no combat. He was mustered out of the volunteer service in May 1847. He studied at Louisville Law School in 1848, but traveled to California for the gold rush in 1849, where he tried his hand at gold mining. After two years of traveling in Europe, he returned to Illinois in 1851, joined the Republican Party at its formation, ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Congress in 1858, and was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1860.

Civil War

At the start of the Civil War, Oglesby was appointed Colonel of the 8th Illinois Infantry regiment on April 25, 1861, and was soon given command of the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, District of Cairo, Department of the Missouri, serving under the command of Ulysses S. Grant. He was a well liked commander known to his troops as "Uncle Dick". He commanded his brigade at the battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson and soon after was promoted to brigadier general (March 21, 1862). He commanded the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, Army of the Tennessee, during the siege of Corinth. He was severely wounded in his chest and back at the battle of Corinth in October 1862.

Oglesby was promoted to major general on November 29, and after a period of recovery, commanded the Left Wing of the XVI Corps, Army of the Tennessee, in western Tennessee and northern Mississippi from April to July 1863. He resigned his commission on May 26, 1864, to run for governor on the Republican ticket.

Illinois politics

Oglesby was elected by a large majority and served as the Governor of Illinois between 1865 and 1869. After his term ended, he practiced law until 1872, when he agreed to a scheme in which Oglesby ran again for governor, but turned the office over to the lieutenant governor immediately after inauguration in return for a seat in the U.S. Senate. He served as a Senator from 1873 until 1878. In 1884 he was reelected governor for a third time, becoming the first man in Illinois history to serve three times as governor. At the end of his term, he tried unsuccessfully to be reelected to his Senate seat and spent his remaining years in retirement. He died at his "Oglehurst" estate in Elkhart, Illinois, which burned down after being transferred to the city recently. He is buried there in Elkhart Cemetery. There is a statue of Oglesby in Lincoln Park, Chicago.

His son, John G. Oglesby, was a two time Lieutenant Governor of Illinois.

See also


  • Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Plummer, Mark A., Lincoln's Rail Splitter: Governor Richard J. Oglesby, University of Illinois Press, 2001, ISBN 0-252-02649-7.
  • Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders, Louisiana State University Press, 1964, ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.


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