But his abolitionist views fitted him better for the nascent Republican Party, through which he became Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. At the outbreak of the war, President Lincoln.Appointed Banks as one of the first'political' major generals, over the heads of West Point. Regulars, who initially resented him, but came to acknowledge his influence on the administration of the war. After suffering an inglorious defeat in the Shenandoah at the hands of the newly famous Stonewall Jackson. As commander of the Department of the Gulf, charged with liberating the Mississippi.
But he failed to reinforce Grant at Vicksburg. And only took the surrender of Port Hudson after Vicksburg had fallen. He was then put in charge of the Red River campaign, a doomed attempt to occupy eastern Texas. Banks had no faith in this strategy, but the outgoing General-in-Chief, Henry Halleck. Is believed to have told Grant that it was Banks' idea, in order to dodge responsibility for this expensive failure, for which Banks was removed from command.
Legislation and supported women's suffrage. Nathaniel Startle Prentice Banks was born at Waltham, Massachusetts.
The first child of Nathaniel P. And Rebecca Greenwood Banks, on January 30, 1816. His father worked in the textile mill.Of the Boston Manufacturing Company. Banks went to local schools until the age of fourteen, at which point the family's financial demands compelled him to take a job in the mill.
He was a bobbin boy. Full of thread with empty ones. Because of this he became known as Bobbin Boy Banks, a nickname he carried throughout his life. He was eventually apprenticed as a mechanic alongside Elias Howe.
Recognizing the value of education, he continued to read, sometimes walking to Boston. On his days off to visit the Atheneum Library. He attended company-sponsored lectures by luminaries of the day including Daniel Webster. He formed a debate club with other mill workers to improve their oratorical skills, and took up acting. He became involved in the local temperance movement.
Speaking at its events brought him to the attention of Democratic Party. Leaders, who asked him to speak at campaign events during the 1840 elections. He honed his oratorical and political skills by emulating Robert Rantoul, Jr. A Democratic Congressman who also had humble beginnings.His success as a speaker convinced him to quit the mill. He first worked as an editor for two short-lived political newspapers; after they failed he ran for a seat in the state legislature in 1844, but lost. He then applied to Rantoul, who had been appointed Collector of the Port of Boston.
The job gave him sufficient security that he was able to marry Mary Theodosia Palmer, an ex-factory employee he had been courting for some time. Banks ran unsuccessfully for the state legislature in 1847.Banks in his younger years. In 1848 Banks was victorious in a second run for the state legislature, successfully organizing elements in Waltham whose votes were not easily controlled by the Whig. Controlled Boston Manufacturing Company which could effectively compel votes for Whigs because there was no secret ballot. He was at first moderate on the expansion of slavery, but recognizing the potency of the burgeoning abolitionist. Movement, he became more strongly attached to that cause. This brought Banks, along with fellow Democrats Rantoul and George S. To form a coalition with the Free Soil Party. That successfully gained control of the legislature and governor's chair.
The deals negotiated after the coalition win in the 1850 election put Boutwell in the governor's chair and made Banks the Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Although Banks did not like the radical Free Soiler Charles Sumner. He supported the coalition agreement that resulted in Sumner's election to the United States Senate. His role as house speaker and his effectiveness in conducting business raised his status significantly. As did his side work for the state Board of Education.
In 1852 Banks sought the Democratic nomination for a seat in the United States Congress. While it was at first granted, his refusal to disavow abolitionist positions meant party support was withdrawn. He ended up winning a narrow victory with Free Soil support. In 1853 he presided over the state Constitutional Convention of 1853. This convention produced a series of proposals for constitutional reform, including a new constitution, all of which were rejected by voters.
