Halbert Eleazer Paine

Halbert Eleazer Paine, was born in Chardon (Geauga County), Ohio, on February 4, 1826. Unlike his older cousin, Eleazer A. Paine, he did not attend West Point but was graduated from Western Reserve University at Cleveland in 1845 and for a time taught school in Mississippi. He soon returned to Ohio, however, studied law, and after admission to the bar in 1848, began his practice in Cleveland. After moving to Milwaukee he formed, in 1857, a partnership with Carl Schurz, but left the practice to become colonel of the 4th Wisconsin Cavalry on July 2, 1861. Paine had a most distinguished military career even though he lost a leg in 1863 in one of the assaults upon Port Hudson during the campaign to open the Mississippi River. He offered the paradox of a dedicated abolitionist who on the one hand refused to return fugitive slaves to their masters, but on the other would not burn Baton Rouge, although expressly ordered to do so by his superior, Benjamin F. Butler. He was promoted to brigadier general on April 9, 1863; and after recuperating from his wound, he performed much valuable service, particularly during Jubal Early's raid on Washington in 1864. Paine had charge of the forces stationed between Forts Totten and Stevens at this time. Toward the end of the war he commanded the District of Illinois, and, after being brevetted major general for gallantry, he resigned his volunteer commission on May 15, 1865. He was immediately elected to Congress as a Republican and served three terms in support of the Radical faction. In his last term he was chairman of the powerful committee on elections which decreed the seating of representatives from the ex-Confederate states. In 1871 General Paine started a Washington law practice instead of standing for reelection. General Schurz, his old law partner who was now Secretary of the Interior, wished him to become his assistant; Paine declined but finally accepted appointment as Commissioner of Patents in 1878. In this capacity he introduced the use of typewriters into the Federal bureaucracy—a marked achievement for the time. After his resignation from this office in 1880 he compiled A Treatise on the Law of Elections to Public Office, presumably written to justify his own previous determinations while in Congress; it is now regarded as the authoritative work on the subject. General Paine died in Washington on April 14, 1905, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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