Powell Clayton was born in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, on August 7, 1833. After attending a military academy in nearby Bristol and an engineering school in Wilmington, Delaware, he moved to Kansas in 1855 to engage in civil engineering at Leavenworth. As early as April 29, 1861, Clayton had a company of militia at Fort Leavenworth. A month later he was formally mustered into Federal service as a captain of the 1st Kansas Infantry. In December he became lieutenant colonel of the 5th Kansas Cavalry and in March, 1862, its colonel. He was made a brigadier general of volunteers on August 1, 1864. In the interval, and thereafter until he was mustered out, Clayton served primarily in Missouri and Arkansas. He fought at Wilson's Creek and after the capture of Little Rock in September, 1863, was assigned to command the post at Pine Bluff, where in October he repulsed an attack by Confederate General J. S. Marmaduke. Soon after the war, he bought a plantation and engaged in cotton farming. In 1868 Clayton was elected the first carpetbag governor of Arkansas, "neither the worst nor the best" of this gentry, according to one of his biographers; he remained Republican boss of Arkansas from then until his death. One of Clayton's acts as governor was the expenditure of $300,000 for Negro militia, under the command of General Robert F. Catterson, to put down the Ku Klux Klan. He also sponsored a $10 million increase in the bonded debt of the state. After Clayton had been elected U. S. Senator, he paid R. J. T. White, the Arkansas secretary of state, $30,000 to resign in order that Lieutenant Governor J. M. Johnson could be appointed to the post. (Clayton did not wish Johnson to succeed him as governor.) Opponents freely aired charges of venality, corruption, and election fraud against him. Defeated for reelection in 1876 by the re-enfranchised conservatives, General Clayton returned to Arkansas and in 1882 established his residence in Eureka Springs, where he managed hotels and railroads. From 1897 until 1905 he was ambassador to Mexico in the administrations of William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. About 1912, he moved to Washington, where he died on August 25, 1914. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.