The failure, which was led by Whigs and conservative anti-abolitionist Democrats, spelled the end of the Democratic-Free Soil coalition. In Congress Banks sat on the Committee of Military Affairs. He bucked the Democratic party line by voting against the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Which overturned the 1820 Missouri Compromise. Supported by his constituents, he then publicly endorsed the abolitionist cause.In 1854 he formally joined the Know Nothing. Cause, was renominated for Congress by the Democrats and Free Soilers, and won an easy victory in the Know Nothing landslide. In 1855 Banks agreed to chair the convention of a new Republican Party. Convention, whose platform was intended to bring together antislavery interests from the Democrats, Whigs, Free Soilers, and Know Nothings. When Know Nothing Governor Henry Gardner. Refused to join in the fusion, Banks carefully kept his options open, passively supporting the Republican effort but also avoiding criticism of Gardner in his speeches. At the opening of the Thirty-Fourth Congress. In December 1855, men from several parties opposed to slavery's spread gradually united in supporting Banks for speaker. After the longest and one of the most bitter speakership contests on record, lasting from December 3, 1855 to February 2, 1856, Banks was chosen on the 133rd ballot. This has been called the first national victory of the Republican party. He gave antislavery men important posts in Congress for the first time, and cooperated with investigations of both the Kansas conflict. And the caning of Senator Charles Sumner.
Because of his fairness in dealing with the numerous factions, as well his parliamentary ability, Banks was lauded by others in the body, including former Speaker Howell Cobb. Who called him in all respects the best presiding officer [I] had ever seen. Banks played a key role in 1856 in bringing forward John C. As a moderate Republican presidential nominee. Because of his success as speaker, Banks was considered a possible presidential contender, and his name was put in nomination by supporters (knowing that he supported Frémont) at the Know Nothing convention, held one week before the Republicans met.
Banks then refused the Know Nothing nomination, which went instead to former President Millard Fillmore. Banks was active on the stump in support of Frémont, who lost the election to James Buchanan. Banks easily won reelection to his own seat. Democrats, however, regained control of the House of Representatives, depriving him of the speakership.In 1857 Banks ran for Governor of Massachusetts. Against the incumbent Henry Gardner. His nomination by the Republicans was contentious, with opposition coming primarily from radical antislavery interests opposed to his comparatively moderate stand on the issue. After a contentious campaign Banks won a comfortable victory. Banks' tenure in office coincided with a period of government contraction forced by the depression of those years. He made a serious attempt to gain the Republican presidential nomination in 1860, but discord within his party in Massachusetts, a residence in a "safe" Republican state, and his Know-Nothing past doomed his chances. He then was briefly resident director in Chicago. Of the Illinois Central Railroad. Hired primarily to promote the sale of the railroad's extensive lands.
Main article: American Civil War. As the Civil War became imminent, President. Considered Banks for a cabinet post, and eventually chose him as one of the first major generals.
Appointing him on May 16, 1861. Perceptions that the Massachusetts militia was well organized and armed at the beginning of the Civil War likely played a role in the appointment decision, as Banks had also been considered for quartermaster general. He was initially resented by many of the generals who had graduated from the United States Military Academy.Banks first commanded at Annapolis, Maryland. Suppressing support for the Confederacy. In a slave-holding state that was at risk of seceding, then was sent to command on the upper Potomac. Failed to move aggressively in that area. Main article: Jackson's Valley Campaign. Entered upon his Peninsula Campaign. In spring 1862, the important duty of keeping the Confederate forces of Stonewall Jackson. From reinforcing the defenses of Richmond. Fell to the two divisions commanded by Banks. When Banks' men reached the southern Valley at the end of a difficult supply line, the president recalled them to Strasburg, Virginia. Jackson then marched rapidly down the adjacent Luray Valley, driving Banks' retreating men from Winchester, Virginia. On May 25, and north to the Potomac River.
Jackson's campaign of maneuvers and lightning strikes against superior forces in the Valleyunder Banks and other Union generalshumiliated the North and made Stonewall Jackson one of the most famous generals in American history. On August 9, Banks again encountered Jackson, at Cedar Mountain. And attacked him to gain early advantage, but a Confederate counterattack led by A. Repulsed Banks' corps and won the day.
The arrival at the end of the day of Union reinforcements under Maj. As well as the rest of Jackson's men, resulted in a two-day stand-off there. The Northern newspapers provided flattering versions of Banks' performance while Southern newspapers called the battle a Southern victory. Banks made numerous tactical errors before and during the battle, including poor placement of troops, inadequate reconnaissance, and failing to commit reserve resources when he had a chance to break the Confederate line. Main article: Army of the Gulf.
Banks next received command of the defense forces at Washington. In November 1862 he was asked to organize a force of thirty thousand new recruits, drawn from New York and New England. As a former governor of Massachusetts, he was politically connected to the governors of these states, and the recruitment effort was successful.
