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Stephen A. Hurlbut

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Of the six Union Generals at Pittsburg/Crumps on the morning of April 6th, 1862 (seven if you include the late-arriving Grant), I believe we are all basically familiar with Wallace, Wallace, Sherman, McClernand and Prentiss. But, how about Hurlbut; how well do you really know him?


Stephen Augustus Hurlbut was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1815. His mother was from Charleston; his father was from Massachusetts. His family is said to have 'condemned slavery, but owned slaves' (see thelatinlibrary.com, below.) Spending his formative years in Charleston, Stephen Hurlbut trained as a lawyer, and was admitted to the Bar in 1837. When the Second Seminole War flared up, Hurlbut joined the 17th South Carolina Militia (Charleston Reserves), towards the end of the emergency, and saw no action... but was involved with training of new recruits. It was while operating in this capacity that he caught the attention of William T. Sherman, and they began a life-long friendship. Shortly after his Seminole War experience, Stephen Hurlbut moved to Illinois, arriving in Belvidere (a small town just east of Rockford) in 1845... and became active in politics. First as a Whig, then a member of the fledgling Republican Party, along the way he became familiar with Abraham Lincoln (Hurlbut, himself, was elected to the Illinois State Legislature, in 1859 and 1861, where it is said he 'excelled as an orator.')


Hurlbut assisted with Lincoln's Presidential Campaign of 1860. Shortly after Lincoln's innauguration, Hurlbut approached the President for 'his political reward.'  But, Lincoln was being approached by any number of 'office-seekers,' at the time, and had nothing readily available, except... There was this problem in South Carolina -- Charleston, to be exact -- and the President desired more information about what was really going on there. (Edwin Stanton told Lincoln that he believed the situation at Charleston was inflamed by a handful of hotheads: there was any number of 'Good Union Men' in that city.) So, in March 1861, the President sent his 'party of two' (Stephen Hurlbut and Ward H. Lamon) to Charleston to find out the real story. Upon their return, Hurlbut reported that 'he failed to find ANY Good Union Men in that Southern City.' Instead, he witnessed abundant movements of munitions, south, indicating war preparations.


For Hurlbut, around this time, things become a bit murky... either just before, or just after his Charleston mission, he joined an Illinois militia outfit: the Boone Rifles. It is rumored that Hurlbut became a Captain in that organization ( the Boone Rifles eventually became Company B of the 15th Illinois Volunteer Infantry.) President Lincoln, in order to 'pay his political debt' to Hurlbut, put forward his name, recommending appointment as Brigadier General. That request was approved (effective 17 May 1861), and Stephen Hurlbut returned to Illinois, to oversee the actions of four regiments.


From Illinois, BGen Hurlbut was sent to Northern Missouri to 'protect the railroad network.' (In the process, he became familiar with U.S. Grant.) Hurlbut's force moved south in August... but arrived too late to be of assistance to the ill-fated Lyon, at Wilson's Creek. Instead, Hurlbut's presence insured the 'safe retreat' of Sigel's force, north.


But, about this time, Stephen Hurlbut was rumored to have been carrying on a love affair... with the bottle. Calls for his removal as a general officer in the Army appeared in many newspapers; but Lincoln resisted. Instead, Hurlbut was re-assigned to Benton Barracks (then under command of W.T. Sherman), and 'assisted' with training volunteer troops for six weeks. Once the newspaper clamour died down, Hurlbut was sent to Fort Donelson... but arrived after Buckner's surrender. He remained, on garrison duty, and in late February was given command of a new Division: the 4th. In March, he moved his new command to Fort Henry, loaded it aboard steamboats, and accompanied it south, disembarking at Pittsburg Landing on the 17th.


[Actions for Hurlbut's 4th Division are familiar, readily available in the OR, so to sum them up: Day One, Hurlbut replied to a request from Sherman for assistance, and sent Veatch's Brigade west. He responded to Prentiss' request, by accompanying William's and Lauman's Brigades, south, joining with Prentiss at the Sunken Road. After withdrawing his force about 3pm, Hurlbut was tasked by General Grant with 'organizing troops that returned to the Landing into a fighting force.'  On Day Two, Grant assigned Hurlbut to the support of McClernand.]


Following the Battle of Shiloh, Hurlbut's 4th Division was part of Halleck's Crawl to Corinth. Later that year, Hurlbut was caught up in the Battle of Hatchie's Bridge (a Union victory) -- the last act of the October 3-5 Confederate attempt on Corinth. Hurlbut was promoted Major General, and assigned the Post of Memphis (replacing W.T. Sherman, who returned to operations in the field, in Mississippi.) In 1864, MGen Hurlbut returned to the field, as part of Sherman's Expedition to Meridian. Afterwards, he was given command of the Department of the Gulf (replacing Nathaniel Banks) and served there (under General Canby) til the end of the war.


[From his time at Memphis, until the end of his military service, rumors again circulated, claiming Hurlbut 'was drinking again' and 'he was involved in unseemly business ventures.' The evidence seems to indicate that both rumors were true.-- Ozzy]


After the war, Stephen Hurlbut returned to Illinois, and politics. He was appointed Minister to Columbia (1869-1872); served in the U.S. Congress (1873-1877); was appointed Minister to Peru in 1881... where he died (in Lima) in 1882. His body was returned to the United States, and buried in his adopted hometown: Belvidere, Illinois.







http://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/010/0203    ( OR  Shiloh After-action report of BGen Hurlbut)


http://www.military-historians.org/company/plates/images/US.htm     (List of pre-Civil War militias)


http://roborant42.appspot.com/show/entry/4052     (Brief summary of A Politician Turned General by J.N. Lash)


http://mrlincolnandfriends.org/inside.asp?pageID=128&subjectID=8     (Hurlbut's mission to Charleston)


http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=5894568     (Hurlbut's entry at Find-a-grave #5894568)


http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/chron/civilwarnotes/hurlbut.html     (Hurlbut, according to thelatinlibrary.com)


A Politician Turned General: the Civil War career of Stephen A. Hurlbut, by Jeffrey N. Lash, Kent State University Press, 2003.

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Removed from command in Northern Missouri in September 1861 and sent home to Belvidere Illinois in disgrace, it was only the timely removal of Major General Fremont from control of the Western Department that provided an unexpected opportunity for Stephen Hurlbut to "salvage his career." Brigadier General Hurlbut wrote to Governor Richard Yates of Illinois to intercede on his behalf (and it is unknown what influence was exerted by Yates; but at the behest of Brigadier General William T. Sherman, and agreement of Major General Henry Halleck, Stephen Hurlbut was quietly returned to Missouri and deposited at the Camp of Instruction, Benton Barracks.) 

Not knowing how the "remedial training" was organized, but considering Richard Yates a benefactor of his rejuvenated career, General Hurlbut wrote the following Letter of 10 APR 1862 to Governor Yates, in regard to his performance at Battle of Shiloh: http://alplm-cdi.com/chroniclingillinois/items/show/3461.


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