Charles Francis Adams II

For other people named Charles Francis Adams, see Charles Francis Adams.
Charles Francis Adams II
Born (1835-05-27)May 27, 1835
Boston, Massachusetts
Died May 20, 1915(1915-05-20) (aged 79)
Washington, D.C.
Place of burial Mount Wollaston Cemetery, Quincy, Massachusetts
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Rank Colonel
Battles/wars American Civil War
Awards Brevet Brigadier General

Charles Francis Adams II (May 27, 1835 – May 20, 1915) was a member of the prominent Adams family, and son of Charles Francis Adams, Sr. He served as a colonel in the Union Army during the American Civil War. After the war, he was a railroad regulator and executive, an author of historical works, and a member of the Massachusetts Park Commission.

Education and Civil War service

Adams was born into a family with a long legacy in American public life. He was the great-grandson of United States President John Adams, and the grandson of president John Quincy Adams. His father Charles Francis Adams, Sr.[1] was a lawyer, politician, diplomat, and writer.

Adams graduated from Harvard University in 1856.

Adams served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry on December 28, 1861. He was promoted to captain on December 1, 1862. He fought with distinction during the Gettysburg Campaign, where his company was heavily engaged at the Battle of Aldie. He was mustered out of service on September 1, 1864.

On September 8, 1864 he was commissioned as the lieutenant colonel of the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry (officially designated "5th Massachusetts Colored Volunteer Cavalry"). He was promoted to colonel and assumed command of the regiment on March 14, 1865, shortly before the end of the war. [2] [3] Adams resigned from the Army on August 1, 1865.

On July 9, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Colonel Adams for the award of the rank of brevet (honorary) brigadier general, United States Volunteers, "for distinguished gallantry and efficiency at the battles of Secessionville, South Carolina and South Mountain and Antietam, Maryland and for meritorious services during the war" to rank from March 13, 1865 and the U. S. Senate confirmed the award on July 23, 1866.[4][5]

Adams was a Veteran Companion of the Massachusetts Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS).

Post Civil War activity

On May 8, 1865, he married Mary Elizabeth Ogden, daughter of Abram Ogden of New York City, NY. The couple had three daughters and twin sons: Mary Ogden ("Molly") Adams, Louisa Catherine Adams, Elizabeth Ogden ("Elise") Adams, John Adams (1875–1964), and Henry Adams (1875–1951), both of whom graduated Harvard in 1898.[6][7][8]

Following the Civil War, he was appointed to the Massachusetts Railroad Commission. There he attempted to persuade (rather than coerce) railroads into compliance with accepted business norms. Thomas McCraw called Adams's approach to regulation "the Sunshine Commission" since the purpose of the commission was to expose the corrupt business practices in hopes that, once out in the open, the businessmen would be shamed into mending their ways. It was in this vein that he wrote Chapters of Erie. However, true to his regulatory philosophy, he favored the protection of businessmen over that of the consumers. He saw regulation as necessary to protect investors and other businessmen from the capriciousness of a hostile public or the machinations of other unscruplous stock jobbers.[9] He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1871.[10]

Union Pacific Railroad

Adams was president of the Union Pacific Railroad from 1884 to 1890, having previously become widely known as an authority on the management of railways. However, he left his office due to financial problems.[11] Among his writings are Railroads, Their Origin and Problems (1878).

Massachusetts Park Commission

From 1893 to 1895 he was chairman of the Massachusetts Park Commission, and as such took a prominent part in planning the present park system of the state.[3]

Single Tax Supporter

In 1900, he wrote a letter to the President of the Massachusetts Single Tax League, declaring himself a supporter of the reform Henry George had proposed. An excerpt of that letter appeared in The Outlook, December 15, 1900.

Historical writings

After 1874, he devoted much of his time to the study of American history, and in recognition of his work in this field was chosen president of the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1895, and of the American Historical Association in 1901. His writings and addresses both on problems of railway management and on historical subjects frequently gave rise to widespread controversy.[3]


His siblings include: older sister Louisa Catherine Adams, wife of Charles Kuhn, of Philadelphia; older brother [Hon.] John Quincy Adams II, father of Charles Adams, III; historian Henry Brooks Adams,[6]; Arthur Adams, who died young during their childhood; Mary Adams, who married Henry Parker Quincy, of Dedham, MA; and historian Peter Chardon Brooks Adams, of Beverly Farms, MA. who married Evelyn Davis.

Death and burial

Charles F. Adams, Jr. died May 20, 1915, a week shy of his 80th birthday. He is buried in Mount Wollaston Cemetery in Quincy, Massachusetts. His grave can be found in the Old Section, Lot 337.[12]


  • Chapters of Erie, and Other Essays (New York, 1871), with brother Henry Adams
  • Railroads, Their Origin and Problems (New York, 1878)
  • Notes on Railroad Accidents (New York, 1879)
  • Richard Henry Dana: A Biography (Boston, 1891)
  • Three Episodes of Massachusetts History (Boston, 1892), a work which gives an account of the settlement of Boston Bay, of the Antinomian controversy, and of church and town government in early Massachusetts
  • Massachusetts: Its Historians and Its History (Boston, 1893)
  • Antinomianism in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, 1636-38 (1894).
  • “Imperialism” and “The Tracks of Our Forefathers” at Project Gutenberg (1898).
  • Life of Charles Francis Adams (Boston, 1900), in the American Statesmen Series
  • Lee at Appomattox, and Other Papers (1902)
  • Charles Francis Adams, 1835-1915: An Autobiography (1916)

Family tree

The following is a selective family tree of notable members of the Adams family relative to Charles Francis Adams, Jr.:

President John Quincy Adams
Louisa Catherine Johnson
Peter Chardon Brooks
Abigail Brown
Charles Francis Adams, Sr.
Abigail Brown Brooks
George Caspar Crowninshield
Harriet Sears
Charles Francis Adams, Jr.
John Quincy Adams II
Frances Cadwalader Crowninshield
John Quincy Adams III
George Caspar Adams
Charles Francis Adams III
Frances Lovering
Frances C. Adams
Arthur Adams
Margery Lee Sargeant
Abigail ("Hitty") Adams
Robert Homans
Catherine Lovering Adams
Henry Sturgis Morgan
Charles Francis Adams IV
Margaret Stockton
Children 3 Sons; 1 Daughter
Five Sons
Abigail Adams
James C.Manny
Allison Adams
Paul G. Hagan
Charles Francis Adams V
Timothy Adams

See also



  • Eicher, John H. and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Hunt, Roger D. and Brown, Jack R., Brevet Brigadier Generals in Blue. Olde Soldier Books, Inc., Gaithersburg, MD, 1990. ISBN 1-56013-002-4.
  • Kirkland, Edward C. Charles Francis Adams Jr., 1835-1915: Patrician at Bay. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967.
  • McCraw, Thomas K. Prophets of Regulation: Charles Francis Adams, Louis D. Brandeis, James M. Landis, Alfred E. Kahn. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1984.

External links

  • Soylent Communications (2005), Charles Francis Adams, Jr.. Retrieved February 21, 2005.
  • "'Tis Sixty Years Since" by Charles Francis Adams at Project Gutenberg (1913)
  • Project Gutenberg
  • Notes on Railroad Accidents, 1879
  • , 1902
Preceded by
Sidney Dillon
President of Union Pacific Railroad
1884 – 1890
Succeeded by
Sidney Dillon
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