William Worth Belknap
William W. Belknap

In office
October 25, 1869 – March 2, 1876
President Ulysses S. Grant
Preceded by John Aaron Rawlins
Succeeded by Alphonso Taft

Born September 22, 1829(1829-09-22)
Newburgh, New York, U.S.
Died October 13, 1890 (aged 61)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Cora LeRoy
Carrie Tomlinson
Mrs. John Bower
Alma mater Princeton University
Georgetown University
Profession General, Lawyer, Politician
Military service
Service/branch Union Army
Years of service 1861-1865
Rank Major General
Battles/wars American Civil War

William Worth Belknap (September 22, 1829 – October 13, 1890) was a United States Army general, government administrator, and United States Secretary of War. He was the only Cabinet secretary ever to have been impeached by the United States House of Representatives.

Birth and early years[edit | edit source]

Born in Newburgh, New York, Belknap graduated from Princeton University in 1848 and studied law at Georgetown University. In 1851, he was admitted to the bar, moved to Keokuk, Iowa, and entered the practice of law. He served in the Iowa House of Representatives for a single term from 1857 to 1858.

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William W. Belknap

In 1861, he was commissioned major in the 15th Iowa Infantry and participated in the Civil War battles of Shiloh, Corinth and Vicksburg. In 1864, Belknap was promoted to brigadier general and given command of the 4th Division, XVII Corps, and participated in General Sherman's operations in Georgia and the Carolinas. He was mustered out of service as a major general in 1865.

He married and lost his first two wives, Cora LeRoy and Carrie Tomlinson, and married Mrs. John Bower, his second wife's sister. From 1865 to 1869, Belknap was collector of internal revenue in Iowa.

Later career[edit | edit source]

From October 25, 1869, to March 2, 1876, Belknap served as Secretary of War under President Ulysses S. Grant.

Belknap recommended that Congress act to fix May 1 as the start of the fiscal year, inaugurated the preparation of historical reports by post commanders, and proposed actions to preserve Yellowstone National Park. In July 1876, Belknap visited Fort Ellis, Montana Territory, and proceeded on a two week journey through Yellowstone retracing the route of the 1870 Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition. He was guided during this trip by Lt Gustavus C. Doane who was stationed at Fort Ellis and had been the leader of the military escort of the Washburn Party.[1]

He was impeached by a unanimous vote of the House of Representatives shortly after he had resigned for allegedly having received money in return for post tradership appointments.[2] Speaker of the House Michael C. Kerr wrote to the Senate that Belknap resigned "with intent to evade the proceedings of impeachment against him."[3] Belknap was tried by the Senate, which ruled by a vote of 37-29 that it had jurisdiction despite the resignation.[4] The vote on conviction fell short of the two-thirds required, with 35 to 37 votes for each article and 25 votes against each. Two of those voting for conviction, 22 of those voting for acquittal, and one who declined to vote, said they felt that the Senate did not have jurisdiction due to Belknap's resignation.[5]

Belknap moved to Philadelphia, then returned to Washington to resume the practice of law. He died from a heart attack in Washington, D.C., on October 13, 1890.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Template:Ibid

  1. Bonney, Orrin H. (1970). Battle Drums and Geysers-The Life And Journals Of Lt. Gustavus Cheyney Doane, Soldier And Explorer Of The Yellowstone And Snake River Regions. Chicago: Swallow Press. pp. 47–50. 
  2. Hinds' Precedents, Volume III, Chapter LXXVII, section 2444, pp. 903-904.
  3. Ibid, section 2454, p. 922.
  4. Ibid, section 2459, p. 934.
  5. Ibid, section 2467, pp. 945-946.

External links[edit | edit source]

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