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William A. Barstow

William A. Barstow Union Army general and governor of Wisconsin

Union Army general and governor of Wisconsin
William A. Barstow
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Union Army general and governor of Wisconsin
Was Military officer Financial professional Banker Politician Soldier Officer
From United States of America
Type Finance Military Politics
Gender male
Birth 13 September 1813, Plainfield, USA
Death 13 December 1865, Leavenworth, USA (aged 52 years)
Star sign VirgoVirgo
Politics Democratic Party
The details


William Augustus Barstow (September 13, 1813 – December 13, 1865) was an American businessman, politician, and public administrator. He was the third Governor of Wisconsin and a Union Army officer during the American Civil War.

Early life

Barstow was born in Plainfield, Connecticut. He worked with his brothers in business in Norwich, Connecticut, and Cleveland, Ohio, but moved to the Wisconsin Territory after the Panic of 1837. He started a mill in Waukesha, outside of Milwaukee. He was active in local politics, serving on the Milwaukee County Board, and, in 1846, led a movement to create Waukesha County from the western part of Milwaukee County. [1] [2]

Barstow served as the 2nd Secretary of State of Wisconsin from 1850 until 1852. He was elected Governor of Wisconsin in the 1853 election on the Democratic Party ticket, and took office on January 2, 1854. As governor, Barstow supported the railroad to the Pacific and stood against the attempts of the Know-Nothing movement to undermine the citizenship of the foreign-born. He opposed prohibition of alcohol sales, and vetoed a ban passed by the Legislature despite strong public support. However, allegations that his administration had misused public school funds and favored personal friends in state funded loans proved to have greater impact than his positions on issues. Although he was renominated by the Democrats, Barstow lost support within his party as well as in Wisconsin generally.

Disputed election

William A. Barstow in 1853

When Barstow ran for reelection in 1855, he was initially declared the winner against his Republican opponent, Coles Bashford, by a mere 157 votes. However, Bashford claimed the result was fraudulent, and it was soon substantiated that Barstow's win was due to forged election returns from nonexistent precincts in the sparsely populated northern part of the state, in addition to other irregularities such as two separate canvassing boards claiming legitimacy in Waupaca County and attempting to submit conflicting certifications.

As rival militia units converged on the state capital in Madison, threatening to start a civil war within the state, Barstow was inaugurated in a full, public ceremony on January 7, 1856. On the same day, Bashford was also sworn in quietly as governor in the chambers of the Wisconsin Supreme Court by Chief Justice Edward V. Whiton.

The Wisconsin Attorney General, George Baldwin Smith, filed quo warranto proceedings in the Wisconsin Supreme Court to remove Barstow, who threatened that he would not "give up his office alive." After challenging the court's jurisdiction without success and noting that the tide of public opinion had turned against him, Barstow declined to contest the fraud allegations and sent his resignation to the legislature on March 21, 1856, leaving the lieutenant governor, Arthur MacArthur, as acting governor. On March 24, the court unanimously awarded the governorship to Bashford by a count of 1,009 votes in the case Atty. Gen. ex rel. Bashford v. Barstow.

Later life

Barstow moved to Janesville, Wisconsin, where he opened a bank and promoted various railroad construction schemes. He remained in politics following the election scandal, serving as a Wisconsin delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 1860. After the start of the Civil War, however, he joined the Union war effort and under the authority of the War Department in 1861, he organized the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry regiment at Camp Barstow, near Janesville. He commanded the regiment as a colonel and was appointed Provost Marshal General of Kansas, operating out of Fort Leavenworth. Due to failing health, however, Barstow was reassigned in the summer of 1863 to preside over courts-martial in St. Louis, Missouri, and he never rejoined his regiment. He was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on March 13, 1865, nine months before his death in Leavenworth, Kansas.

Family and personal life

William A. Barstow was married to Maria Quarles. They had four sons.

Barstow was the son of William Augusta Barstow and Sally Hall Barstow. His Uncles John and Ebenezer Barstow were volunteers in the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. Ebenezer Barstow's grandson, John L. Barstow, was the 39th Governor of Vermont.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 08 Apr 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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