Stephen Augustus Hurlbut

Stephen Augustus Hurlbut was born November 29, 1815, in Charleston, South Carolina, the home of his mother. His father, a Unitarian minister, was a native of Massachusetts. He resided in Charleston for thirty years, during which time he gained admission to the South Carolina bar and served as adjutant of a South Carolina regiment during one of the interminable Seminole uprisings in Florida. In 1845 he removed to Belvidere, Illinois, and soon became politically prominent; he was serving as a Republican member of the state legislature when the Civil War broke out. On June 14, 1861, Lincoln appointed him a brigadier general of volunteers, and he was advanced to major general on September 17, 1862. Hurlbut's military achievements were creditable; however, at the same time he seems to have exercised every opportunity to line his own pockets. He commanded the 4th Division of the Army of the Tennessee at Shiloh and in the ensuing campaign against Corinth, and during the next year was in garrison at Memphis in charge of the XVI Corps. In 1864 Hurlbut was assigned to the command of the Department of the Gulf, where he used his official position to further his own ends, and in so doing harassed the carpetbag government of Louisiana, much to the discomfort of Lincoln. A special commission recommended his arrest and trial for corrupt practices; General Edward R. S. Canby so ordered, but the case was hushed up and allowed to die, and as of June 20, 1865, he was "honorably mustered out" of service. Hurlbut then returned to Belvidere, where he resumed his political prominence and was the first commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic. Well-founded charges of drunkenness and corruption leveled at him during this period of his life seem to have had little effect on his professional popularity. President Grant appointed him minister to Colombia as a reward for his having canvassed Illinois in 1868 as a presidential elector; and in 1872, after a failure two years previously, the general was elected to Congress, winning reelection in 1874. In 1881 President Garfield made him minister to Peru; and he was charged with unfortunate management of the post during the "War of the Pacific" and again seeking to provide financially for himself. He died at the ministry in Lima, March 27, 1882; his remains were returned to Belvidere for burial.

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