In December he sailed from New York with a large force of raw recruits to replace Maj. As commander of the Department of the Gulf. According to historian John D. Butler hated Banks and was jealous of his political success and his'reputation of being the best general selected from civil life.Nevertheless, Butler, "swallowing his bitter pill with a show of good grace, " welcomed Banks to New Orleans and briefed him on civil and military affairs of importance. Doubted the wisdom of replacing Butler [a later Massachusetts governor] with Banks. According to historian Winters, Welles's opinion of the military abilities of both men was very low, but he did not question Butler's skill as a'police magistrate' in charge of civil affairs. Banks, he thought, did not have'the energy, power or ability of Butler. He did have'some ready qualities for civil administration,' but was less reckless and unscrupulous' and probably would not be able to hold a tight enough rein on the people once placed under Union control.
Banks joined her husband in New Orleans and held lavish dinner parties for the benefit of Union soldiers and their families. On April 12, 1864, she played the role of the "Goddess of Liberty" surrounded by all of the states of the reunited country. She did not then know of her husband's loss at the Battle of Mansfield. By July 4, 1864, however, occupied New Orleans had recovered from the Red River Campaign.To hold another mammoth concert extolling the Union. Banks issued orders to his men prohibiting pillage, but the undisciplined troops had chosen to disobey them, particularly when near a prosperous plantation. A soldier of the New York 114th wrote: The men soon learned the pernicious habit of slyly leaving their places in the ranks when opposite a planter's house. Oftentimes a soldier can be found with such an enormous development of the organ of destructiveness that the most severe punishment cannot deter him from indulging in the breaking of mirrors, pianos, and the most costly furniture. Men of such reckless disposition are frequently guilty of the most horrible desecrations. Banks' orders were to ascend the Mississippi River. To join forces with Ulysses S.
Who was then trying to capture Vicksburg. However, he did not immediately attempt the capture of Port Hudson, Louisiana. The main Confederate stronghold below Vicksburg, because the garrison was reported to be large. He did detach forces that engaged in an unsuccessful attempt.To gain control of Galveston, Texas. And sent troops to take out of commission a Confederate gunboat on Bayou Teche. Main article: Siege of Port Hudson. In March 1863 naval commander David Farragut. Banks marched with 12,000 men from Baton Rouge on March 13, but was unable to reach the enemy position due to inaccurate maps.
He then compounded the failure to engage the enemy with miscommunications with Farragut, promising a diversionary attack. The naval commander successfully navigated two gunboats past Port Hudson, taking fire and without any diversionary attack.
Banks ended up retreating back to Baton Rouge, his troops plundering all along the way. The episode was a further blow to Banks' reputation as a military commander, leaving many with the false impression he had not wanted to support Farragut. 1860s map showing the Siege of Port Hudson. Banks embarked on operations to secure a route that bypassed Port Hudson via the Red River.He was eventually able to reach Alexandria, Louisiana. But stiff resistance from the smaller forces of Confederate General Richard Taylor. Meant he did not get there until early May. His army seized thousands of bales of cotton, and Banks claimed to have interrupted supplies to Confederate forces further east. During these operations Admiral Farragut turned command of the naval forces assisting Banks to David Porter. With whom Banks had a difficult and prickly relationship.
Following a request from Grant for assistance against Vicksburg, Banks finally laid siege to Port Hudson. Two attempts to carry the works by storm, as at Vicksburg, were dismal failures. The first, made against the entrenched enemy on May 27, failed because of inadequate reconnaissance and because Banks failed to ensure the attacks along the line were coordinate. After a bloody repulse, Banks continued the siege, and launched a second assault on June 14.
It was also badly coordinated, and the repulse was equally bloody: each of the two attacks resulted in more than 1,800 Union casualties. The Confederate garrison under General Franklin Gardner. Surrendered on July 9, 1863, after receiving word that Vicksburg had fallen. This brought the entire Mississippi River under Union control.
