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Charles Devens


In office
March 12, 1877 – March 4, 1881
Preceded by Alphonso Taft
Succeeded by Wayne MacVeagh

Born April 4, 1820(1820-04-04)
Charlestown, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died January 7, 1891 (aged 70)
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political party Whig, Republican
Alma mater Harvard University
Profession Lawyer, Politician
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Union
Service/branch Union Army
Rank Brigadier General
Battles/wars American Civil War

Charles Devens (April 4, 1820 – January 7, 1891) was an American lawyer, jurist and statesman. He also served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Contents

Early life and career

Born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, Devens graduated from Boston Latin School and eventually Harvard College in 1838, and from the Harvard Law School in 1840. He was admitted to the bar in Franklin County, Massachusetts, where he practiced from 1841 to 1849.

In 1848, he was a Whig member of the Massachusetts Senate. From 1849 to 1853, Devens was United States Marshal for Massachusetts, in which capacity he was called upon in 1851 to remand the fugitive slave, Thomas Sims, to slavery. This he felt constrained to do, much against his personal desire; subsequently, he attempted in vain to purchase Sims' freedom, and many years later appointed him to a position in the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C..

Devens practiced law at Worcester, Massachusetts, from 1853 until 1861. During much of this time, he also served as a general in the state militia.

General Charles Devens (center) and other officers in Richmond, Virginia, April, 1865.

Civil War

When the war erupted, Devens was initially a major in the 3rd Battalion of Massachusetts Rifles. He was appointed as colonel of the 15th Massachusetts Infantry in July 1861. He was wounded in action at the Battle of Ball's Bluff.

General Charles Devens

Devens was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers in April 1862 and assigned command of the 1st Brigade/1st Division/IV Corps. He was again wounded at the Battle of Fair Oaks in May. His brigade was not heavily involved in the Maryland Campaign. Shortly afterwards, it was reassigned to the VI Corps. Devens commanded the 2nd Brigade/3rd Division/VI Corps during the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Assigned command of the first division in the XI Corps, Devens was again wounded, this time at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863. His inattention of the exposed right flank of the division helped Stonewall Jackson launch his flank attack on the corps. Devens's failure to react to early warnings of Jackson's flanking movement may have been due to his heavy drinking in an attempt to dull the pain of a previous injury.[1]

Devens later distinguished himself at Battle of Cold Harbor, while commanding the 3rd Division/XVIII Corps in Ulysses S. Grant's Overland Campaign. During final stages of the Siege of Petersburg, he commanded the 3rd Division of the XXIV Corps.

Devens' troops were the first to occupy Richmond after its fall in April 1865.

Postbellum

Breveted as a Major general in 1865, Devens remained in the army for a year as commander of the military district of Charleston, South Carolina, before mustering out and returning home. He later served as the fifth Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic from 1873–75.

Devens was also a key figure in the investigation into the unlawful execution of Confederate veteran Calvin Crozier by soldiers of the 33rd Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops, at Newberry, SC in September 1865 following an altercation. Over Devens' strong objections the officer who took responsibility for the lynching was exonerated and returned to duty.

He was a judge of the Massachusetts superior court, from 1867 to 1873, and was an associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court from 1873 to 1877, and again from 1881 to 1891. From 1877 to 1881, he was Attorney General of the United States in the Cabinet of President Rutherford B. Hayes.

Charles Devens died in Boston, Massachusetts, and is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Fort Devens in central Massachusetts, which opened in 1917, was named after him, as was its successor, the Census-designated place Devens, Massachusetts. A statue of him stands outside the Devens Court House.

See also

References

  1. ^ Sears, Stephen W., Chancellorsville, Houghton Mifflin, 1996, ISBN 0-395-87744-X.
This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

A statue of him stand outside the Old Worcester Courthouse.

Further reading

  • Charles Devens' Orations and Addresses, with a memoir by John Codman Ropes (Boston, 1891).

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Alphonso Taft
United States Attorney General
1877–1881
Succeeded by
Wayne MacVeagh
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CHARLES DEVENS (1820-1891), American lawyer and jurist, was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, on the 4th of April 1820. He graduated at Harvard College in 1838, and at the Harvard law school in 1840, and was admitted to the bar in Franklin county, Mass., where he practised from 1841 to 1849. In the year 1848 he was a Whig member of the state senate, an d from 1849 to 1853 was United States marshal for Massachusetts, in which capacity he was called upon in 1851 to remand the fugitive slave, Thomas Sims, to slavery. This he felt constrained to do, much against his personal desire; and subsequently he attempted in vain to purchase Sims's freedom, and many years later appointed him to a position in the department of justice at Washington. Devens practised law at Worcester from 1853 until 1861, and throughout the Civil War served in the Federal army, becoming colonel of volunteers in July 1861 and brigadiergeneral of volunteers in April 1862. At the battle of Ball's Bluff (1861) he was severely wounded; he was again wounded at Fair Oaks (1862) and at Chancellorsville (1863), where he commanded a division. He later distinguished himself at Cold Harbor, and commanded a division in Grant's final campaign in Virginia (1864-65), his troops being the first to occupy Richmond after its fall. Breveted major-general in 1865, he remained in the army for a year as commander of the military district of Charleston, South Carolina. He was a judge of the Massachusetts superior court from 1867 to 1873, and was an associate justice of the supreme court of the state from 1873 to 1877, and again from 1881 to 1891. From 1877 to 1881 he was attorney-general of the United States in the cabinet of President Hayes. He died at Boston, Mass., on the 7th of January 1891.

See his Orations and Addresses, with a memoir by John Codman Ropes (Boston, 1891).


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