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Adelbert Ames

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Adelbert Ames

Adelbert Ames
General, Governor and Senator from Mississippi
30th Governor of Mississippi
In office
January 4, 1874 – March 29, 1876
Preceded by Ridgley C. Powers
Succeeded by John M. Stone
27th Governor of Mississippi
In office
June 15, 1868 – March 10, 1870
Preceded by Benjamin G. Humphreys
Succeeded by James L. Alcorn
United States Senator
from Mississippi
In office
February 23, 1870 – January 10, 1874
Preceded by Jefferson Davis
Secession (vacant until 1870)
Succeeded by Henry R. Pease
Personal details
Born (1835-10-31)October 31, 1835
Rockland, Maine, U.S.
Died April 13, 1933(1933-04-13) (aged 97)
Ormond Beach, Florida, U.S.
Resting place Hildreth Family Cemetery
Lowell, Massachusetts
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Blanche Butler
Children Butler, Edith, Sarah, Blanche, Adelbert, Jr., Jessie
Alma mater United States Military Academy
Profession Military
Religion Episcopalian
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1861–1870
Rank Brigadier general
Brevet major general
Unit 5th United States Artillery
Commands 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry
2nd Brigade, 1st Division, XI Corps
2nd Division, X Corps
2nd Division, XXIV Corps
Fourth Military District
3rd Brigade, 1st Division, Fifth Army Corps
1st Division, Fifth Army Corps
Battles/wars American Civil War
Spanish–American War
Awards Medal of Honor

Adelbert Ames (October 31, 1835 – April 13, 1933) was an American sailor, soldier, and politician. He served with distinction as a Union Army general during the American Civil War. As a Radical Republican, he was military governor, Senator and civilian governor in Reconstruction-era Mississippi. In 1898 he served as a United States Army general during the Spanish–American War. He was the last Republican to serve as the state governor of Mississippi in the 19th century; a Republican would not become governor of Mississippi again until 1992.

Ames was the last substantive general officer of the Civil War to die, dying at age 97 in 1933.[1]


  • Early life and career 1
  • Career 2
    • American Civil War 2.1
    • Mississippian politics and the U.S. Senate 2.2
  • Later life 3
  • Notable descendants 4
  • In memoriam 5
    • Ames Hill Castle 5.1
  • In popular culture 6
  • Medal of Honor citation 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12

Early life and career

Ames as a West Point cadet

Adelbert ( )[2] Ames was born in 1835 in the town of Rockland, located in Knox County, Maine. He was the son of a sea captain named Jesse Ames.[3] Adelbert Ames also grew up to be a sailor, becoming a mate on a clipper ship,[4] and also served briefly as a merchant seaman on his own father's ship.

On July 1, 1856, he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, and was still there when the American Civil War began in 1861.[5]


American Civil War

Ames graduated from the United States Military Academy on May 6, 1861, standing fifth in his class of 45. On that same date he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Artillery. Eight days later he was promoted to first lieutenant and was assigned to the 5th U.S. Artillery.[5] During the First Battle of Bull Run that July, Ames was badly wounded in the right thigh but refused to leave his guns.[6] He was brevetted to the rank of major on July 21 for his actions during Bull Run. In 1893 Ames would also receive the Medal of Honor for his performance there.[7]

Returning to duty the following spring, Ames was part of the defenses of Washington, D.C..[8] He then fought in the Peninsula Campaign, and saw action at the Battle of Yorktown from April 5 to May 4, the Battle of Gaines' Mill on June 27, and the Battle of Malvern Hill that July. Ames was commended for his conduct at Malvern Hill by Col. Henry J. Hunt, chief of the artillery of the Army of the Potomac, and he received a brevet promotion to lieutenant colonel on July 1.[5]

Although Ames was becoming an excellent artillery officer, he realized that significant promotions would be available only in the infantry. He returned to Maine and politicked to receive a commission as a regimental commander of infantry and was assigned to command the V Corps.

