Richard Busteed

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Richard Busteed
Brig. Gen. Richard Busteed
Born (1822-02-16)February 16, 1822
Cavan, Ireland
Died September 14, 1898(1898-09-14) (aged 76)
New York City, New York
Place of burial Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1862–1863
Rank Union Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Brigadier General
Unit VII Corps
Battles/wars American Civil War
Other work U.S. District Judge, journalist, preacher

Richard Busteed (February 16, 1822 – September 14, 1898) was an attorney and soldier who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He was a lawyer before and after the war, and also served as the U.S. District Judge of Alabama from 1863 – 1874. He became highly controversial in that position, and resigned to avoid likely impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Early life[edit]

Busteed was born in Cavan, Ireland. His family relocated to London, Ontario, sometime after his father, George Washington Busteed, was removed as chief secretary of Saint Lucia in 1829. After moving to Canada, the elder Busteed began publishing The True Patriot on which Richard worked as a type-setter. He accompanied his father to Cincinnati, Ohio; Hartford, Connecticut; and finally settled in New York City where he worked on the Commercial Advertiser.

Along with working as a journalist, Busteed was licensed as a Methodist preacher. He visited Ireland for health reasons in 1840. Upon returning to New York he began to study the law and was admitted to the bar in 1846, thereafter engaging in private practice. He was elected corporation counsel of New York City in 1856 and held that office until 1859. In the presidential election of 1860 he was a strong supporter of Stephen A. Douglas, and a bitter opponent of Abraham Lincoln.

Civil War[edit]

Once the war erupted, Busteed became a strong Union man. He was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers on August 7, 1862, by President Lincoln and assigned duty first in New York and then in Washington, D.C.. On December 15, 1862, he was given command of an independent brigade detached from the VII Corps. The brigade was assigned to the peninsula near Yorktown, Virginia. Even though the five colonels in his brigade sent a joint letter to the Senate urging his confirmation, the Senate did not confirm the appointment. Busteed not only had enemies from the election of 1860, he had made new ones for his strong support of the administration and his stance on the slavery question. His appointment expired on March 4, 1863, and, relieved of his command, he resigned less than a week later on the 10th, ending his military career.

On November 17, 1863, Busteed received a recess appointment from Lincoln as United States District Judge for the Alabama seats vacated by the death of George W. Lane. Although Alabama comprised three judicial districts at the time, Northern, Middle, and Southern, they shared a single judgeship. Formally nominated on January 5, 1864, this time his enemies in the Senate did not fight his confirmation and the appointment was confirmed unanimously on January 20, 1864. The confirmation may have gone so smoothly because Alabama was still mostly controlled by the Confederacy.

Post Civil War[edit]

It was only after the war ended that Busteed was able to take his seat on the bench. He immediately came into disfavor with those pushing for harsh Reconstruction when he decided that the test-oath prescribed by Congress was unconstitutional, so far as it applied to attorneys practising before United States courts. Judges in other states and eventually the United States Supreme Court would deliver similar opinions. In November 1865 Busteed clashed with the U.S. military authorities in Alabama over the suspension of habeas corpus.

Despite these opinions, Alabamans generally considered him corrupt and pro-Northern.[1] In December 1867, he was shot on the street in Mobile by U.S. District Attorney Lucien V. B. Martin,[2] who fired two more shots into him after he fell. Martin went to Texas and was never prosecuted, while Judge Busteed recovered rapidly.

In 1873, President Grant nominated Busteed to the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia.[3] At the same time, Grant nominated Judge David Campbell Humphreys, an Alabama native serving on the District of Columbia court, to assume Busteed's seat, each nomination made contingent on the other's resignation. The Senate, however, viewed these nominations as improper and refused to act on them.

Also in 1873, Busteed was the subject of an impeachment inquiry by the House Judiciary Committee. The Committee recommended his impeachment on charges of failing to maintain a residence in his judicial district, failing to hold scheduled terms of court, and using his official position to promote his personal interests (specifically, by remitting a fine due to the Federal government in order to obtain release from a personal judgment against him in a State court).[4] Busteed resigned on October 20, 1874, before the full House could vote on the recommendation.

He returned to New York City and the practice of law. He died there on September 14, 1898 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City.[5]

This Richard Busteed is often confused with a Captain Richard Busteed of the Chicago Light Artillery due to a mix-up in pension records.


Richard Busteed’s daughter married Lieutenant Ellicot C. V. Blake who was serving on the USS Wabash and later served as clerk of the court for Busteed in Alabama.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ For a particularly polemic view, see Fleming, W., Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama, p. 744 (1905).
  2. ^ T. Owen, M. Owen, History of Alabama and dictionary of Alabama biography, p. 1166 (1921).
  3. ^ United States Senate, Executive Journal, January 13, 1873, 42nd Cong., 3d sess., p.283.
  4. ^ Hinds' Precedents, vol. III, chapter 79, item 2512.
  5. ^ Richard Busteed at Find a Grave

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
George Washington Lane
Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama
Succeeded by
John Bruce
Preceded by
George Washington Lane
Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama
Succeeded by
John Bruce
Preceded by
George Washington Lane
Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama
Succeeded by
John Bruce