Charles Francis Adams Jr.

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Charles Francis Adams Jr.
Charles Francis Adams, Jr..jpg
President of Union Pacific Railroad
In office
Preceded bySidney Dillon
Succeeded bySidney Dillon
Personal details
Charles Francis Adams Jr.

(1835-05-27)May 27, 1835
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedMarch 20, 1915(1915-03-20) (aged 79)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting placeMount Wollaston Cemetery, Quincy, Massachusetts
Mary Hone Ogden
m. 1865;
his death 
RelationsSee Adams family
OccupationSoldier, railroad commissioner, park commissioner, author, historian
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Branch/service United States Army
Union Army
Years of service1861–1865
RankUnion Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Brevet Brigadier General
Unit1st Massachusetts Volunteer Cavalry
Commands5th Regiment Massachusetts Colored Volunteer Cavalry
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War:
 • Battle of Secessionville
 • Maryland Campaign
 • Battle of South Mountain
 • Battle of Antietam
 • Gettysburg Campaign
 • Battle of Aldie

Charles Francis Adams Jr. (May 27, 1835 – March 20, 1915) was an American author and historian. He was a member of the prominent Adams family, and son of Charles Francis Adams Sr. He served as a colonel in the Union Army during the American Civil War. After the war, he was a railroad regulator and executive, an author of historical works, and a member of the Massachusetts Park Commission.

Early life[edit]

Adams was born into a family with a long legacy in American public life. He was the great-grandson of United States President John Adams, and the grandson of president John Quincy Adams. His father Charles Francis Adams Sr.[1] was a lawyer, politician, diplomat, and writer. His siblings included: older sister Louisa Catherine Adams, wife of Charles Kuhn, of Philadelphia; older brother Hon. John Quincy Adams II, father of Charles Francis Adams III; historian Henry Brooks Adams;[2] Arthur Adams, who died young during their childhood; Mary Adams, who married Henry Parker Quincy, of Dedham, Massachusetts; and historian Peter Chardon Brooks Adams, of Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. who married Evelyn Davis.[3]

Adams graduated from Harvard University in 1856.[4]


Captain Adams (second from right) with officers of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, August 1864

Civil War service[edit]

Adams served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Volunteer Cavalry on December 28, 1861. He was promoted to captain on December 1, 1862. He fought with distinction during the Gettysburg Campaign, where his company was heavily engaged at the Battle of Aldie. When the regiment's 3-years enlistment ended it was reduced to a battalion; and Adams was mustered out of service on September 1, 1864.[5][4]

On September 8, 1864, he was commissioned as the lieutenant colonel of the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry (officially designated "5th Massachusetts Colored Volunteer Cavalry"). He was promoted to colonel and assumed command of the regiment on March 14, 1865, shortly before the end of the war.[6][7][4] When he assumed command, the regiment was assigned guarding Confederate prisoners of war at Point Lookout, Maryland.

Adams, who wished to lead his regiment in combat, was able to get horses for his regiment and had it reassigned to front line duty during the closing days of the campaign against Richmond. Adams wrote in his autobiography that he regretted having his unit reassigned since he came to the conclusion that the regiment's black soldiers were ill-suited for combat duty. He led his regiment into Richmond shortly after it was captured in April 1865. Adams returned to Massachusetts in May due to illness (probably dysentery) and resigned from the Army on August 1, 1865.[4]

On July 9, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Colonel Adams for the award of the rank of brevet (honorary) brigadier general, United States Volunteers, "for distinguished gallantry and efficiency at the battles of Secessionville, South Carolina and South Mountain and Antietam, Maryland, and for meritorious services during the war" to rank from March 13, 1865, and the U. S. Senate confirmed the award on July 23, 1866.[8][9]

Adams was a Veteran Companion of the Massachusetts Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS).

