A Civil War Biography

Halbert Elezier Paine

Paine was born 4 February 1826 in Chardon, Geauga County, Ohio. In 1845 at 19 he graduated first in his class from Western Reserve College in Hudson, Ohio, then taught school in Mississippi for one season. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1848 establishing a practice in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1857 he moved his practice to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

When war came Paine entered the Union Army as colonel of the 4th Wisconsin Infantry which mustered in at Camp Utley, Racine, Wisconsin on 2 July 1861. After being sent to Baltimore, Maryland then Newport News, Virginia, the 4th Wis. was sent to join the Army of the Gulf, arriving below New Orleans on 12 March 1862 and in the Crescent City on 1 May.

The regiment with Paine commanding took part in two expeditions up the Mississippi against Vicksburg in May and June of 1862 and was part of the force that occupied Baton Rouge later that year. When Baton Rouge was evacuated on 20 August 1862, Paine refused to obey Benjamin Butler's order to burn the city.

Paine was promoted to brigadier general on 13 March 1863. He commanded the 2nd brigade, 3rd division, XIX Corps at Port Hudson where he was wounded, losing a leg, on 14 June 1863 while leading an attack. He was in the defenses of Washington when Jubal Early and his Confederate troops raided towards Washington in late July 1864.

Paine was next assigned to command the District of Illinois. He was brevetted major general of volunteers on 13 March 1865 then resigned from the army on 15 May later that year. He was elected, as a Republican, to the House of Representatives from the 1st District of Wisconsin in the fall of 1864. He was reelected in 1866 and 1868 then decided not to seek reelection in 1870. While serving in Congress from 4 March 1865 until 3 March 1871 Paine is most noted for introducing a joint congressional resolution on 2 February 1870, which President Ulysses S. Grant signed a week later, establishing what would become the US Weather Service.

After leaving Congress Paine practiced law in Washington DC until he was appointed Commissioner of Patents by Grant on 1 November 1878. He brought innovation including installing a typewriter in his office and mandating general use of typewriters throughout the Patent Office. Paine served in the Patent Office until 7 May 1880. He spent the remainder of his life practicing law and writing. He died 14 April 1905 and was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

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