William Buel Franklin
William Buel Franklin was born on February 27, 1823, at York, Pennsylvania. He was graduated from West Point in 1843, ranking first in the class in which U. S. Grant was twenty-first. Franklin's first commission was in the Corps of Topographical Engineers and he took part in the Great Lakes survey of 1843-45 and in Philip Kearny's exploration of South Pass in the Rockies. During the Mexican War he was attached to John E. Wool's column and won a brevet for gallantry at Buena Vista. From the close of the Mexican War until 1861, Franklin was in Washington, where he was charged with the construction of the new Capitol dome and the monolithic Treasury addition. Upon the organization of the new Regular Army regiments at the outbreak of Civil War, Franklin was commissioned colonel of the 12th U. S. Infantry on May 14 and three days later, brigadier general in the volunteer service. At the debacle of First Manassas his brigade was in Samuel P. Heintzelman's division and consisted of two Massachusetts regiments, the 1st Minnesota and a battery of the 1st U. S. Artillery. The 4th Pennsylvania had already consigned its name to obloquy by claiming its discharge on the very morning of the battle, despite a personal appeal by General Irvin McDowell, the army commander. Franklin did as well with such material as could reasonably have been expected and in September was given the direction of a division in the Washington defenses. When the Army of the Potomac embarked upon the Peninsular campaign, Franklin led his division, and subsequently the VI Corps, with distinction. During the Maryland campaign he commanded the forces which penetrated Crampton's Gap in South Mountain and his corps at Sharpsburg. At Fredericksburg, Ambrose E. Burn-side selected him to command the "Left Grand Division," consisting of his own corps and the I Corps of General John F. Reynolds. After all was over, Burnside complained bitterly that Franklin disobeyed orders, was partially responsible for the dismal failure of the Federal effort, and demanded his removal from the army. This set of circumstances effectively shattered Franklin's career. Although Abraham Lincoln's refusal to cashier Franklin triggered Burnside's relief from the command of the Army of the Potomac, Franklin was never again restored to his previous status. Instead, after some months awaiting orders, he was relegated to the command of the XIX Corps in the expedition to Sabine Pass and in N. P. Banks's ill-fated Red River campaign, during which he was wounded. At the end of the war he served as president of the board for retiring disabled officers and, obviously out of favor, resigned both his regular and volunteer commissions. General Franklin was notably successful postbellum in many fields: for twenty-two years he was general manager of the Colt's Fire Arms Manufacturing Company in Hartford; he supervised the construction of the Connecticut capitol; he was a presidential elector for Samuel J. Tilden in 1876; and he was commissioner general of the United States for the Paris Exposition of 1888. He died in Hartford on March 8, 1903, and was buried in York, the town of his birth.
Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.