Robert B. Van Valkenburgh

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Robert B. Van Valkenburgh

Robert Bruce Van Valkenburgh (September 4, 1821 – August 1, 1888) was a United States Representative from New York, officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War, and subsequent US Minister Resident to Japan.

Biography[edit]

Born in Prattsburgh, Steuben County, New York, he attended Franklin Academy there. He studied law, was admitted to the bar, and commenced practice in Bath. He was a member of the New York State Assembly (Steuben Co., 1st D.) in 1852, 1857 and 1858. In 1858, he was the Republican candidate for Speaker, but was defeated by Democrat Thomas G. Alvord on the 53rd ballot.

Van Valkenburgh was in command of the recruiting depot in Elmira and organized seventeen regiments early in the Civil War. He was elected as a Republican to the 37th and 38th United States Congresses, holding office from March 4, 1861, to March 3, 1865. While in the House he was Chairman of the Committee on Militia (37th and 38th Congresses). He served as colonel of the One Hundred and Seventh Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, and was its commander at the Battle of Antietam.

Following the war, he was Acting Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1865. He was appointed Minister Resident to Japan on January 18, 1866, and remained on the post until November 11, 1869. It was in his role as Minister Resident in Japan that Van Valkenburgh prevented the delivery of the CSS Stonewall to the forces of the Tokugawa clan during the Boshin War.

After his return from Japan, Van Valkenburgh settled in Florida, and was appointed associate justice of the Florida Supreme Court on May 20, 1874. He remained on the bench until his death in Suwannee Springs, near Live Oak in 1888. He was buried at the Old St. Nicholas Cemetery, on the south side of the St. Johns River, south of Jacksonville.

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New York Assembly
Preceded by
Charles G. Higby
New York State Assembly
Steuben County, 1st District

1852
Succeeded by
Dryden Henderson
Preceded by
Goldsmith Denniston
New York State Assembly
Steuben County, 1st District

1857–1858
Succeeded by
Abel Eveland
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
William Irvine
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 28th congressional district

1861-1863
Succeeded by
Freeman Clarke
Preceded by
Alexander S. Diven
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 27th congressional district

1863-1865
Succeeded by
Hamilton Ward
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Robert H. Pruyn
U.S. Minister to Japan
1866 - 1869
Succeeded by
Charles E. DeLong