Shields, James(1806–79) judge, soldier, U.S. senator; born in Altmore, County Tyrone, Ireland. Setting out for Quebec about 1822, he was shipwrecked on the coast of Scotland, where he spent several years as a tutor. About 1826 he arrived in New York City, then settled in Illinois where he taught, fought in the Black Hawk War, and became a lawyer. As state auditor he was drawn into a quarrel with another lawyer, Abraham Lincoln, whom Shields allegedly challenged to a duel; they resolved the issue and became firm friends. After serving on the Illinois Supreme Court (1843–46), he was briefly the commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office, but resigned to serve in the Mexican War (1846–48), where his actions gained him the brevet rank of major general. He served briefly as governor of the Oregon Territory but resigned to take a seat in the U.S. Senate (Dem., Ill.; 1849–55). He then moved on to the Minnesota Territory and encouraged Irish immigrants there; when Minnesota became a state, he was one of the first two U.S. senators (Dem., Minn.; 1858–59). He volunteered for service with the Union army and saw combat as a brigadier general (1861–63). Settling in Missouri, he lectured on behalf of charitable, religious, and Irish causes; served in the state legislature; and then went back to the U.S. Senate (Dem., Mo.; 1879)—thereby becoming the only person to serve three different states as a U.S. senator. Illinois placed his statue in the U.S. Capitol.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.