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NATHANIEL PRENTISS BANKS


Nathaniel P. Banks Banks, Nathaniel P., major-general, was born in Waltham, Mass. Jan. 30, 1816, received a common school education, and then learned the trade of a machinist in a cotton factory of which his father was superintendent. He afterwards became editor of a local paper at Waltham, studied law, was admitted to the bar, and in 1849 was elected a member of the state legislature. He was elected speaker of the Massachusetts legislature in 1851, re-elected in 1852, was chairman of the Massachusetts constitutional convention in 1853, and was in the same year elected to Congress as a coalition-democrat. He was re-elected on the "Know-Knothing" ticket, elected speaker of the house of representative, after a spirited fight, on the 133rd ballot, and at the next election was chosen congressman on the republican ticket. On Dec. 4, 1857, he resigned to become governor of Massachusetts, was re-elected governor in 1858 and 1859, and in 1860 accepted the presidency of the Illinois Central railroad, succeeding Gen. George B. McClellan in that capacity. When the Civil war broke out in the following year, he resigned his position, was commissioned major-general of volunteers and assigned to the command of the 5th army corps in the Army of the Potomac, seeing his first active service along the upper Potomac and in the Shenandoah valley, in 1861-62. On March 23, 1862, a part of his troops, under Gen. Shields, defeated Jackson at Winchester, and the next month at the head of two divisions, Gen. Banks was assigned to guard the Shenandoah. When one of the divisions had been withdrawn, leaving only 8,000 men with Banks, the force was attacked by Gen. Jackson and defeated, but escaped capture. Gen. Banks then joined Pope, who had command of the army of Virginia, and on August 9, was defeated at the battle of Cedar mountain. He was then for a time in command of the defenses of Washington, and in Dec., 1862, commanded the expedition to New Orleans, where he succeeded Gen. B. F. Butler as commander of the Department of the Gulf. In the spring of 1863 he commanded the expedition against Port Hudson, which finally, after several disastrous attempts to storm it had failed, surrendered on July 9, 1863, when the occupants learned that Vicksburg had fallen. Early in 1864 Gen. Banks led the expedition up the Red River, his force strengthened by the addition of a powerful fleet, and at Sabine cross-roads met defeat at the hands of Gen. Richard Taylor. On the next day the Confederates made an attack at Pleasant Hill, but were defeated, and the army withdrew to Alexandria. There the skill of Gen. Joseph Bailey saved the fleet, and the whole expedition withdrew to the Mississippi. In May, 1864, Gen. Banks was relieved of his command, resigned his commission, and, returning to Massachusetts, was elected to Congress, where he served, with the exception of one term, until 1877, being for many years chairman of the committee on foreign relations. In 1888 he was again elected to Congress, but, after 1890, suffered from a mental disorder and was forced to withdraw from public life. In 1891 Congress voted him an annual pension of $1,2OO, and in 1894 he died.