Banks, Nathaniel Prentiss

Banks, Nathaniel Prentiss,

1816–94, American politician and Union general in the Civil War, b. Waltham, Mass. After serving in the Massachusetts legislature (1849–53), Banks entered Congress as a Democrat, was returned in 1855 as a Know-Nothing and became speaker of the House, and was reelected in 1857 as a Republican. He resigned from Congress in Dec., 1857, and served as Republican governor of Massachusetts (1858–60). In the Civil War he was given command in the Dept. of the Shenandoah, where he was defeated by T. J. (Stonewall) JacksonJackson, Stonewall
(Thomas Jonathan Jackson), 1824–63, Confederate general, b. Clarksburg, Va. (now W.Va.), grad. West Point, 1846. Like a Stone Wall
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 at Front Royal and Winchester and then at Cedar Mt. during the second battle of Bull Run. Late in 1862, Banks replaced B. F. Butler at New Orleans and cooperated with Grant in opening up the Mississippi by capturing Port Hudson in July, 1863, and in participating in the Red River expedition of 1864. After the war he again served as Representative from Massachusetts (1865–73, 1875–79, 1889–91).


See biography by F. H. Harrington (1948); L. H. Johnson, Red River Campaign (1958).

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Banks, Nathaniel Prentiss

(1816–1894) U.S. representative, soldier; born in Waltham, Mass. Largely self-educated, he became a lawyer (1839) but turned to publishing. He then served in the Massachusetts legislature (1849–53) before going to the House of Representatives (Dem., 1853–55; Know-Nothing, 1855–57); he was Speaker of the House (1856–57). Turning Republican, he became governor of Massachusetts (1858–60). Shortly after succeeding George McClellan as head of the Illinois Central Railroad (1860–61), he was commissioned a major general with the Union army. He led Federal forces in several unsuccessful actions against Stonewall Jackson, but succeeded in capturing Port Hudson, La., (1863); however, after the disastrous Red River Campaign of 1864, he resigned from the army. He returned to the U.S. House of Representatives (Rep., 1865–73; Dem., 1875–77; Rep., 1877–79; Rep., 1889–91).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.