Willis Arnold Gorman


Willis Arnold Gorman was born near Flemingsburg, Kentucky, on January 12, 1816. He moved with his parents to Bloomington, Indiana, when he was nineteen. After studying law and gaining admission to the bar, he entered politics and was successively a functionary of the Indiana senate and a three-term member of the state house of representatives. In 1846 he became major of the 3rd Indiana Volunteers; fought at Buena Vista; and, upon the expiration of his regiment's enlistment, recruited the 4th Indiana with which he fought at Puebla. In 1849, Gorman was elected to Congress from Indiana, serving until 1853 when he was appointed governor of the Minnesota Territory by President Franklin Pierce. At the end of his four-year term he took up the practice of law in St. Paul; was a member of the state constitutional convention and of the state legislature in 1859; and was a candidate for presidential elector for Stephen A. Douglas in 1860. On April 29, 1861, he was commissioned colonel of the 1st Minnesota Infantry, which acquitted itself well at First Manassas where it formed a part of W. B. Franklin's brigade of Samuel P. Heintzelman's division; Franklin praised the conduct of the regiment and its commander. The following month Gorman took part in the unfortunate affair at Ball's Bluff (Leesburg), in command of a brigade and was promoted to brigadier general to rank from September 7, 1861. At Seven Pines, in the Peninsular campaign, he directed the 1st Brigade of John Sedgwick's division of Edwin V. Sumner's II Corps and was commended by both Sumner and Sedgwick. He fought at Sharpsburg in the same capacity and on November 1, 1862, in the absence of the wounded Sedgwick, was in command of the division. Two weeks later he was assigned to command the District of Eastern Arkansas, with headquarters at Helena. Although supplanted as district commander by General Benjamin M. Prentiss, he remained in the district, participating in some minor operations during the Vicksburg campaign, until he was mustered out of service on May 4, 1864. He practiced law in St. Paul and was city attorney from 1869 until his death on May 20, 1876. General Gorman was buried in Oakland Cemetery, St. Paul.

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