A Civil War Biography

John Russell Young

Young was born in Dewington, Chester County, Pennsylvania on 20 November 1841. [His date and place of birth vary widely with some sources having him born in 1840 in Ireland.] After being educated in the Philadelphia public school system Young began his career as a journalist as a copy-boy with the Philadelphia Press in 1857.

By 1861 he had worked his way up and was sent to Virginia as a war correspondent. He was with the Union army from First Bull Run until the end of the Peninsula campaign. In 1864 he accompanied Nathaniel P. Banks on the Red River expedition. He then returned to Philadelphia and assumed the duties of editor of the Philadelphia Press.

In 1865 he resigned and attempted to establish a new paper in Philadelphia which he called the Morning Post then another paper in New York called the Standard. Both ventures failed. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1867. Young became the managing editor of the New York Tribune in 1866, holding the post until 1869. In 1871 Young became a foreign correspondent for the New York Herald. He remained in Europe for the Herald until 1877 when as commissioner of the Herald he accompanied former President Ulysses S. Grant on the latter's trip around the world.

Young returned to New York in 1879 and his position on the Herald's editorial staff. He published "Around the World with General Grant," a two volume account of Grant's travels that same year.

Young was appointed United States minister to China on 15 March 1882 by President Chester A. Author and remained in that post until Grover Cleveland became President in 1885, playing an important role in the negotiations that resulted in the French protectorate over Indochina. Young then returned to New York and his former profession. On 30 June 1897 President William McKinley appointed Young Librarian of Congress. On 19 February 1897 Congress had approved a reorganization of the Library of Congress, strengthening the office of librarian and requiring Senate confirmation for a president's nominee. Young became the first Librarian of Congress confirmed by the Senate. He remained in that position until his death on 17 January 1899.

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