Probably as a result of this staff duty and his proximity to the influential Meade, Ames was promoted to brigadier general in the Union Army on May 20, 1863, two weeks following the Battle of Chancellorsville.[5] Ames assumed brigade command in the XI Corps of the Army of the Potomac, relinquishing his command of the 20th Maine to Lt. Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain, who would soon lead the regiment to fame in the Battle of Gettysburg that July.[9]

Ames (seated, center) and his staff during the American Civil War

While his own experience at Gettysburg did not achieve the renown of Chamberlain's, Ames performed well under difficult circumstances. During the massive assault by Confederate Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell on July 1, 1863, Ames's division commander, Brig. Gen. Francis C. Barlow, moved his division well in front of other elements of the XI Corps to a slight rise that is now known as Barlow's Knoll. This salient position was quickly overrun, and Barlow was wounded and captured. Ames took command of the division and led it in retreat through the streets of Gettysburg to a position on Cemetery Hill. On July 2, the second day of battle, Ames's battered division bore the brunt of the assault on East Cemetery Hill by Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early, but was able to hold the critical position with help from surrounding units. At one point Ames himself took part in the hand-to-hand fighting. After the battle, the men of the 20th Maine presented Ames with their battle flag as a token of their esteem.

Ames as a major general in the Union Army

After the battle, Ames reverted to brigade command with a brevet promotion to colonel in the South Carolina and Florida.

In 1864, Ames's division, now part of the X Corps of the Army of the James, served under Maj. Gen. Benjamin Franklin Butler in the Bermuda Hundred Campaign and the Siege of Petersburg. In the future, he would become Butler's son-in-law. That winter, the division was reassigned to the XXIV Corps and sent to North Carolina.

During the two years following his service in the Army of the Potomac, Ames shifted between brigade and division command (and even led his corps on two occasions), though he generally can be identified as a division commander. He led the successful assault in the Second Battle of Fort Fisher (commanding the 2nd Division, XXIV Corps), accompanying his men into the formidable coastal fortress as most of his staff were shot down by Confederate snipers.[6] He received a brevet promotion to major general in the Union Army (and brigadier general in the Regular Army) on March 13, 1865, for his role in the battle.[10]

Mississippian politics and the U.S. Senate

In 1868, Ames was appointed by Congress to be provisional Governor of Mississippi. His command soon extended to the Fourth Military District, which consisted of Mississippi and Arkansas.[11] During his administration, he took several steps to advance the rights of freed slaves, appointing the first black office-holders in state history. White supremacist terrorism and violence was prevalent in the state, one of the last to comply with Reconstruction, but a general election was held during his tenure in 1869 and the legislature convened at the beginning of the following year.[3]

About 1868 Ames became an original companion of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, a military society of former Union officers and their descendants.

The Mississippi Legislature elected Ames to the U.S. Senate after the readmission of Mississippi to the Union; he served from February 24, 1870 to January 10, 1874, as a Republican.[3][11] In Washington, Ames met and married Blanche Butler, daughter of his former commander, and now U.S. Representative, Benjamin Butler, on July 21, 1870. They had six children including Adelbert Ames Jr. and Butler Ames.[3] As a Senator, Ames became a talented public speaker to the point where even some of his Democratic opponents acknowledged his ability.[3]

In the Senate, Ames was chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Enrolled Bills.[11] Upon being elected governor of Mississippi, he resigned his seat to assume his duties.[3]

Ames battled James Lusk Alcorn—a former Confederate general and now a Scalawag—for control of the Republican party, which comprised mostly black voters. Their struggle ripped apart the party. In 1873 they both sought a decision by running for governor. Ames was supported by the Radicals and most African Americans, while Alcorn won the votes of conservative whites and most of the scalawags. Ames won by a vote of 69,870 to 50,490.

