Charles Smith Hamilton

Charles Smith Hamilton was born in the hamlet of Westernville, New York, on November 16, 1822; early in his life his parents moved to Erie County and he was educated at the Aurora Academy before receiving an appointment to West Point in 1839. Hamilton was graduated in the class of 1843, ranking five below U. S. Grant, and was brevetted a second lieutenant of infantry. In the course of the Mexican War he won promotion to the regular rank of first lieutenant and the brevet of captain for gallantry and was badly wounded at Molino del Rey. In 1853, after five years of routine duty, he resigned to engage in farming and to manufacture flour at Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Hamilton promptly offered himself for service and on May 11, 1861, was commissioned colonel of the 3rd Wisconsin Infantry and six days later brigadier general of volunteers. He served in the Shenandoah during the winter of 1862 and commanded a division of Heintzelman's III Corps on the Peninsula until he was relieved by General George B. McClellan after the siege of York-town on April 30, 1862, and superseded by General Philip Kearny. Powerful political pressure for his restoration to command failed to sway McClellan, who declared him "not fit to command a division." Accordingly, he was dispatched to the western theater, where he performed most creditably at Iuka and Corinth in command of a division of William S. Rosecrans' Army of the Mississippi. During this period he was promoted to major general to rank from September 19, 1862, supposedly upon the interposition of Grant. At the same time that Hamilton was assuring Grant of his esteem and devotion, he privately assured Senator James R. Doolittle of Wisconsin that "Grant is a drunkard." After other criticisms of superiors, coupled with his efforts to obtain command of James B. Mc-Pherson's XVII Corps, Grant protested strongly to Washington, with the result that Hamilton offered his resignation. It was promptly accepted on April 13, 1863. He returned to Fond du Lac and in 1869, paradoxically, was appointed United States marshal in Milwaukee by Grant. He was also a successful businessman in Milwaukee, member and president of the board of regents of the University of Wisconsin, and commander of the Wisconsin department of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion. General Hamilton died in Milwaukee on April 17, 1891, and was buried there in Forest Home Cemetery.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.