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Charles Devens

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Charles Devens (April 4, 1820January 7, 1891) was an American lawyer, jurist and statesman.

Born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, he graduated at Harvard College in 1838, and at the Harvard Law School in 1840, and was admitted to the bar in Franklin County, Massachusetts, where he practised from 1841 to 1849.

In the year 1848 he was a Whig member of the Massachusetts Senate, and from 1849 to 1853 was United States Marshal for Massachusetts, in which capacity he was called upon in 1851 to remand the fugitive slave, Thomas Sims, to slavery. This he felt constrained to do, much against his personal desire; and subsequently he attempted in vain to purchase Sims' freedom, and many years later appointed him to a position in the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C..

Devens practised law at Worcester, Massachusetts from 1853 until 1861, and throughout the American Civil War served in the federal army, becoming colonel of volunteers in July 1861 and brigadier general of volunteers in April 1862. At the Battle of Balls Bluff in 1861 he was severely wounded; he was again wounded at the Battle of Fair Oaks in 1862 and at the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863, where he commanded a division. He later distinguished himself at Battle of Cold Harbor, and commanded a division in Ulysses S. Grant's final Virginia campaign in 1864 and 1865, his troops being the first to occupy Richmond after its fall. Breveted major-general in 1865, he remained in the army for a year as commander of the military district of Charleston, South Carolina. He later served as the fifth Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic.

He was a judge of the Massachusetts superior court from 1867 to 1873, and was an associate justice of the supreme court of Massachusetts from 1873 to 1877, and again from 1881 to 1891. From 1877 to 1881 he was Attorney General of the United States in the cabinet of President Rutherford B. Hayes. He died at Boston, Massachusetts in January 1891 and is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Sources

Further reading

  • Charles Devens' Orations and Addresses, with a memoir by John Codman Ropes (Boston, 1891).

External links


Preceded by:
Alphonso Taft
United States Attorney General
1877–1881
Succeeded by:
Wayne MacVeagh

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