Stephen A. Hurlbut

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Stephen Augustus Hurlbut
Stephen A. Hurlbut - Brady-Handy.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 4th district
In office
March 4, 1873 – March 3, 1877
Preceded by John B. Hawley
Succeeded by William Lathrop
Personal details
Born (1815-11-29)November 29, 1815
Charleston, South Carolina
Died March 27, 1882(1882-03-27) (aged 66)
Lima, Peru
Political party Republican
Military service
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1861–1865
Rank Union Army major general rank insignia.svg Major General
Commands XVI Corps
Department of the Gulf
Battles/wars American Civil War

Stephen Augustus Hurlbut (November 29, 1815 – March 27, 1882), was a politician, diplomat, and commander of the U.S. Army of the Gulf in the American Civil War.

Early life[edit]

Born in Charleston, South Carolina to Martin Luther Hurlbut and Lydia Bunce. His father was a Unitarian minister and educator.[1] Hurlbut studied law with James L. Petigru as his mentor, worked for him as a law clerk, and was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1837. During the Second Seminole War, he served as adjutant of a South Carolina infantry regiment. In 1845, Hurlbut relocated to Illinois, where he established a law practice in Belvidere. He started his own family in 1847 after marrying Sophronia R. Stevens; she gave birth to two of his children.[2]

In 1847, Hurlbut took part in the Illinois constitutional convention as a Whig delegate. He served as a presidential elector for the Whig Party in the 1848 Presidential Election, and became acquainted with Abraham Lincoln during campaigning for Old Rough and Ready Zachary Taylor. He was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1859, and re-elected in 1861.[3]

Hurlbut campaigned for Lincoln during the presidential election in 1860, and attended Lincoln's first inauguration on March 4, 1861. He and Colonel Ward H. Lamon performed a fact-finding mission on Lincoln's request, and visited Charleston on March 24–26, 1861, to investigate and report, "the actual state of feeling in this City & State."[4] Lamon received a separate assighment from William H. Seward to visit Fort Sumter. On March 27, 1861, Hurlbut wrote a detailed report where he stated,

There is positively nothing to appeal to — the Sentiment of National Patriotism always feeble in Carolina, has been extinguished and overridden by the acknowledged doctrine of the paramount allegiance to the State. False political economy diligently taught for years has now become an axiom & merchants and business men believe and act upon the belief — that great growth of trade and expansion of material prosperity will & must follow the Establishment of a Southern Republic. They expect a golden era, when Charleston shall be a great commercial emporium & control for the South as New York does for the North.[4][5]

Civil War[edit]

General Hurlbut

When the Civil War erupted, Hurlbut joined the Union Army and became a Brigadier General, U.S. Volunteers, on May 17, 1861, and a Major General on September 17, 1862.

He commanded the 4th Division, Army of the Tennessee at the Battle of Shiloh and in the advance towards Corinth and the subsequent siege. He also led a division at the Battle of Hatchie's Bridge, taking command of the entire Union force after Gen Edward Ord was wounded.[6]

Hurlbut commanded XVI Corps from his headquarters at Memphis, Tennessee. It has been suggested by the historian Bertram Korn, that during his garrison duty at Memphis, Tennessee, Hurlbut issued antisemitic orders confiscating Jewish property and preventing Jews from trading.[7]

Hurlbut led a corps under William T. Sherman in the 1864 Meridian expedition. He subsequently commanded the Department of the Gulf, succeeding Nathaniel P. Banks and serving in that capacity for the remainder of the war. Hurlbut was suspected of peculation during his term. General Edward R. S. Canby ordered to start court-martial proceeding and arrest Hurlbut. However, he was allowed to resign in June 1865.[8]

Postwar years[edit]

After mustering out of the Union Army on June 20, 1865, Hurlbut became one of the founding fathers of the Grand Army of the Republic, of which he served as commander-in-chief from 1866 to 1868.[9]

He was appointed Minister Resident to Colombia in 1869, where he served three years. In 1872, Hurlbut was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican Congressman from Illinois. While re-elected for a second term in 1874, he was defeated in 1876. Hurlbut was made ambassador to Peru in 1881, and in that capacity had a row with General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, U.S. minister to Chile during the War of the Pacific, as each had become a partisan of the country to which he was assigned as the U.S. diplomatic representatives.[10] Hurlbut served as U.S. ambassador to Peru until his death in Lima in 1882.