As governor, Ames fought to cut spending and lower the tax rate, with moderate success. The state rate of 14 1/2 mills in 1874 was reduced to 9 1/2 in 1875 and 6 1/2 in 1876.[12]

Even his enemies agreed that the governor had a rigorous integrity, incorruptible and sincere.[13] His appointments included some Scalawags and a few former Confederates; but he was never happy in Mississippi, and much of the time his wife and family remained in the North, where the weather was cooler and the social atmosphere less unpleasant. Ames was proud of his record, and, to his own thinking considered himself one of the best Republican governors of any of the Reconstructed states—an opinion generally shared by historians since that time.[14] At the same time, he had little success in winning over his enemies in the party and was quick to impute sinister motives to them.

His real problems came from the Democratic efforts to undo Reconstruction and gain control. Democrats in White Leagues to keep black voters home. A riot in Yazoo county drove out the Republican sheriff and resulted in some black people and party officers being lynched. Another at Clinton on September 4 ended with white Democratic paramilitaries riding over the county shooting any and every black person they chanced upon. With no other means of protection, Governor Ames appealed to the federal government for assistance. It was not refused, but authorities urged him to exhaust state resources first.[16]

Unable to organize a state militia in time, Ames signed a peace treaty with Democratic leaders. In return for disarming the few militia units he had assembled, they promised to guarantee a full, free, fair election. These promises were not kept.[17]

That November, Democrats terrorized a large part of the Republican vote to keep it home, drove voters from the polls with shotguns and cannon, and gained firm control of both houses of the legislature. The state legislature, convening in 1876, drew up articles of impeachment against him; with a five to one majority and deeply hostile feelings towards Ames, their investigations "failed to trace a dollar of unearned money to his pockets," one reporter noted. "Whatever Ames may be, he is not dishonest."[18] Though insiders agreed that their case was a very weak one, removal was certain—particularly after his black lieutenant-governor had been removed and the line of succession led to a Democrat. Rather than face a trial that would entail great expense, Ames's lawyers made a deal: once the legislature had dropped all charges, he would resign his office. It did so, and he did so on the evening of March 29, 1876.[19]

Later life

After leaving office, Ames settled briefly in Northfield, Minnesota, where he joined his father and brother in their flour-milling business. During his residence there, in September 1876, Jesse James and his gang of former Confederate guerrillas raided the town's bank, largely because of Ames's (and controversial Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler's) investment in it, but their attempt to rob it ended in catastrophic failure. Ames next headed to New York City, then later settled in Tewksbury, Massachusetts[20] as an executive in a flour mill, along with other business interests in the nearby city of Lowell.[11]

In 1898, he was appointed brigadier general of volunteers in the Spanish–American War and fought in Cuba.[11] During the battle of San Juan Hill the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division suffered particularly high casualties with its brigade commander killed and the next two ranking regimental commanders wounded. General Ames was assigned to command the brigade during the Siege of Santiago. He was in command of the 1st Division at the time the V Corps was mustered out in New York.[21]

Several years afterward, he retired from business pursuits in Lowell but continued in real-estate and entertainment projects in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Florida. Ames corresponded extensively with the historian James Wilford Garner during this period; Garner's dissertation viewed Reconstruction as "unwise," but absolved Ames of personal corruption.[22] Ames's widow compiled a collection of her correspondence with Ames, Chronicles from the Nineteenth Century, published posthumously in 1957.

About 1900 Ames joined the Massachusetts Society of Colonial Wars.

Ames died in 1933 at the age of 97, at his winter home in Ormond Beach, Florida. At the time of his death, Ames was the last surviving full-rank general who had served in the Civil War. (The last Union general officer, Aaron S. Daggett, died at age 100 in 1938; he had been a brevet brigadier general of U.S. Volunteers in March 1865, while Ames had been promoted to the permanent rank of brigadier general in the Regular Army around the same period.)

