Richard Yates (politician, born 1815)

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Richard Yates
Richard Yates Governor LOC.jpg
United States Senator
from Illinois
In office
March 4, 1865 – March 3, 1871
Preceded by William A. Richardson
Succeeded by John A. Logan
13th Governor of Illinois
In office
January 14, 1861 – January 16, 1865
Lieutenant Francis Hoffmann
Preceded by John Wood
Succeeded by Richard J. Oglesby
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 6th district
In office
March 4, 1853 – March 3, 1855
Preceded by Thompson Campbell
Succeeded by Thomas L. Harris
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 7th district
In office
March 4, 1851 – March 3, 1853
Preceded by Thomas L. Harris
Succeeded by James C. Allen
Member of the Illinois House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born January 18, 1815
Warsaw, Kentucky
Died November 27, 1873(1873-11-27) (aged 58)
St. Louis, Missouri
Political party Republican
Alma mater Illinois College
Transylvania University
Profession Politician

Richard Yates (January 18, 1815 – November 27, 1873) was the Governor of Illinois during the American Civil War and has been considered one of the most effective war governors.[1] He also represented Illinois in the United States House of Representatives, 1851–1855 and as a U.S. Senator, 1865–1871.

Yates was born in Warsaw, Kentucky and moved with his family to Illinois in 1831. He studied at Miami University and Georgetown College and graduated from Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, in 1835. He then studied law at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. He was admitted to the bar in 1837 and commenced practice in Jacksonville.

Yates served as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives from 1842 to 1845 and 1848 to 1849. In 1850, he was elected as a Whig to the United States House of Representatives where he was the youngest member of the Thirty-second Congress. He was reelected to Congress in 1852. During Yates' second term in Congress, the repeal of the Missouri Compromise reopened the anti-slavery question. He opposed the repeal, and became identified with the new Republican Party. His district was pro-slavery and consequently he narrowly lost his bid for a third term.

Statue by Polasek outside the State Capitol

In 1860 he was elected governor as a Republican. Governor Yates continued to be an outspoken opponent of slavery, and at the opening of the Civil War was very active in raising volunteers. He convened the legislature in extra session on April 12, 1861, the day after the attack on Fort Sumter, and took military possession of Cairo, garrisoning it with regular troops. In Governor Yates's office General Ulysses S. Grant received his first distinct recognition as a soldier in the Civil War, being appointed by Yates mustering officer for the state, and afterward colonel of the 21st Illinois regiment. In 1862, he attended the Loyal War Governors' Conference in Altoona, Pennsylvania, which ultimately gave Abraham Lincoln support for his Emancipation Proclamation.[2][3]

During the Civil War Yates benefitted from his relations with Lincoln to bring significant federal financial resources to the State of Illinois and Chicago in particular. Chicago became the location for the largest prisoner of war encampment, Camp Douglas, which had been erected on the former estate of Lincoln's political opponent, the late Senator Stephen A. Douglas (similarly, the estate of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Arlington, Virginia was taken over by the government for use as a military cemetery). During this period Yates enlisted the services of former Chicago Mayor James Hutchinson Woodworth, a Republican with strong anti-slavery views similar to those of Yates, to oversee the disbursement and management of the federal funds received.[4]

Richard Yates

After his service as governor ended, Yates was elected as a Republican to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1865, to March 3, 1871; he was not a candidate for reelection. While in the Senate, Yates was Chairman of the Committee on Revolutionary Claims (Thirty-ninth and Forty-first Congresses) and Chairman of the Committee on Territories (Fortieth Congress).

After leaving the Senate, Yates was appointed by President Grant as a United States commissioner to inspect a land subsidy railroad. He died suddenly in St. Louis, Missouri on November 27, 1873. He is buried in Diamond Grove Cemetery, Jacksonville, Illinois.

In 1923 a statue of Yates by Albin Polasek was erected on the Illinois State Capitol grounds.

His son, Richard Yates, Jr., was also active in Illinois politics, and also became governor of Illinois.


  1. ^ Bohn, 2011
  2. ^ Bohn, 2011
  3. ^ Hicken, 1991
  4. ^ Cole, 1919

Further reading[edit]

  • Bohn, Roger E. "Richard Yates: An Appraisal of his Value as the Civil War Governor of Illinois," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society Spring/Summer 2011, Vol. 104 Issue 1/2, pp 17–37 in JSTOR
  • Cole, Arthur Charles. The Era of the Civil War 1848–1870 (1919), the standard scholarly history; vol 3 of the The Centennial History of Illinois
  • Hicken, Victor, Illinois in the Civil War, University of Illinois Press. 1991. ISBN 0-252-06165-9.
  • Portrait and Biographical Album of Champaign County, Illinois, Chapman Brothers, Chicago, 1887 – online as part of Illinois History, an ILGenWeb project

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
John Wood
Governor of Illinois
Succeeded by
Richard J. Oglesby
United States Senate
Preceded by
William A. Richardson
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Illinois
Served alongside: Lyman Trumbull
Succeeded by
John A. Logan
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Thompson Campbell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 6th congressional district

March 4, 1853 – March 3, 1855
Succeeded by
Thomas L. Harris
Preceded by
Thomas L. Harris
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 7th congressional district

March 4, 1851 – March 3, 1853
Succeeded by
James C. Allen