Port Hudson was the first time African American soldiers were used in a major Civil War battle. In the autumn of 1863, Banks organized two seaborne expeditions to Texas, chiefly for the purpose of preventing the French in Mexico. From aiding the Confederates or occupying Texas.Of the region near the mouth of the Rio Grande. And the Texas outer islands. Main article: Red River Campaign. In 1863 Chief of Staff Henry Halleck. Continually promoted to Banks the Red River Campaign. And implied that the other major commanders favored the expedition. Banks in 1863 had disagreed with the Red River plan, hoping instead to mount sea expeditions to capture the Galveston area and Mobile. General Grant considered this a strategic distraction, as he wanted Banks to drive east to capture Mobile, Alabama. As part of a coordinated series of offensives in the spring of 1864. When preparations for the 1864 Red River expedition were far advanced, Halleck wrote Banks he was withdrawing any suggestion as to action after receiving from Banks a detailed negative report about the operation. There is no evidence Halleck provided the negative report on the Red River to Grant, who was being asked for input on overall operations at the time. Halleck began referring to the Red River expedition as Banks' plan in keeping with an established pattern of deflecting responsibility. The campaign lasted from March to May 1864. Banks' army was routed at the Battle of Mansfield.
Son of former President Zachary Taylor. And retreated 20 miles (32 km) to make a stand the next day at the Battle of Pleasant Hill. Despite winning a tactical victory at Pleasant Hill, Banks continued the retreat to Alexandria, his force rejoined part of the Federal Inland Fleet. That naval force under David Dixon Porter. Had joined the Red River Campaign to support the army and to take on cotton as lucrative prizes of war, and Banks had allowed rich speculators to come along for the gathering of cotton.The cooperating land force was unable to arrive overland from Arkansas, having been turned back during the Camden Expedition. Two attached corps belonging to General William T. Acted semi-independently; and, the river had dangerously low water levels. Part of Porter's large fleet became trapped above the falls at Alexandria by the low water. Banks and others approved a plan proposed by Joseph Bailey. To build wing dams as a means to raise what little water was left in the channel. In ten days, 10,000 troops built two dams, and managed to rescue Porter's fleet, allowing all to retreat to the Mississippi River.
After the campaign, just before General Sherman began his operations against Atlanta, Sherman said of the Red River campaign that it was One damn blunder from beginning to end. On April 22, 1864, Grant wired Chief of Staff Halleck asking for Banks' removal.He was replaced by Edward Canby. Who was promoted to major general. The Confederates held the Red River for the remainder of the war. They finally surrendered in June 1865, two months after Confederate General Robert E. Surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia.
See also: History of Louisiana § Reconstruction, disenfranchisement, and segregation (18651929). Banks undertook a number of steps intended to facilitate the Reconstruction. Plans of President Lincoln in Louisiana. When Banks arrived in New Orleans, the atmosphere was somewhat hostile to the Union owing to some of Butler's actions.Banks moderated some of Butler's policies, freeing civilians that Butler had detained and reopening churches whose ministers refused to support the Union. He recruited large numbers of blacks for the military, and instituted a formal work program to organize the many slaves who had wandered from their plantations, believing they had been freed. Because Banks believed the plantation owners would need to play a role in Reconstruction, the work program was not particularly friendly to the blacks, requiring them to sign year-long work contracts, and subjecting vagrant blacks to involuntary public work. In August 1863, President Lincoln ordered Banks to oversee the creation of a new state constitution, and in December granted him wide-ranging authority to oversee the creation of a new civilian government. However, because voter enrollment was low, Banks cancelled planned Congressional elections, and worked with civilian authorities to increase enrollment rates.
After a February 1864 election organized by Banks, a Unionist government was elected in Louisiana, and Banks optimistically reported to Lincoln that Louisiana would become in two years, under a wise and strong government, one of the most loyal and prosperous States the world has ever seen. A constitutional convention held from April to July 1864 drafted a new constitution that provided for the emancipation of slaves. Banks was a significant influence on the convention, insisting that provisions be included for black education and at least partial suffrage.By the time the convention ended, Banks' Red River Campaign had come to its ignominious end and Banks was superseded in military matters by General Canby. President Lincoln ordered Banks to oversee elections held under the new constitution in September, and then ordered him to return to Washington to lobby Congress for acceptance of Louisiana's constitution and elected Congressmen. Congress refused to seat Louisiana's two Congressmen in early 1865. However, he was politically trapped between the civilian government and Canby, and resigned from the army in May 1865 after only one month in New Orleans. A secret presidential investigating commission headed by conservative Democrats William Farrar Smith. Brady in early 1865 sought without success to connect Banks with vice and irregular trading permits in the New Orleans area. The somewhat one-sided final commission report, which did not specifically accuse him of wrongdoing, was never released. But Banks had definitely granted special favors without apparent compensation to men later connected to the Crédit Mobilier scandal. And to a few others of questionable reputation.
