A Civil War Biography

Issac Newton Arnold


Arnold was born 30 November 1815 in Hartwick, Otsego County, New York. After attending Hartwick Seminary he taught school in Otsego County from 1832 until 1835. He studied the law; was admitted to the bar in 1835; and began a practice in Cooperstown, New York. In 1836 he moved to Chicago, Illinois where he continued his practice of law. In 1837 he was elected city clerk but only served for a short time, choosing to devote his attention to his practice. He was a delegate to the Illinois Democratic convention in 1842, a member of the Illinois house of representatives in 1843 and 1844, and a presidential elector on the Polk/Dallas 1844 Democratic ticket. Arnold was a delegate to the Free-Soil national convention at Buffalo, New York in 1848. He had switched to the Free-Soil party because of the slavery issues. His return to the Illinois house of representatives in 1855 included an unsuccessful run for speaker of the house. Having switched to the Republican party he failed in his attempt to get that party's nomination for a seat in the US House of Representatives in 1858. He was elected by Illinois's 2nd district to the House in 1860 and then by the 1st district in 1862. Having declined to seek reelection in 1864, he served in the House from 4 March 1861 until 3 March 1865. While in Congress he voted for the bill abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia. In March 1862 he introduced a bill prohibiting slavery in all places under national control. The bill was passed on 19 June 1862. He introduced a resolution on 15 February 1864 calling for the US Constitution to be amended to abolish slavery. The only military service Arnold saw during the Civil War was as a volunteer aide at 1st Bull Run for the 3rd US cavalry commanded by David Hunter. Arnold mostly helped care for the wounded. In 1865 Arnold was appointed sixth auditor to the US treasury by Andrew Johnson. Arnold served in this position from 29 April 1865 until 29 September 1866 when he resigned. He resumed the practice of law and engaged in literary pursuits. Arnold, a long time intimate of Abraham Lincoln, published a biography of the slain president in 1866. Arnold, in 1879 published "Life of Benedict Arnold" which, while acknowledging the treasonous act, vindicates and praises Benedict Arnold, no relation to the author, in other respects. Isaac Arnold was president of the Chicago historical society for many years. He died 24 April 1884. His death is said to have been caused in part by his persistent labor in completing an extensive revision to his Lincoln biography. The revision was published in 1885.

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