A Civil War Biography

Richard Busteed

Busteed was born 16 February 1822 in Cavan, Ireland. The family relocated to London, Canada sometime after his father, George Washington Busteed, was removed as chief secretary of St. Lucia in 1829. After moving to Canada the elder Busteed began publishing "The True Patriot" on which Richard worked as a type-setter. He accompanied his father to Cincinnati, Ohio, Hartford, Connecticut, and finally settled in New York City where he worked on the "Commercial Advertiser." Along with working as a journalist Busteed was licensed as a Methodist preacher. He visited Ireland for health reasons in 1840. Upon returning to New York he began to study the law and was admitted to the bar in 1846. He was elected corporation counsel of New York City in 1856 and held that office until 1859. In the presidential election of 1860 he was a strong supporter of Stephen A. Douglas, and a bitter opponent of Abraham Lincoln.

Once the war erupted Busteed became a strong union man. He was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers on 7 August 1862 by President Lincoln and assigned duty first in New York then in Washington DC. On 15 December 1862 he was given command of an independent brigade detached from the VII Corps. The brigade was assigned to the peninsula near Yorktown, Virginia. Even though the five colonels in his brigade sent a joint letter to the Senate urging his confirmation, the Senate did not confirm the appointment. Busteed not only had enemies from the election of 1860, he had made new ones for his strong support of the administration and his stance on the slavery question. His appointment expired on 4 March 1863 and, relieved of his command, he resigned less than a week later on the 10th, ending his military career.

On 17 September 1863 Busteed was appointed to the bench of the US District Court in Alabama. This time his enemies in the Senate did not fight his confirmation and the appointment was confirmed unanimously on 20 January 1864. The confirmation may have gone so smoothly because Alabama was still mostly control by the Confederacy. It was not until after the war ended that Busteed was able to take his seat on the bench. He immediately came into disfavor with those pushing for harsh Reconstruction when he decided that the test-oath prescribed by Congress was unconstitutional, so far as it applied to attorneys practicing before US courts. Judges in other states and eventually the US Supreme Court would deliver similar opinions. In November of 1865 Busteed clashed with the US military authorities in Alabama over the suspension of habeas corpus. He served on the bench until resigning in 1874 when it looked dike he would be impeached. He returned to New York City and the practice of law. He died there on 14 September 1898.

This Richard Busteed is often confused with a captain Richard Busteed of the Chicago Light Artillery due to a mix-up in pension records.

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