Eleazer A. Paine

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Eleazer A. Paine
Brigadier General Eleazer A. Paine, Colonel of the 9th Illinois Infantry Regiment, half-length portrait, seated, facing front, in uniform LCCN2017647340.jpg
Born (1815-09-10)September 10, 1815
Geauga County, Ohio
Died December 16, 1882(1882-12-16) (aged 67)
Jersey City, New Jersey
Place of burial Oakland Cemetery, Saint Paul, Minnesota
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army,
Union Army
Years of service 1839–1840, 1861–1865
Rank Union Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Brigadier General
Commands held 4th Division, Army of the Mississippi
District of West Kentucky

Seminole Wars
American Civil War

Other work Lawyer

Eleazer Arthur Paine (September 10, 1815 – December 16, 1882) was an American soldier, author, and lawyer from Ohio who provoked controversy as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He was charged with brutality toward civilians and violating their civil rights while commanding troops in western Kentucky. He was replaced in April 1864 from his post, based in Gallatin, Tennessee, where he had directed the occupation's protection of railroads and policing civilians.

Early life and career[edit]

Paine was born in Geauga County, Ohio. He was a first cousin to Halbert E. Paine, also born in that county and a fellow future Civil War general.

After being educated in local schools, Paine received an appointment to the United States Military Academy and graduated in the Class of 1839. He served in the Seminole Wars before resigning his commission in 1840.[1] In 1843, he wrote and published a training manual entitled Military Instructions; Designed for the Militia and Volunteers.

Law career[edit]

After resigning from the Army, he returned to Ohio. There he read the law with an established firm. He passed the bar exam in 1843, and established his practice in Painesville, Ohio.

In 1848 he moved further west to Monmouth, Illinois. There he married Charlotte Phelps and raised a family. One of Paine's close friends was fellow Illinois attorney Abraham Lincoln.[2]

Civil War[edit]

Following the outbreak of the Civil War, Paine was elected colonel of the 9th Illinois Infantry. In September of that year, he was appointed as a brigadier general of volunteers. He commanded a brigade at Paducah, Kentucky, a critical supply depot for the Federal army. There, Paine developed a reputation for harshness and cruelty toward the civilian populace. He ordered all guerrilla fighters caught within his territory to be executed.[3]

Paine commanded the 4th Division of the Army of the Mississippi at the Battle of New Madrid and Island Number Ten in Missouri leading the 1st Division. He also served in the Siege of Corinth under William S. Rosecrans.

He subsequently headed the District of West Kentucky, where his men were deployed guarding railroads from Confederate raiders from November 1862 until April 1864. His headquarters were in Gallatin, Tennessee in the middle part of the state, and a center of regional railroads. Tennessee was occupied by Union troops from 1862 on. His son Phelps Paine was a captain in the Union Army and assigned to Gallatin.[4]

Paine, who was in command in heavily secessionist areas of Kentucky and Tennessee, was charged by some citizens with repressing and stealing from the civilians. In addition to executing suspected spies in the Gallatin town square, he was accused of what was called "chasing the fox with fresh horses"--having his men chase down and kill prisoners who were set free on old horses.[5] Gallatin civilians referred to him as "our King" and "Tempest".[5] Executions were commonplace, typically without benefit of a trial or legal counsel.[5]

On April 29, 1864, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman reassigned Paine and a regiment of his infantry to a post in Tullahoma, Tennessee, to guard bridges crossing the Duck and Elk rivers.[6] He later commanded the military District of Illinois, but resigned in November 1864 and was replaced by John Cook.

A special military commission into Paine's actions in Kentucky and Tennessee found him guilty on several counts, including corruption, extortion, unjust taxation, fencing stolen goods, sending innocent civilians to Canada, and immorality. Several modern historians have questioned the accuracy of the findings of this commission, as the investigators were aligned with the Union Democrats (pro-union, pro-slavery) and several of Paine's defenders were Unconditional Unionists (pro-union, anti-slavery). At this time the Purchase area of Kentucky (where Paducah is located) was the only area of the Bluegrass State that was overwhelmingly pro-secession. Confederate cavalry and guerillas operated with impunity in much of the Purchase, and Paine needed strict military rule to keep control.[7]

Later Paine was subject to a full court martial on essentially the same charges. He was acquitted on all but a charge of cursing a superior officer. His punishment was to be reprimanded by the president of the United States in general orders. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton refused to enforce the sentence. According to Kentucky historian, Berry Craig, "In the last analysis evidence is strong that the local animus toward Paine, perpetuated by nineteenth and twenty century historians, was rooted in his strongly held abolitionist views, in his support for the enlistments of African Americans into the Union forces and in his belief in black equality with whites."[7]

He resigned from the Army in April 1865.

Postwar years[edit]

Paine returned to his family in Illinois and resumed his law practice.

Paine died in Jersey City, New Jersey. He is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

In some accounts, his first name is spelled as "Eleazar." It is also recorded as "Eleazor." Spelling was variable in the 19th century.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Warner, p. 356
  2. ^ Cowley, p. 124.
  3. ^ New Encyclopædia Britannica, p. 463.
  4. ^ Durham (1982), Rebellion Revisited
  5. ^ a b c Alice Williamson Diary, Scriptorium - Library, Duke University, accessed 5 December 2009
  6. ^ Official Records, Series 1, Volume 32, Part 3.
  7. ^ a b Craig, Berry (co-author: Dieter C. Ullrich) (2016). Unconditional Unionist: The Hazardous Life of Lucian Anderson, Kentucky Congressman. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 130–138. ISBN 9781476663692. 


  • Cowley, Robert, What Ifs? Of American History: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been. Berkley Books, 2004. ISBN 0-425-19818-9.
  • New Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1983.
  • Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders, Louisiana State University Press, 1964, ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.
  • U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 70 volumes in 4 series. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.

Further reading[edit]

  • Paine, Eleazar A., Military Instructions; Designed for the Militia and Volunteers... Office of the Northern Ohio Freedman, 1843.

External links[edit]