General Thomas Ewing, Jr. - Fighting For Kansas
(1829-1896) - Military Officer,
Free-State advocate and
first Chief Justice of the State of Kansas, Ewing was born at Lancaster, Ohio on August
7, 1829. Ewing was educated in public schools and when only 19
years-old was appointed Secretary of the
Commission to settle the boundary between Ohio and Virginia. He also served as
private secretary to President Zachary Taylor during his administration. After the
president's death, he entered Brown University, where he graduated in 1854. A
year later he received his degree from the Cincinnati Law School and was
admitted to the bar. In 1856, married Ellen E. Cox of
Piqua, Ohio and the pair would have five children. That same year, in November, he moved to
became a member of the law firm of Sherman, Ewing & McCook. He soon took
a place at the head of his profession and played a conspicuous part in the great
political struggle of the territorial era as a Free-State man.
the abolitionist men met in convention in December, 1857 to decide whether
the opponents of
slavery in the territory should take part in the election
of January 4, 1858, Ewing urged that they vote.
This motion was defeated and
with twelve others, Ewing retired. They then organized and nominated men for all the
offices, each candidate being pledged to vote for a new Constitution that should
forever prohibit slavery in
Ten days before the election, Ewing and his twelve associates started to
canvas the territory.
General Thomas Ewing during
Brady Photographic Co.
The Surveyor-General, John
Calhoun, whose duty it was to await the election returns, tried to defeat the
Free-State party by declaring the pro-slavery men had won, and went so far as to
start for Washington to submit the Lecompton Constitution to Congress for the
purpose of having
Kansas admitted as a slave state. Ewing was able to get
the Free-State Territorial Legislature to appoint a committee, of which he was
the head, to investigate the election returns. At the election for state
officers on December 6, 1859, the first held under the
Ewing was elected Chief Justice for a term of six years and took his seat
on the bench in February, 1861 when the state government was established.
the summer of 1862 he aided in recruiting the Eleventh Kansas Infantry. He was appointed
colonel on September 14th and soon after resigned as Chief Justice to take
command of the regiment. He took part in the actions of Cane Hill, Van Buren and
Prairie Grove, and on March 13, 1863, was commissioned Brigadier-General of
Volunteers by President Abraham Lincoln, for "gallant and meritorious services." Until
June, 1863, he commanded the First Division of the Army of the Frontier, under
Major-General Herron. The division was then discontinued and General
Ewing was assigned to the command of the District of the Border, comprising all
of Kansas north of the 38th parallel and of the western tier of counties in
Missouri north of that line. His command was kept actively at work in repelling
guerrilla raids. Ewing found that such men as
Quantrill and Richard Yeager
had an impregnable base of operations in the three border counties of Missouri,
with spies scattered throughout the country. After Quantrill's raid of
Kansas in August, 1863, he issued "General Order No.
11," a severe but necessary
measure which effectually cleared the border of a population supporting the
guerrillas. The order was sustained by the general government, but in the
Democratic National Convention, which met in New York City on July 6, 1868, he
was defeated for nomination for Vice President because of this order.
assaults made upon him by his political enemies in Kansas and Missouri, caused
General Ewing to ask for a Court of Inquiry, but the president refused to
order it and at the same time, enlarged the district under the general's command.
In February, 1864 when the District of the Border was divided by the erection
of Kansas as a department, General Ewing relieved General Fish of
the command of southeastern Missouri with headquarters at
St. Louis. In the
fall of 1864, he was actively engaged against General Price, who invaded
Missouri. On February 23. 1865, General Ewing resigned his command and on
March 13th, was breveted as a Major-General.
under General Order No. 11, painting
by George Caleb Bingham, 1870.
Original Painting held in Cincinnati Art
Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio
the close of the
Civil War, he resumed his law
practice in Washington, but returned to his native state of Ohio in 1870. In 1873
he was a member of the Ohio Constitutional Convention and served in Congress
from 1877 to 1881. He opposed the rise of Federal troops at state elections,
favored the re-monetization of silver, and was one of the leaders of the
movement to preserve the greenback currency. In 1879, he was the Democratic
candidate for governor of Ohio. Three years later he moved to New York City and
entered into partnership with Southard & Fairchild, subsequently the firm became
Ewing, Whitman & Ewing. He was the founder of the Ohio Society in New York and
its president for three years. General Ewing died on January 21, 1896 after
being hit by a
of America, updated May, 2017.
the Article: The majority of this historic text was published in Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History,
Volume I; edited by Frank W. Blackmar, A.M. Ph. D.; Standard Publishing
Company, Chicago, IL 1912. However, the text that appears on these page is not verbatim,
as additions, updates, and editing have occurred.
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