Post–Civil War activity[edit]

Following the Civil War, he was appointed to the Massachusetts Railroad Commission. There he attempted to persuade (rather than coerce) railroads into compliance with accepted business norms. Thomas McCraw called Adams's approach to regulation "the Sunshine Commission" since the purpose of the commission was to expose the corrupt business practices in hopes that, once out in the open, the businessmen would be shamed into mending their ways. It was in this vein that he wrote Chapters of Erie. However, true to his regulatory philosophy, he favored the protection of businessmen over that of the consumers. He saw regulation as necessary to protect investors and other businessmen from the capriciousness of a hostile public or the machinations of other unscrupulous stock jobbers.[10] He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1871,[11] and was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1891.[12]

Union Pacific Railroad[edit]

Congress distrusted the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) and in 1884 forced it to hire Adams as the new president.[13] Adams had long promoted various reform ideas, as in his book Railroads, Their Origin and Problems (1878), but he had little practical experience in management. As railroad president, he was successful in getting a good press for the UP, and set up libraries along the route to allow his employees to better themselves. He had poor results dealing with the Knights of Labor. When the union refused extra work in Wyoming in 1885, Adams hired Chinese workers. The result was the Rock Springs massacre, which killed scores of Chinese and drove all the rest out of Wyoming.[14] He tried to build a complex network of alliances with other businesses, but they provided little help to the UP. He had great difficulty in making decisions and in co-ordinating his subordinates. Adams was unable to stanch the worsening financial condition of the UP, and in 1890 the railroad's owner Jay Gould forced his resignation.[15][16]

Massachusetts Park Commission[edit]

From 1893 to 1895, he was chairman of the Massachusetts Park Commission, and as such took a prominent part in planning the present park system of the state.[7] He was influential in establishing the Blue Hills Reservation and the Middlesex Fells Reservation.

Single-tax supporter[edit]

In 1900, he wrote a letter to the President of the Massachusetts Single Tax League, declaring himself a supporter of the reform Henry George had proposed, which would later be known as Georgism. An excerpt of that letter appeared in The Outlook, December 15, 1900.

Historical writings[edit]

After 1874, he devoted much of his time to the study of American history, and in recognition of his work in this field was chosen president of the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1895, and of the American Historical Association in 1901. His writings and addresses both on problems of railway management and on historical subjects frequently gave rise to widespread controversy.[7] Adams also wrote an autobiography which he completed in 1912 and which was published posthumously in 1916. At the beginning of the autobiography is a memorial address about Adams written by Henry Cabot Lodge. In 1875, he published an essay on "The Granger Movement" in the North American Review which exposes the railroad rate rigging and monopoly practices which prompted the movement.

Personal life[edit]

On November 8, 1865, he married Mary Hone Ogden (1843–1934), daughter of Edward and Caroline Callender Ogden. The couple had three daughters and twin sons (both of whom graduated Harvard in 1898[17]):[18]

  • Mary Ogden ("Molly") Adams (b. 1867), who married Grafton St. Loe Abbott (1856–1915), a son of U.S. Representative Josiah Gardner Abbott. They were the parents of Mary Ogden Abbott.
  • Louisa Catherine Adams (1872–1958), who married Thomas Nelson Perkins (1870–1937).[19]
  • Elizabeth Ogden ("Elise") Adams (1873–1945).[3]
  • John Francis Adams (1875–1964), who married Marion Morse Adams (1878–1959). They were the parents of Thomas Boylston Adams.[20]
  • Henry Quincy Adams (1875–1951).[2]

Adams died May 20, 1915.[4] He is buried in Mount Wollaston Cemetery in Quincy, Massachusetts. His grave can be found in the Old Section, Lot 337.[21]


  • Chapters of Erie, and Other Essays (New York, 1871), with brother Henry Adams
  • Railroads, Their Origin and Problems (New York, 1878)
  • Notes on Railroad Accidents (New York, 1879)
  • Richard Henry Dana: A Biography (Boston, 1890)
  • Three Episodes of Massachusetts History (Boston, 1892), a work which gives an account of the settlement of Boston Bay, of the Antinomian controversy, and of church and town government in early Massachusetts
  • Massachusetts: Its Historians and Its History (Boston, 1893)
  • Antinomianism in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, 1636–1638 (1894).
  • “Imperialism” and “The Tracks of Our Forefathers” at Project Gutenberg (1898).
  • Charles Francis Adams (Boston and New York, 1900), in the American Statesmen series (biography of Charles Francis Adams Sr.)
  • Lee at Appomattox, and Other Papers (1902)
  • Reflex Light From Africa, The Century Magazine, vol. 72, pp. 101-111 (1906)
  • Whence the Founders Travel (1907)
  • Tis Sixty Years Since. Address of Charles Francis Adams, Founders' Day, January 16, 1913, University of South Carolina (New York, 1913)
  • Charles Francis Adams, 1835–1915: An Autobiography (1916)
  • Before and After the Treaty of Washington: The American Civil War and the War in the Transvaal. An address delivered before the New York Historical Society on its ninety-seventh anniversary, Tuesday, November 19, 1901 (New York, 1902)

