William Scott Ketchum

William Scott Ketchum was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, July 7, 1813, the son of an officer in the Regular Army who was also a native of Connecticut. Young Ketchum was graduated from West Point in 1834, standing thirty-two in a class of thirty-six. From then until the outbreak of the Civil War, he was on frontier duty in Florida and the West and did not take part in the war with Mexico, as he was stationed in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) at the time. He was promoted to captain in the line in 1842, major in 1860, and lieutenant colonel the year following. During the war years Ketchum's career was soldierly but unspectacular. His services were confined entirely to matters of inspection, recruitment, boards of inquiry, the auditing of accounts and claims, and various other special assignments undertaken for the War and Treasury departments. He was made a brigadier of volunteers to rank from February 3, 1862, colonel of the 11th Infantry in 1864, and brevetted brigadier and major general, U. S. Army, at the close of the war. After being mustered out of volunteer service in 1866, he devoted the four remaining years of his army career to special duty in the adjutant general's office in Washington. Unassigned after March 15, 1869, he was retired at his own application on December 15, 1870. A few months later, while visiting a Baltimore boarding house, he died under mysterious circumstances on June 28, 1871. Subsequently the proprietress, a Mrs. Elizabeth G. Wharton, who owed Ketchum money, was formally indicted on a charge of having murdered him by poison. A change of venue was taken to Annapolis, where Mrs. Wharton was tried and found not guilty on January 24, 1872. Meanwhile General Ketchum's remains, which had been buried in Rock Creek Cemetery, Georgetown, D. C, were twice exhumed and examined by various medical authorities who testified for the state. Mrs. Wharton may have been beneficiary of the backward state of forensic medicine at the time, or of her own status as a female, since a review of the evidence presented at the trial hardly seems to warrant the verdict rendered.

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