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Francis Barretto Spinola
March 19, 1821(1821-03-19) – April 14, 1891 (aged 70)
Francis Barreto Spinola.jpg
Francis Barretto Spinola
Place of birth Stony Brook, Long Island, New York
Place of death Washington, D.C.
Place of burial Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch Union Army
Rank Brigadier General
Commands held "Excelsior Brigade" (the Second Brigade, Second Division, Third Army Corps)
Battles/wars American Civil War

Francis Barretto Spinola (March 19, 1821 – April 14, 1891) was the first Portuguese American to be elected to the United States House of Representatives, serving as a representative from New York from 1887 to 1891. He also served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.



Francis Barretto Spinola was the son of João Leandro Spinola, a Portuguese merchant from Madeira Island, and Elizabeth Phelan (1790-1873)[1], daughter of Captain John Phelan (1747, Waterford, Ireland - 1827, Baltimore, Maryland), who served in the Revolutionary War, and his wife Susanna Davis. The Spinola family, of noble Genovese origin, moved into Madeira Island in the late 15th, early 16th century, as merchants. They quickly mixed with the Island's population, and today the majority of the Madeira inhabitants descends from them. The Barreto surname is Portuguese. The fact that the Spinola surname is originally Italian is, certainly, the cause of a misunderstanding about his father nationality and background, commonly believed to be an Italian himself.


Spinola was born in Stony Brook, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York. He attended Quaker Hill Academy in Dutchess County and then passed the bar exam before establishing a law practice in Brooklyn. He was elected alderman of the Second Ward in Brooklyn in 1846 and 1847, and was reelected in 1849 and served for four years. Politically a Democrat, he was a member of the New York State Assembly in 1855. He then served as a member of the New York State Senate from the 3rd District between 1858–61, and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1860.

He was commissioner of New York Harbor when the Civil War erupted. Spinola joined the volunteer army in a New York regiment and was commissioned as an officer. He was appointed brigadier general of Volunteers on October 2, 1862. He commanded two relief efforts to lift the Confederate siege of Washington, NC.

Spinola assumed command of the New York "Excelsior Brigade" (the Second Brigade, Second Division, Third Army Corps), on July 11, 1863, following the Battle of Gettysburg as the Army of the Potomac strove to fill open command slots created by battle casualties. Spinola's brigade led the Union troops on July 23 at the Battle of Wapping Heights near Warrenton, Virginia, suffering 18 men killed, including two officers. Spinola was wounded in the fighting, along with dozens of his men. He was honorably discharged from the service in August 1865.

Following the war, Spinola was a banker and insurance agent, and became an influential figure among the rapidly growing Italian immigrant community in the New York City area. He was a U.S. Representative from New York's 10th District from 1887–91, and died in office in Washington, D.C.. He was buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.


  1. ^ Early New York Naturalization Records, p. 278

See also

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York

? – ?
Succeeded by


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