Adelbert Ames (1835-1933)

Adelbert Ames (October 31, 1835 - April 12, 1933) was a Union general in the American Civil War, a Mississippi politician, and a general in the Spanish-American War.

Early life and Civil War

Ames was born in Rockland, Maine. He worked briefly as a merchant seaman and then graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1861, just days after Fort Sumter. He ranked fifth in his class of 45 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Artillery. His promotion to first lieutenant came just six days later. In the First Battle of Bull Run that July he was badly wounded in the right thigh, but refused to leave his guns. He received a brevet promotion to major and, in 1893, belatedly received the Medal of Honor for his heroism at Bull Run. The citation read that he: "remained upon the field in command of a section of Griffin's Battery, directing its fire after being severely wounded and refusing to leave the field until too weak to sit upon the caisson where he had been placed by men of his command".

Returning to duty the following spring, Ames fought in the Peninsula Campaign and saw action at Yorktown, Gaines' Mill, and Malvern Hill. He was commended for his conduct at Malvern Hill by Colonel Henry J. Hunt, chief of the artillery of the Army of the Potomac, and he received a brevet promotion to lieutenant colonel.

Although Ames was proving to be an excellent artillery officer, he realized that significant promotions would be available only in the infantry. He returned to Maine and politicked to receive a commission as a regimental commander of infantry and was assigned to command the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment on August 20, 1862. The 20th Maine fought in the Maryland Campaign, but saw little action at the Battle of Antietam while in a reserve capacity. At the Battle of Fredericksburg, Ames led his regiment in one of the last charges of the day against Marye's Heights. During the Chancellorsville Campaign in May of 1863, Ames volunteered as an aide-de-camp to Major General George G. Meade, commander of the V Corps. Probably as a result of this staff duty and his proximity to the influential Meade, Ames was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on May 20, 1863, two weeks following the Battle of Chancellorsville. He assumed brigade command in the XI Corps of the Army of the Potomac, relinquishing his command of the 20th Maine to Joshua L. Chamberlain, who would soon lead the regiment to fame in the Battle of Gettysburg.

Ames's own experience at Gettysburg was not as fame-producing. During the massive assault by Confederate General Richard S. Ewell on July 1, 1863, Ames's division commander, Francis C. Barlow, moved his division well in front of other elements of the XI Corps to a slight rise that is now known as Barlow's Knoll. This salient position was quickly overrun and Barlow was wounded and captured. Ames took command of the division and led it in a retreat back through the streets of Gettysburg to a position on Cemetery Hill. On July 2, the second day of battle, Ames's division bore the brunt of the assault on East Cemetery Hill by Jubal A. Early, but was able to hold the critical position.

After the battle, Ames reverted to brigade command with a brevet promotion to colonel of the Regular Army. His division was transferred to the Department of the South and served in various actions in South Carolina and Florida. In 1864 his division, now part of the X Corps of the Army of the James, served under Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler in the Bermuda Hundred Campaign and the Siege of Petersburg. That winter, the division was reassigned to the XXIV Corps and sent to North Carolina. He received a brevet promotion to major general of volunteers (and brigadier general in the regular army) for the Battle of Fort Fisher.

Mississippi politics

In 1868, Ames was appointed by Congress to be provisional Governor of Mississippi. His command soon extended to the Fourth Military District, which consisted of Mississippi and Arkansas. Civil unrest was prevalent in the state, one of the last to comply with Reconstruction, but a general election was held during his tenure in 1869 and the legislature convened at the beginning of the following year.

The legislature elected Ames to the U.S. Senate after the readmission of Mississippi to the Union; he served from February 24, 1870, to January 10, 1874, as a Republican. In Washington, Ames met and married Blanche Butler, daughter of his former commander, and now U.S. Congressman, Benjamin Butler, on July 20, 1870. They had six children.

In the Senate, Ames was chairman of the Committee on Enrolled Bills. Upon being elected governor of Mississippi, he resigned his seat to assume his duties. He experienced a great deal of resentment from Democratic Party supporters even before taking office in 1874; a riot broke out in Vicksburg in December of 1873 that started a series of reprisals against many Republican supporters. So great was the unrest in the following January, the newly sworn-in Governor Ames appealed to the federal government for assistance. That November, Democrats gained firm control of both houses of the legislature. Ames requested the intervention of the U.S. Congress since he believed that the election was full of voter intimidation and fraud. The state legislature, convening in 1876, drew up articles of impeachment against him and all statewide officials. He resigned a few months after the legislature agreed to drop the articles against him.

Later life

After leaving office, Ames first headed to New York City, then later settled in Lowell, Massachusetts, as an executive in a flour mill, along with other business interests. In 1898, he was appointed brigadier general of volunteers in the Spanish-American War and fought in Cuba. Several years afterward, he retired from business pursuits in Lowell. He was the posthumous author of his memoirs, Adelbert Ames, published in 1964, and co-author of Chronicles from the Nineteenth Century, also posthumously, in 1957.

Ames died in 1933 at the age of 97 in his winter home located in Ormand, Florida. He was the last surviving general who served in the American Civil War. He is buried with members of the Butler family in Hildreth Cemetery in Lowell.

The world's largest cargo vessel of the 19th century, the schooner Governor Ames, was named after him.