Pillow, Gideon (Johnson)(1806–78) soldier; born in Williamson County, Tenn. A criminal lawyer, he was the law partner of James K. Polk who, when president, appointed him to commands in the Mexican War, much to the annoyance of Gen. Winfield Scott and other American military men. A Democrat, he hoped to avoid secession by compromise, but once the war began he went with the Confederacy. He fought at Belmont and in February 1862 he escaped from Fort Donelson, Tenn., with the garrison commander, leaving the third in command to surrender to Ulysses S. Grant. Vain and fractious, he was never given an important command thereafter. After the war he returned to practicing law.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.