Family tree[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Browning, Charles Henry. Americans of Royal Descent: A Collection of Genealogies of American Families Whose Lineage is traced to the Legitimate Issue of Kings. Philadelphia: Porter & Costes, 1891, ed. 2, pp. 68–69.
  2. ^ a b Adams, Henry, Levenson, J. C., Massachusetts Historical Society, et al. The Letters of Henry Adams, Volumes 4–6, 1892–1918. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989, pp. xxxvi–xxxvii.
  3. ^ a b Browning, Charles H. (2002). Magna Charta Barons, 1915. Baronial Order of Runnemede. Genealogical Publishing Com. p. 285. ISBN 978-0-8063-0056-6. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e Marquis Who's Who, Inc. Who Was Who in American History, the Military. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1975. P. 2 ISBN 978-0-8379-3201-9 OCLC 657162692
  5. ^ "First Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Cavalry". Acton Memorial Library. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  6. ^ Hunt and Brown, 1990, p. 4
  7. ^ a b c Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Adams, Charles Francis, Jr." . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  8. ^ Eicher, John H. and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, p. 739. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, 2001. ISBN 978-0-8047-3641-1
  9. ^ Hunt, Roger D. and Brown, Jack R., Brevet Brigadier Generals in Blue, p. 4. Olde Soldier Books, Inc., Gaithersburg, MD, 1990. ISBN 978-1-56013-002-4
  10. ^ Clay McShane discusses Adams's regulatory philosophy in Technology and Reform: Street Railways and the Growth of Milwaukee, 1887–1900 (Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin for the Department of History, University of Wisconsin, 1974), 26–28.
  11. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
  12. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  13. ^ Robert G. Athearn, "A Brahmin in Buffaloland." Western Historical Quarterly 1#1 (1970): 21–34. in JSTOR
  14. ^ Craig Storti, Incident at Bitter Creek: The Story of the Rock Springs Chinese Massacre (1990),
  15. ^ Robert L. Frey, ed., Railroads in the 19th century (1988) pp 3–9
  16. ^ Edward Chase Kirkland, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., 1835–1915: The Patrician at Bay (1965) pp 81–129
  17. ^ Harvard College. Memorial of the Harvard Class of 1856: Prepared for the Fifteenth Anniversary of Graduation. Cambridge: Geo. H. Ellis, 1906, pp. 1–7.
  18. ^ Rand, John Clark. One of a Thousand: A Series of Biographical Sketches of One Thousand Representative Men Resident in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, A. D. 1888–'89. Boston: First National Pub. Co., 1890, p. 4.
  19. ^ "Thomas N. Perkins '91, Member of Corporation, Dies at Home". The Harvard Crimson. October 8, 1937. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  20. ^ Eric Pace (June 9, 1997). "Thomas B. Adams Dies at 86; Descendant of Two Presidents". New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  21. ^ "Charles Francis Adams Jr". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2010-02-08.


  • Eicher, John H. and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, 2001. ISBN 978-0-8047-3641-1.
  • Hunt, Roger D. and Brown, Jack R., Brevet Brigadier Generals in Blue. Olde Soldier Books, Inc., Gaithersburg, MD, 1990. ISBN 1-56013-002-4.
  • Kirkland, Edward C. Charles Francis Adams Jr., 1835–1915: Patrician at Bay. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967.
  • McCraw, Thomas K. Prophets of Regulation: Charles Francis Adams, Louis D. Brandeis, James M. Landis, Alfred E. Kahn. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1984.

External links[edit]

Business positions
Preceded by
Sidney Dillon
President of Union Pacific Railroad
Succeeded by
Sidney Dillon