Ames is buried in the Hildreth family cemetery—the family of his mother-in-law, Sarah Hildreth Butler—behind the main cemetery (also known as Hildreth Cemetery) on Hildreth Street in Lowell.[23] Buried with him are his wife Blanche Butler Ames, their six children, and the spouses of his son Butler and his daughter Edith.

Notable descendants

His daughter Blanche Ames Ames (she married into another Ames family) was a noted suffragist, inventor, artist, and writer. The mansion she designed and had built is now part of Borderland State Park in Massachusetts.

His son Adelbert Ames, Jr. was a noted scientist.

His son Butler Ames was a businessman and politician, who represented Massachusetts in Congress for ten years.

Adelbert Ames was also the great-grandfather of Profiles in Courage, Kennedy relied on Reconstruction-era historical texts to produce a brief but misleading, false, and devastating portrait of Ames's administration of Mississippi in his profile of Mississippi Senator Lucius Q.C. Lamar. Ames's daughter Blanche Ames Ames, a formidable figure in Massachusetts, bombarded the then-senator with letters complaining about the depiction, and continued her barrage after Kennedy entered the White House. President Kennedy then turned to his friend Plimpton to tell Blanche, Plimpton's grandmother, that she was "interfering with state business." Her response was to write her own book about her father, Adelbert Ames, in 1964.

In memoriam

The Medal of Honor plaque at Ames' grave at the Hildreth family cemetery in Lowell, Massachusetts

A Medal of Honor plaque for Ames's gravesite was dedicated at a ceremony honoring Benjamin Butler's 191st birthday, held at the Hildreth family cemetery—the only time of the year it is open to the public—on November 1, 2009.[24]

The United Spanish War Veterans established Camp 19, General Adelbert Ames Post, in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Ames Hill Castle

After settling in Massachusetts, Ames built a seventeen-room estate in Tewksbury known locally as "the Castle" on Prospect Hill, now called Ames Hill, in 1906. In 1986, the Ames Hill Castle was purchased by local developer John D. Sullivan; Sullivan then illegally converted the house into a multi-unit rental property. However, Sullivan has been subject to several court rulings for zoning violations on the property, including one in 1991 and again in 1999. In August 2010, Sullivan's attorney brought forth a proposal to Tewksbury's board of selectmen for modifications to the Ames Hill Castle, to fall under the Massachusetts Comprehensive Permit Act: Chapter 40B, which would allow him to legally maintain the property as a multi-unit rental. The board elected unanimously to table the proposal, citing several concerns - both with Sullivan's absence (as he had sent his attorney rather than present the proposal in person) and reluctance to meet with local residents, and his prior legal issues with the property.[25]

In March 2012, the Ames Hill Castle was unanimously voted "preferably preserved" by the Tewksbury Historic Commission due to its unique architectural features, its current state of preservation, and its association with General Ames. This allowed the commission to invoke a nine-month delay in possible demolition of the property to pursue alternatives.[26] In November, local developer Marc Ginsburg purchased the Castle and surrounding plot from Sullivan for $360,000, just as the delay expired. Ginsburg ultimately decided on the Castle's demolition, to make way for smaller single-family dwellings.[27]

In popular culture

Medal of Honor citation

Rank and Organization: First Lieutenant, 5th U.S. Artillery. Place and Date: At Bull Run, Va., July 21, 1861. Entered Service At: Rockland, Maine. Birth: East Thomaston, Maine. Date of Issue: June 22, 1894.


