Richard Busteed

Richard Busteed, born in Cavan, Ireland, on February 16, 1822, was the son of a Dublin barrister who once held a colonel's commission in the British army. The family moved to the island of St. Lucia for a time; returned to Ireland; moved again to London, Ontario; and thence successively to Cincinnati, Hartford, and New York City, where the father and son engaged in newspaper work. Young Busteed studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1846. Soon attaining distinction in several extradition cases, he was elected corporation counsel of New York City in 1856 and served until 1859. Meantime he was active in politics as a Democrat and supported Stephen A. Douglas in 1860, earning a reputation as a bitter opponent of Abraham Lincoln but as a strong Union man. In October, 1861, he organized an independent battery of field artillery known variously as Captain Busteed's Battery, the Chicago Light Artillery, and Battery C, Chicago Light Artillery. On November 7, 1861, two days before the battery's transfer to the 1st Regiment, New York Light Artillery, Busteed resigned his captain's commission. He makes no further appearance in the records until August 7, 1862, when he was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers, an appointment which expired by law on March 4 since his name was not sent to the Senate for confirmation. Meantime, he served in the occupation forces under the immediate command of General Erasmus D. Keyes, protecting the Federal stronghold of Fort Monroe on the Virginia Peninsula. In September, 1863, Lincoln appointed Busteed judge of the U. S. District Court for Alabama, anomalously, since Alabama was almost entirely under Confederate control. Busteed opened his court in the autumn of 1865 and inaugurated a flood of trials resulting in few convictions but high costs. Allegedly, Busteed conspired with other court officials to swindle the businessmen they prosecuted. In the course of a nine-year tenure he handed down several important opinions, one of which decreed the unconstitutionality of the Congressionally prescribed test oath so far as it applied to attorneys practicing before United States courts. This decision was upheld by the Supreme Court. Although Busteed strengthened his affiliation with the Democratic party through association with some of its New York officials who visited Washington, he supported Republican candidates in the 1872 campaign. He resigned from office in 1874 to avoid impeachment and returned to New York to resume his law practice. He died there on September 14, 1898, and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.

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