Hurlbut and his spouse are buried together in Belvidere Cemetery, Belvidere, Illinois.[11]

See also[edit]


  • According to Donald T. Phillips, the author of Lincoln on Leadership 1992, Hachette Book Group, N.Y., N.Y., Stephen A. Hurlbut was "one of his (Lincoln's) trusted colleagues." Lincoln sent him "on a fact-finding mission to Charleston .... to meet with the Confederate leaders, evaluate the situation (i.e., the crisis developing over Ft. Sumter) and report back...." "War, according to Hurlbut, was inevitable, unless the South was allowed to secede." As a result of this report, "Lincoln decided to resupply the embattled fort; if his ships were fired upon, it would be the Confederacy that started the war, not the Union."[12]


  1. ^ Lash, J. N. (1984). The Reverend Martin Luther Hurlbut: Yankee President of Beaufort College, 1812-1814. The South Carolina Historical Magazine, 85(4), 305–316.
  2. ^ Woodworth, Steven E.. Hurlbut, Stephen Augustus. American National Biography Online. February 2000. Retrieved November 29, 2015,
  3. ^ Hurlbut, Stephen Augustus, (1815 - 1882), Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress.
  4. ^ a b Mr. Lincoln and Friends. The Officers: Stephen A. Hurlbut (1815-1882). Project of the Lincoln Institute.
  5. ^ Full text of the Hurlbut's report to Lincoln can be found at: Steve Hurlbut to Abraham Lincoln, March 27, 1861
  6. ^ Lash, J. N. (2003). A politician turned general: The Civil War career of Stephen Augustus Hurlbut. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press.
  7. ^ Korn, Bertram Wallace (1951). American Jewry and the Civil War. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America. p. 154. OCLC 761780. 
  8. ^ Terry L. Jones. (2011). Historical Dictionary of the Civil War. Scarecrow Press, p. 725.
  9. ^ In Tucker, S. (2013). American Civil War: The definitive encyclopedia and document collection.
  10. ^ Clayton, L. A. (1999). Peru and the United States: The condor and the eagle. Athens: University of Georgia Press.
  11. ^ Fensom, R., & Foreman, J. (1987). Illinois: Off the beaten path. Chester, Conn: Globe Pequot Press.
  12. ^ Phillips, D. T. (1992). Lincoln on leadership: Executive strategies for tough times Archived 2016-01-08 at the Wayback Machine.. New York: Warner Books.

Further reading[edit]

  • Lash, Jeffrey N., A Politician Turned General: the Civil War Career of Stephen Augustus Hurlbut. Kent, Ohio; London: Kent State University Press, 2003. ISBN 9781612773605 OCLC 606999741
  • Sager, Juliet Gilman, and Harry G. Hershenson. Stephen A. Hurlbut, 1815–1882. Springfield: Illinois State Historical Society, 1935. OCLC 808309677

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
John B. Hawley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 4th congressional district

March 4, 1873–March 3, 1877
Succeeded by
William Lathrop
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Peter J. Sullivan
United States Minister to Colombia
November 13, 1869–April 3, 1872
Succeeded by
William L. Scruggs
Preceded by
Isaac P. Christiancy
United States Minister to Peru
August 2, 1881–March 27, 1882
Succeeded by
Seth Ledyard Phelps
Political offices
Preceded by
Benjamin F. Stephenson
Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic
1866 – 1868
Succeeded by
John A. Logan