Isaac Stevens

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Isaac Stevens
Governor.Gen.Stevens.jpg
Isaac Stevens during the Civil War
1st Governor of Washington Territory
In office
December 3, 1853 – August 11, 1857
Appointed byFranklin Pierce
Succeeded byLaFayette McMullen
Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from Washington Territory's at-large district
In office
March 4, 1857 – March 3, 1861
Preceded byJames Patton Anderson
Succeeded byWilliam H. Wallace
Personal details
Born(1818-03-25)March 25, 1818
North Andover, Massachusetts, US
DiedSeptember 1, 1862(1862-09-01) (aged 44)
Chantilly, Virginia, US
Resting placeIsland Cemetery, Newport, Rhode Island, US
Political partyDemocratic Party
Spouse(s)Margaret Hazard Stevens
ChildrenHazard, Virginia, Kate, Gertrude, Susan
Alma materUnited States Military Academy
ProfessionSoldier
Military service
Allegiance United States
Union
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service1839–1853
1861–1862
RankUnion army brig gen rank insignia.jpg Brigadier General
CommandsNew York 79th New York Volunteer Infantry
Battles/warsMexican-American War

American Civil War

AwardsMajor General (posthumous)
 
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Isaac Stevens
Governor.Gen.Stevens.jpg
Isaac Stevens during the Civil War
1st Governor of Washington Territory
In office
December 3, 1853 – August 11, 1857
Appointed byFranklin Pierce
Succeeded byLaFayette McMullen
Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from Washington Territory's at-large district
In office
March 4, 1857 – March 3, 1861
Preceded byJames Patton Anderson
Succeeded byWilliam H. Wallace
Personal details
Born(1818-03-25)March 25, 1818
North Andover, Massachusetts, US
DiedSeptember 1, 1862(1862-09-01) (aged 44)
Chantilly, Virginia, US
Resting placeIsland Cemetery, Newport, Rhode Island, US
Political partyDemocratic Party
Spouse(s)Margaret Hazard Stevens
ChildrenHazard, Virginia, Kate, Gertrude, Susan
Alma materUnited States Military Academy
ProfessionSoldier
Military service
Allegiance United States
Union
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service1839–1853
1861–1862
RankUnion army brig gen rank insignia.jpg Brigadier General
CommandsNew York 79th New York Volunteer Infantry
Battles/warsMexican-American War

American Civil War

AwardsMajor General (posthumous)

Isaac Ingalls Stevens (March 25, 1818 – September 1, 1862) was the first Governor of Washington Territory, a United States Congressman, and a brigadier general in the Union Army during the American Civil War until his death at the Battle of Chantilly. He was appointed posthumously to the grade of major general of volunteers.

Early life[edit]

Stevens was born and raised in Massachusetts, leaving his home state for the United States Military Academy at West Point in the late 1830s. He graduated in 1839, at the top of his class, and served for a number of years with the Army Corps of Engineers. He was promoted to first lieutenant in 1840.[1]

He was the adjutant of the Corps of Engineers during the Mexican-American War, seeing action at the siege of Vera Cruz and at Cerro Gordo, Contreras, and Churubusco. In the latter fight, he caught the attention of his superiors, who rewarded him with the brevet rank of captain. He was again cited and breveted for gallantry at the Battle of Chapultepec, this time to the rank of Major. He saw further combat at Molino del Rey, and the Battle for Mexico City, where he was severely wounded. He later wrote a book on his adventures, Campaigns of the Rio Grande and Mexico, with Notices of the Recent Work of Major Ripley (New York, 1851).

He superintended fortifications on the New England coast from 1841 until 1849, when he assumed command of the coast survey office in Washington, D. C., serving in that role until March 1853.

Governor[edit]

Isaac Stevens (c. 1855–1862)

Having been a firm supporter of Franklin Pierce's candidacy for President of the United States in 1852, Stevens was rewarded by President Pierce on March 17, 1853[2] by being named governor of the newly created Washington Territory (a position which carried with it the title of Superintendent of Indian Affairs for that region). Stevens chose to add one more duty as he traveled west to the territory he would govern: the government was calling for a surveyor to map an appropriate railroad route across the northern United States, and with Stevens' engineering experience (and likely the favor of Pierce yet again) he won the bid, and spent most of 1853 moving slowly across the prairie, surveying his way to Washington Territory, where he took up his post at Olympia as governor in November that year.

