Edwin Denison Morgan

Edwin Denison Morgan, better remembered as merchant, financier, philanthropist, and statesman than as a Civil War major general, was born February 8, 1811, in the Berkshire Hills village of Washington, Massachusetts, but at the age of eleven moved with his parents to Windsor, Connecticut. Here he received his early education while working on his father's farm. He began clerking for an uncle in Hartford, Connecticut when he was seventeen; was elected a city councilman at twenty-one; moved to New York at twenty-five; and by the age of thirty was one of the leading merchants of the metropolis. Subsequently he added security underwriting and banking to his wholesale grocery business, enlarging still further his fortune. Elected to the city board of aldermen in 1849, he went to the state senate the following year and served until 1855; he was the first chairman of the Republican National Committee, a post which he continued to hold until 1864. In 1858 Thurlow Weed, the political "boss" of New York State, chose Morgan as his candidate for governor. He was elected and reelected in 1860 by the largest majority ever given a gubernatorial candidate up to that time. His first term was marked by constructive legislation and freedom from subservience to Weed; his second by his successful efforts in behalf of the Federal cause, during which he enrolled, armed, equipped, and forwarded no less than 223,000 men. Lincoln made him a major general of volunteers on September 28, 1861, in order to give him military as well as civil authority, and placed him in command of the Department of New York. Toward the expiration of his second term as governor, the legislature elected him to the U. S. Senate, where he took his seat on March 4, 1863, having resigned his military commission on January 1. In the postbellum years he was not so successful politically and was defeated for reelection to the Senate in 1869 and for the governorship in 1876. Nevertheless, he twice declined the Treasury portfolio proffered him by President Johnson in 1865 and President Arthur in 1881, the last time after his nomination had been unanimously confirmed by the Senate. In the later years of his life he made large gifts to various educational, religious, and medical institutions; his total contributions were estimated at more than a million dollars—an enormous sum in an era when a penny bought what a dollar does today. Governor Morgan died in New York City on February 14, 1883, and was buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery, Hartford, Connecticut.

Previous Page

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