Horatio Washington Bruce

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Horatio W. Bruce
A man in his forties with black hair and a mustache, facing left. He is wearing a white shirt, black tie, and black jacket
Confederate Congressman from Kentucky
In office
February 18, 1862 – March 18, 1865
Preceded by New office
Succeeded by End of office
Personal details
Born (1830-02-22)February 22, 1830
Lewis County, Kentucky
Died January 22, 1903(1903-01-22) (aged 72)
Louisville, Kentucky
Political party Whig, Know Nothing
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Hardin Helm
Relations Son-in-law of John L. Helm
Profession Lawyer
Signature H.M. Bruce

Horatio Washington Bruce (February 22, 1830 – January 22, 1903) was a Confederate politician during the American Civil War.

Early life[edit]

Horatio Bruce was born February 22, 1830 about one mile south of Vanceburg in Lewis County, Kentucky.[1] He was the son of Alexander and Amanda (Bragg) Bruce and named for two of his uncles, Horatio and Washington Bruce.[2] His paternal grandfather was a soldier in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, and his father was a wealthy landowner who served as a Whig in the Kentucky General Assembly in 1825 and 1826.[3] His maternal grandfather also served in the Revolutionary War.[3] He was of Scottish ancestry on his father's side and English ancestry on his mother's side.[3]

Bruce was educated in private schools in his native Lewis County, as well as Manchester, Ohio.[3] At age sixteen, he began work as a salesman in a general store, a job he held until 1849.[4] Concurrently, he was postmaster of the post office in Vanceburg.[1] In 1849, Bruce taught at a school in Vanceburg for a five-month term.[1] The following year, he taught for five months in another school in Lewis County.[1] In December 1850, he relocated to Flemingsburg, where he read law in the office of Leander M. Cox.[1] He was admitted to the bar in July 1851 and opened his practice in Flemingsburg.[2][3] Later that year, he was appointed examiner by the circuit court of Fleming county, and soon after was elected to the Flemingsburg Board of School Trustees.[1]

Antebellum political career[edit]

Bruce first became active in politics in 1852, making campaign speeches for the Whig presidential ticket of Winfield Scott and William Alexander Graham in the 1852 election.[4] When the Whig Party collapsed, Bruce associated with the Know Nothing Party, and was elected to represent Fleming County in the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1855 and 1856.[1][3]

On June 12, 1856, Bruce married Elizabeth Hardin Helm, daughter of two-time Kentucky Governor John L. Helm, at "Helm Place", the bride's home in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.[5] The couple had five children: Helm Bruce, Elizabeth Barber Bruce, Maria Preston Pope Bruce, Mary (Bruce) Smith, and V. Alexander Bruce.[6] In August 1856, Bruce was elected Commonwealth's Attorney for the Tenth District, comprising Mason, Lewis, Greenup, Rowan, Fleming and Nicholas counties.[1] He held this position until 1858.[6]

In late 1858, he resigned his position as Commonwealth's Attorney and moved to Louisville.[4] There, he formed the law firm of Helm and Bruce with his brother-in-law, Benjamin Hardin Helm.[3] During the 1860 presidential election, Bruce actively supported the Constitutional Union ticket of John Bell and Edward Everett.[4] In 1861, he adopted a states' rights platform and unsuccessfully sought a seat in the United States House of Representatives, losing to Robert Mallory.[3]

Civil War[edit]

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Bruce sided with the Confederacy and left Louisville for Bowling Green, the headquarters of the state's Confederates, on August 17, 1861.[2] He was a delegate to Kentucky's first Confederate sovereignty convention, held at Russellville from October 29–31, 1861.[3] This self-constituted convention laid the groundwork for Kentucky's secession from the Union, and called for a second convention to be held in Russellville November 18 and 19, 1861.[1] This second convention passed an ordinance of secession, declaring Kentucky to have withdrawn from the Union.[3][4] The convention also established a provisional Confederate state government, and Bruce was elected a member of its legislature.[3] Shortly thereafter, Kentucky was admitted to the Confederate States of America.[3]

On January 22, 1862, Bruce was elected as a Representative in the First Confederate Congress.[4] He was chosen to represent Kentucky on a committee to arrange and conduct the inaugural ceremonies of Jefferson Davis and Alexander H. Stephens as Confederate President and Vice-President, respectively.[5] He was also named to the Foreign Relations Committee and the Committee on Patents.[7] On January 10, 1864, he was re-elected to the Second Confederate Congress, serving until the end of the war.[4][5] Records of his service in the Confederate Congresses have been lost to history.[5]

Bruce and the other members of the Confederate Congress – along with President Davis – remained in Richmond, Virginia until April 2, 1865.[5] They then fled to Danville, Virginia, where they remained until Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House.[5] Afterward, Bruce traveled first to Greensboro, North Carolina and Augusta, Georgia before returning to Richmond after President Andrew Johnson declared amnesty for ex-Confederates.[5] Bruce then traveled to Washington, D.C. where he arranged a meeting with his close friend and fellow Kentuckian, Attorney General James Speed.[5] Speed informed Bruce that he had been granted a pardon for any actions of disloyalty during the war.[5]

Post-war life[edit]

Bruce returned to Louisville June 19, 1865 and in August 1865, formed the law firm of Bruce and Russell with Samuel Russell, his former pupil.[5][8] They dissolved the partnership in 1868 when Bruce was elected to the circuit court in Kentucky's ninth district, comprising Jefferson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer, and Bullitt counties.[1] He was elected by the overwhelming majority of 10,611 votes in a contest where only 14,817 votes were cast.[8] Bruce was among the first Kentuckians to call for courts to recognize negros' testimony as competent and valid, writing a letter to the Chicago Evening Post in support of this cause on February 20, 1869.[8]

Beginning in 1872, despite never having attended college, he served as a law professor at the University of Louisville, holding the chair of history and science of law, law of real property, and contracts and criminal law.[5] He also served as president of the Louisville Medical College.[5] In 1873, Governor Preston Leslie appointed Bruce as a chancellor of the Louisville Chancery Court to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Chancellor Cochran.[8] At a special election held in February 1874, he was elected to fill the remainder of the unexpired term.[4] In August 1874, he was re-elected to a full, six-year term.[1] He resigned from the chancery court on March 10, 1880 to accept the position of attorney for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.[5] Shortly after taking this position, he also resigned his professorship at the University of Louisville.[9]

Bruce died on January 22, 1903 in Louisville.[4] He is buried in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Levin, p. 191
  2. ^ a b c History of the Ohio Falls, p. 499
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Biographical Cyclopedia, p. 395
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Connelly, p. 625
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Biographical Cyclopedia, p. 396
  6. ^ a b Van Meter, p. 123
  7. ^ "Kentucky Members of the Confederate Congress"
  8. ^ a b c d History of the Ohio Falls, p. 500
  9. ^ History of the Ohio Falls, p. 501

External links[edit]