A Civil War Biography

Robert Byington Mitchell

Mitchell was born 4 April 1823 in Mansfield, Ohio. He studied law in Mount Vernon, Ohio then established a practice in Mansfield before heading off to fight in the war with Mexico as a 2nd lieutenant in the 2nd Ohio Volunteers. He returned to his law practice after the war with Mexico and in 1855 began a political career when he was elected mayor of Mount Gilead, Ohio. The following year he moved to Linn County in the Kansas Territory where, although a Democrat, he supported Kansas as a free state. He served in the territorial legislature from 1857 until 1858 and was a delegate to the Leavenworth convention. He served as treasurer of the territory from 1859 until 1861. He also represented Kansas at the 1860 Democratic National Convention in Charleston.

When the war erupted Mitchell was commissioned colonel of the 2nd Kansas Volunteer infantry. He was badly wounded at the 10 August 1861 battle of Wilson's Creek where he was shot from his horse while leading his regiment. After a lengthy recovery period he returned to duty, having been appointed brigadier general to rank from 8 April 1862 by Abraham Lincoln, in command of a mixed brigade at Fort Riley, Kansas. He commanded the 9th division in Charles C. Gilbert's III Corps at Perryville, Kentucky. Mitchell was then sent to Nashville, Tennessee where he remained for several months. During the Chickamauga campaign he served as George H. Thomas's Army of the Cumberland's Chief of Cavalry. Just before the battle of Chattanooga, Tennessee Mitchell was ordered to Washington DC for court martial duty. Some sources claim this was due to severe wounds which incapacitated him from field duty but this is contradicted in the Official Records by Mitchell's own correspondence. Whether incapacitated or not, he would not see active campaigning again. For the remainder of the war he commanded the District of Nebraska, then the District of North Kansas, and finally the District of Kansas.

Mitchell was honorably mustered out of the army on 15 January 1866, the same day the US Senate confirmed his nomination as governor of New Mexico Territory. He took the oath of office on 6 June 1866 but he never appeared to take his duties seriously. He often was absent from Santa Fe, the territorial capital, without explanation forcing the legislature to forward bills it had passed to Washington DC for approval of the US Congress. Mitchell resigned as governor in 1869 and returned to Kansas. He unsuccessfully ran to represent Kansas in the US Congress in 1872. He then moved to Washington, DC where he died on 26 January 1882.

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