A Civil War Biography

John Blair Smith Todd

Todd, a first cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln, was born 4 April 1814 in Lexington, Kentucky. In 1827 Todd moved to Springfield, Illinois with his family. He entered West Point in 1832 and graduated 39th in the class of 1837. On 1 July 1837 he was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the 6th US infantry. He fought in the Seminole War and in the war with Mexico. Following the war with Mexico he served at various frontier posts including Jefferson's Barracks in Missouri, and Fort Snelling and Fort Gaines in Minnesota. In 1855 he took part in Selby Harney's expedition into the Dakotas. Seeing immediately the potential of the area Todd, then a captain in the 6th infantry, resigned from the army in 1856 and settled in the Dakotas as a lawyer and sutler licensed by the army to provide goods to the soldiers. He established his trading post near Fort Randall. Along with Daniel March Frost, Todd established a fir trading company in 1857. The company established many trading posts along the Missouri River including Bon Homme, Yankton, and Vermillion which developed into towns. Todd helped negotiate a treaty with the Yankton Sioux in 1858, opening Dakota for settlement. In part due to his ties to Abraham Lincoln, the Dakotas became a territory in 1861. Todd was elected to represent the Dakota Territory as a delegate in the US House of Representatives. He took his seat on 9 December 1861.

During the war, Todd, along with serving as the Dakota Territory's delegate in the US Congress, served in the military. He was appointed brigadier general of volunteers on 19 September 1861 and assigned to command of the District of Northern Missouri in the Department of the Missouri. The Dakotas were included in the district. He relinquished this command to take his Congressional seat in Washington. He briefly commanded the 6th division in Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Tennessee from 15 June1862 until 16 July just over a month later. Todd relinquished this command when his commission as a brigadier general which the Senate did not confirm expired. He returned to his seat in Congress but failed in a reelection bid to William Jayne. Todd contested the election loss and won. He was again seated in Congress on 17 June 1864.

Having left his seat in Congress in 1865, Todd ran for a seat in the Dakota Territorial House of Representatives. He was successful and he served as the Speaker of the House from 1866 until 1867. He failed in a bid in 1868 to return to the US House of Representatives and retired from politics. He died 6 January 1872 in Yankton, the territorial capital of the Dakotas.


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