General Banks was mustered out of the Army on August 24, 1865. In 1892 he was elected as a Veteran First Class Companion of the Massachusetts Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. A military society for officers who had served the Union during the Civil War. Postbellum portrait by Mathew Brady.
Banks was once again elected as a representative to Congress, serving from 1865 to 1873, during which time he chaired the Foreign Affairs Committee and sometimes also headed the Republican caucus. Legislation, supported women's suffrage.And was one of the strongest early advocates of Manifest Destiny. Banks' financial records strongly suggest he received a large gratuity. Banks wanted the United States to acquire Canada and the Caribbean islands to reduce European influence in the region. He also served on the committee investigating the Crédit Mobilier scandal. In 1867 he was elected captain of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts.
He was re-elected for a second one-year term in 1875. Unhappy with the administration of President Ulysses Grant, in 1872 he joined the Liberal-Republican revolt. In support of Horace Greeley. While Banks was campaigning across the North for Greeley, an opponent successfully gathered enough support in his Massachusetts district to defeat him as the joint Liberal-Republican and Democratic candidate. Banks thought his involvement with a start-up Kentucky railroad and other railroads would substitute for the political loss.
But the Panic of 1873. Doomed the railroad, and Banks went on the lecture circuit and was elected to the Massachusetts Senate. Statue of Banks by Henry Hudson Kitson. In 1874, he was elected to Congress again as an independent and served the following two terms (18751879).He was a member of the committee investigating the irregular 1876 elections in South Carolina. After he was defeated in 1878, President Rutherford B. Appointed him as United States marshal. For Massachusetts as a patronage reward for his service. In 1888 Banks once again won a seat in Congress. He played little role, because his mental health was failing. After one term he was not renominated, and retired to Waltham.
His health continued to deteriorate, and he was briefly sent to McLean Hospital. Shortly before his death in Waltham on September 1, 1894. His death made nationwide headlines; he is buried in Waltham's Grove Hill Cemetery.Built in the late 1890s, was named for him. A statue of him stands in Waltham's Central Square. And Banks Street in New Orleans. Is named after him, as is Banks Court in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood. From 1855 to his death is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. List of American Civil War generals. List of Massachusetts generals in the American Civil War.
Massachusetts in the American Civil War. Some sources have incorrectly spelled the middle name of Nathaniel as Prentiss.
" While many military historians spell it "Prentiss, this faulty spelling likely derives from a widely used biographical sketch he did not approve. The general declined to answer requests for biographical sketches, and compilers relying on earlier, faulty sketches apparently repeated this erroneous "Prentiss" spelling.Such a spelling does not appear in other important documents, on his tombstone, or in many letters to him from relatives. There is only one document in the voluminous Banks manuscript collections in which Nathaniel himself spelled his middle name. This was a partially completed fraternity application now at the American Antiquarian Society. He then spelled the name "Prentice".
Plaque on site provided by Winthrop Historical Commission. Army Generals and Reconstruction: Louisiana 18621877. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press.
Planting the Union flag in Texas: The Campaigns of Major General Nathaniel P. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press.
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. The Civil War: A Narrative.
1, Fort Sumter to Perryville. New York: Random House, 1958. Pretense of Glory: The Life of General Nathaniel P.One Damn Blunder from Beginning to End: The Red River Campaign of 1864. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2003. Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders.
Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964. Crucible of Reconstruction: War, Radicalism and Race in Louisiana; 18621877. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. At the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nathaniel Prentice Banks.
Has the text of a 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica. Official Commonwealth of Massachusetts Governor Biography. Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. Commander of the Fifth Army Corps. March 13, 1862April 4, 1862.Commander of the Department of the Gulf. December 15, 1862 September 23, 1864. From Massachusetts's 7th congressional district. March 4, 1853 December 24, 1857. February 2, 1856 March 4, 1857. January 7, 1858 January 3, 1861. From Massachusetts's 6th congressional district. December 4, 1865 March 3, 1873. From Massachusetts's 5th congressional district. March 4, 1875 March 3, 1879.
March 4, 1889 March 3, 1891. House of Representatives from Massachusetts. Speakers of the United States House of Representatives.
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