Richard James (Uncle Dick) Oglesby

Richard James "Uncle Dick" Oglesby was born in Oldham County, Kentucky, July 25, 1824. Orphaned at the age of nine, he later averred that the sale of the family slaves at that time made him an abolitionist. He then went to Decatur, Illinois, to live with an uncle. His early education was of the most rudimentary sort, and he was soon occupied as farmhand, rope maker, and carpenter. Savings from the earnings of these occupations enabled him to study law in Springfield. He gained admission to the bar just before the Mexican War in which he served as a lieutenant of Illinois volunteers. After the war Oglesby resumed his law practice, joined the California gold rush, spent almost two years in travel abroad, joined the Republican party at its formation, ran for Congress in 1858, and was elected to the Illinois senate in 1860. The following spring he resigned to accept a commission as colonel of the 8th Illinois Infantry and distinguished himself in command of a brigade of McClernand's division at Forts Henry and Donelson. He was made brigadier general on March 22, 1862, and in October at the battle of Corinth, where his brigade was a part of T. A. Davies' division of the Army of West Tennessee, he was so severely wounded that he was unfit for duty until April, 1863. In the meantime he was promoted major general on March 10, 1863, to rank from the preceding November 29. He commanded a division and at times the left wing of the XVI Corps in west Tennessee and north Mississippi until he resigned from the service on May 26, 1864, in order to run for governor of Illinois on the Republican ticket. He was duly elected by a large majority in November. An ardent supporter of Lincoln's war policies, he later supported the Radical faction against Andrew Johnson. After his term ended in 1869, he practiced law until 1872 when a bargain was struck whereby Oglesby ran again for governor, but turned the office over to the lieutenant governor immediately after inauguration in return for a seat in the U. S. Senate. He declined reelection to the Senate in 1879, but in 1884 was reelected governor for the third time, becoming the first man in Illinois history to serve three times as governor. Failing in a bid for reelection to the Senate in 1891, General Oglesby spent his remaining years in retirement at his home, Oglehurst, in Elkhart, Illinois, where he died April 24, 1899. He was buried in Elkhart Cemetery.

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