Remained upon the field in command of a section of Griffin's Battery, directing its fire after being severely wounded and refusing to leave the field until too weak to sit upon the caisson where he had been placed by men of his command.[28]

See also


  1. ^ Warner, p. 6, "This last survivor of the full-rank general officers on either side of the conflict ..."; Eicher, p. 103, "... the last surviving substantive Civil War general officer."
  2. ^ Quigley, p. 1.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Budiansky, pp. 64, 99.
  4. ^ Warner, p. 5.
  5. ^ a b c d e Eicher, p. 102.
  6. ^ a b Budiansky, p. 65.
  7. ^ Eicher, p. 102; Warner, p. 5.
  8. ^ Warner, p. 6.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Eicher, p. 103.
  11. ^ a b c d e
  12. ^ Cincinnati Daily Gazette, September 16, 1875
  13. ^ Lemann, Redemption, 69.
  14. ^ Ames,Adelbert Ames, 387–89.
  15. ^ Lemann, Redemption, 75-92.
  16. ^ Lemann, Redemption, 120–24.
  17. ^ Lemann, Redemption, 128–47.
  18. ^ Cincinnati Commercial, November 4, 1875, March 30, 1876;
  19. ^ Ellem (1992); New York Times, March 30, 1876'
  20. ^ Lowell Sun: Our Gettysburg Hero
  21. ^ Cullum's Register
  22. ^ Lemann, np.
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ 40B for Ames Hill Castle? - Tewksbury Town Crier: Tewksbury Town Crier
  26. ^ Ames Hill Castle wins 9-month reprieve - Lowell Sun Online
  27. ^ Bulldozers storm Ames Castle - Lowell Sun Online
  28. ^


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army Center of Military History.
  • Ames, Blanche. Adelbert Ames, 1835–1933. New York: Argosy-Antiquarian, 1964. OCLC 221717458.
  • Budiansky, Stephen. The Bloody Shirt: Terror After Appomattox. New York: Viking, 2008. ISBN 978-0-670-01840-6.
  • Current, Richard Nelson. Those Terrible Carpetbaggers: A Reinterpretation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. ISBN 978-0-19-504872-8.
  • Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Ellem, Warren A. "The Overthrow of Reconstruction in Mississippi." Journal of Mississippi History 1992 54(2): 175-201.
  • Garner, James Wilford. Reconstruction in Mississippi. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1968. First published in 1901.
  • Harris, William C. The Day of the Carpetbagger: Republican Reconstruction in Mississippi. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1969. ISBN 978-0-8071-0366-1.
  • Harris, William C. Presidential Reconstruction in Mississippi. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1967. OCLC 647759.
  • Lemann, Nicholas. Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006. ISBN 978-0-374-53069-3.
  • Lord, Stuart B. "Adelbert Ames, Soldier and Politician: a Reevaluation." Maine Historical Society Quarterly 13(2) (1973): 81–97.
  • Quigley, Robert D. Civil War Spoken Here: A Dictionary of Mispronounced People, Places and Things of the 1860s. Collingswood, NJ: C. W. Historicals, 1993. ISBN 0-9637745-0-6.
  • Stiles, T. J. Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002. ISBN 978-0-375-40583-9.
  • Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964. ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.

Further reading

  • Benson, Harry King. "The Public Career of Adelbert Ames, 1861–1876." PhD U. Of Virginia. Dissertation Abstracts International; 1976 36(7): 4705-A, 342 pp.
  • Wainwright, Charles S. A Diary of Battle: The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright. Edited by Allan Nevins. New York: Da Capo Press, 1998. First published 1962 by Harcourt.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Benjamin G. Humphreys
Governor of Mississippi
Succeeded by
James L. Alcorn
Preceded by
Ridgley C. Powers
Governor of Mississippi
Succeeded by
John M. Stone
United States Senate
Preceded by
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Mississippi
Served alongside: Hiram R. Revels, James L. Alcorn
Succeeded by
Henry R. Pease
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Cornelius Cole
Most Senior Living U.S. Senator
(Sitting or Former)

November 3, 1924 – April 12, 1933
Succeeded by
Henry C. Hansbrough
Preceded by
Rebecca Felton
Oldest living U.S. Senator
January 24, 1930 – April 12, 1933
Succeeded by
Elihu Root
Notes and references
1. Because Mississippi seceded from the Union in 1861, seat was declared vacant from 1861–1870 when Jefferson Davis withdrew from the Senate
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