As a result of his expedition, Stevens wrote a third book, Report of Explorations for a Route for the Pacific Railroad near the 47th and 49th Parallels of North Latitude, from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Puget Sound, (commissioned and published by the United States Congress) (2 vols., Washington, 1855–60).

Stevens was a controversial governor in his time, and has become more controversial in retrospect. He used a careful combination of intimidation and force to compel the Native American tribes of Washington Territory to sign treaties that handed over most of their lands and rights to Stevens' government. These included the Treaty of Medicine Creek, Treaty of Hellgate, Treaty of Neah Bay, Treaty of Point Elliott, Point No Point Treaty, and Quinault Treaty. When Stevens was met with resistance, he used the troops at his disposal to exact vengeance. His winter campaign against the Yakama tribe, led by Chief Kamiakin, and his execution of the Nisqually chieftain Leschi (for the crime of having killed Stevens' soldiers in open combat), among other deeds, led a number of powerful citizens in the territory to beg Pierce to remove Stevens. Territorial Judge Edward Lander and Ezra Meeker (an influential private citizen) were both vocal in opposing Stevens—Lander was arrested as a result, and Meeker was simply ignored. Pierce sent word to Stevens of his disapproval of Stevens' conduct, but refused to remove the governor. Those who opposed Stevens ultimately lost public support, as the majority of the citizens of Washington Territory saw Meeker as being on the side of the "Indians", and Stevens on the side of the white settlers.

As a result of this public perception, Stevens was popular enough to be elected the territory's delegate to the United States Congress in 1857 and 1858. The tensions between the whites and the Native Americans would be left for others to resolve—Stevens is often charged with responsibility for the later conflicts in eastern Washington and Idaho, especially the war fought by the United States against Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce, but these events were decades away when Isaac Stevens left Washington for good in 1857.

Civil War[edit]

When the Civil War began in 1861, following the Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run, Stevens was commissioned in the Army again. This time, he was Colonel of the 79th New York Volunteers, known as the "Cameron Highlanders." He became a brigadier general on September 28, 1861, and fought at Port Royal. He led the Second Brigade of the Expeditionary Forces sent to attack the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina. He led a division at the Battle of Secessionville, where he personally led an attack on Fort Lamar, losing 25% of his men.

Stevens was transferred with his IX Corps division to Virginia to serve under Major General John Pope in the Northern Virginia Campaign and the Second Battle of Bull Run. He was killed in action at the Battle of Chantilly on September 1, 1862 after picking up the fallen regimental colors of his old regiment, shouting "Highlanders, my Highlanders, follow your general!" Charging with his troops while carrying the banner of Saint Andrew's Cross, Stevens was struck in the temple by a bullet and died instantly.

He was buried in Newport, Rhode Island at Island Cemetery.[3] In March 1863, he was posthumously promoted to major general, backdated to July 18, 1862.[4]

Hazard Stevens, Isaac's son, was also injured in the Battle of Chantilly. He also became a general in the U.S. Army and an author, and along with P. B. Van Trump participated in the first documented ascent of Mount Rainier.[5]

Memorialization[edit]

However, Stevens Pass in the Cascade Mountains of Washington on US Highway 2 is named after a different man with the same surname. This is John Frank Stevens (no relation), a locating engineer for the Great Northern Railway.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Appletons' annual cyclopaedia and register of important events of the year: 1862. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1863. p. 760. 
  2. ^ "Newly elected President Franklin Pierce appointed Isaac I. Stevens as Governor of Washington Territory". Territorial Timeline. Washington Secretary of State. Retrieved February 12, 2012. 
  3. ^ Isaac Ingalls Stevens at Find a Grave
  4. ^ United States Senate (1887). "Friday, March 6, 1863". Journal of the executive proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America 1862-1864. Government Printing Office. p. 206. 
  5. ^ "Ascents of Mount Rainier". National Park Service. October 20, 2001. Retrieved 2012-07-14. 

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]