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Thomas Moonlight

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Thomas Moonlight

Thomas Moonlight
Thomas Moonlight
Born (1833-09-30)September 30, 1833
Boysack Muir near Arbroath Forfarshire, Scotland
Died February 7, 1899(1899-02-07) (aged 65)
Leavenworth, Kansas
Place of burial Mount Muncie Cemetery
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch Union Army
Rank Brevet Brigadier General

American Civil War

Thomas Moonlight (September 30, 1833 – February 7, 1899) was a United States politician and general. Moonlight served as Governor of Wyoming Territory from 1887 to 1889.


  • Birth 1
  • Early life 2
  • Life in the United States 3
    • Civil War 3.1
    • Indian wars 3.2
    • Political career 3.3
  • Family life 4
  • Death 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Moonlight was born in Forfarshire, Scotland. He was baptised on 30 September 1833 in St Vigeans, Angus, Scotland with birth record number 319/0040 0169. His family can be traced in Scotland back to the 1600s, and to Archibald Moonlight and his wife Margaret Elspet Andersone. Moonlight was one of 10 children.

Moonlight's birth date is frequently quoted as 10 November 1833 (including on his grave marker), but this cannot be the case as his baptism records exist for 30 September 1833, and he cannot have been baptised before he was born. Early Scottish and English record keeping relied on the church where more commonly the baptism date and not birth date was recorded. It was not until government record keeping began that formal birth dates were recorded.

Early life

When he was seven, records show he lived in Galladen, Angus, Arbroath on a farm with about ninety acres. Moonlight lived with his family and a maid. By 1851, Moonlight no longer lived with his family, which supports evidence he left Scotland at an early age. Some think that he left Scotland alone, but family stories say he possibly left with his two cousins, George and Thomas.

Moonlight is thought to have worked farms in the East until he enlisted in the army at the age of twenty.

Just as Thomas achieved fame in the US, his cousin George eventually left America and achieved fame as a Pioneer and Prospector in New Zealand where the township of Moonlight is named after him. George was said to have retained his American accent all his life and took the name Captain

Political offices
Preceded by
Elliot S.N. Morgan
Governor of Wyoming Territory
Succeeded by
Francis E. Warren
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Frederic J. Grant
United States Envoy to Bolivia
April 1894–January 8, 1898
Succeeded by
George H. Bridgman
  • Wyoming State Archives
  • Wyoming State Historical Society
  • Find A Grave

External links

  1. ^ "Thomas Moonlight". Wyoming State Archives. Retrieved August 5, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Thomas Moonlight". Wyoming State Archives. Retrieved August 5, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Thomas Moonlight". Find A Grave. Retrieved August 5, 2012. 
  4. ^ McDermott, pp. 60-62
  5. ^ Hyde, 208; Johnson, Dorothy M. "The Hanging of the Chiefs" Montana: The Magazine of Western History, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Summer 1970), pp 60-69
  6. ^ McDermott, pp. 70-73
  7. ^ McDermott, pp. 73-75
  8. ^ Kansas Legislators Past and Present
  9. ^ "Thomas Moonlight". Find A Grave. Retrieved July 28, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Thomas Moonlight". Find A Grave. Retrieved July 28, 2012. 
  • Eicher, John H., & Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.


See also

Moonlight died on February 7, 1899, and is buried in Mount Muncie Cemetery in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.[10] Moonlight's wife is buried in the same cemetery.


Moonlight married Ellen Elizabeth Murray (born in Ireland) and they had seven children.

Family life

Moonlight was appointed Governor of the Wyoming Territory by President Grover Cleveland on January 5, 1887. Moonlight served as Governor until April 9, 1889. After his term as Governor, he served as United States Minister to Bolivia from 1893 to 1897. He was unsuccessful in his run for Governor of Kansas in 1886.[9]

Moonlight returned to his farm and became involved in politics in the state of Kansas. He was a Republican until 1870, when he switched to Democrat. He served as the Kansas Secretary of State, and also as State Senator.[8] From January 8, 1883 to January 22, 1885 he served as the Adjutant General of Kansas.

Political career

Hearing of the disaster, Moonlight departed Fort Laramie with 234 cavalry to pursue the Indians. He traveled so fast that many of his men had to turn back because their horses were spent. On June 17, near present day Harrison, Nebraska, the Lakota raided his horse herd and relieved him of most of his remaining horses. Moonlight and many of his men had to walk 60 miles back to Fort Laramie. Moonlight was severely criticized by his soldiers for being drunk and not guarding the horse herd. On July 7, Moonlight was relieved of his command and mustered out of the army.[7]

On June 3, the army fearing that the 1,500 Lakota, mostly Brulé, and Arapaho living near Fort Laramie, might become hostile, decided to move them about 300 miles east to Fort Kearny in Nebraska. The Indian protested that Fort Kearny was in Pawnee territory and the Pawnee were their traditional enemies. Moreover, they feared, with reason, there would be no food for them at Fort Kearny. The army insisted and the Indians, with an escort of 138 cavalrymen under Captain William D. Fouts, departed Fort Laramie on June 11. However, on June 13, near present day Morrill, Nebraska, some of the Indians decided to flee northward across the North Platte River. Attempting to stop them, Fouts and four soldiers were killed.[6]

[5] In April 1865, Moonlight became the commander of the north sub-district of the Great Plains headquartered at

Toward the end of the war, Moonlight was in command of the District of Colorado and campaigned against Indians on the plains. He was given a brevet promotion to brigadier general in 1865.[3]

Indian wars

His service during the war was primarily in Kansas against bushwhackers and border guerrillas. He also pursued William C. Quantrill's raiders following the Lawrence Massacre. In 1864, he commanded the 3rd Sub-district in the District of South Kansas. During Sterling Price's Missouri Raid in 1864, Colonel Moonlight commanded the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division in the Army of the Border and was conspicuous at the Battle of Westport.

When the 1st Kansas Battery; Moonlight briefly served as its captain. Moonlight later joined the 11th Kansas Infantry as its lieutenant colonel. The regiment became the 11th Kansas Cavalry and Moonlight its colonel. Moonlight briefly commanded the 14th Kansas Cavalry as lieutenant colonel but was later ordered to return to the 11th Kansas Cavalry.

[2] Moonlight settled in Leavenworth County, Kansas in 1860.[1]

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