A Civil War Biography

William Buel Franklin

Franklin was born 27 February 1823 in York, Pennsylvania. He attended West Point graduating 1st in the class of 1843. He was assigned to the engineers and served under Philip Kearney in the Rocky Mountain South Pass Expedition. Franklin served in the Mexican war as a topographical engineer and was brevetted 1st lieutenant for his actions at Buena Vista. Following the war with Mexico he served on the frontier as a topographical engineer, an engineer-secretary of the lighthouse board, an assistant professor of engineering at West Point, and supervising engineer in the remodeling efforts to the US Capital building and in the construction of the treasury and post office buildings in Washington, DC. He was promoted to captain on 1 July 1857.

When the war began Franklin was promoted to colonel and given command of the 12th US Infantry on 14 May 1861. Three days later, on 17 May, he was named brigadier general of volunteers. He commanded the 1st brigade in the 3rd division at First Bull Run. He was given command of a division in the Washington defenses. When the Army of the Potomac was organized for its move up the peninsula he was assigned command of the VI Corps which he led through out the campaign. Franklin was brevetted brigadier general in the regular army on 13 June 1862 then promoted to major general of volunteers on 4 July. He commanded the left of the army at South Mountain and the VI Corps at Antietam. At Fredericksburg he commanded the left grand division. He was censured by the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War, after Ambrose Burnside blamed him for the disaster, although Franklin had merely followed Burnside's orders. When Lincoln failed to approve Franklin's removal Burnside resigned his command. Franklin would wait several months before being returned to duty in July 1863. He was assigned on 15 August to command the XIX Corps. He commanded the XIX Corps during the Red River expedition, another Union disaster. He was wounded on 8 April 1864 at Sabine Crossroads and would remain on sick leave until 2 December. While still on leave he was captured by the troops of Jubal Early while riding on a train of the Baltimore & Philadelphia railroad. Franklin managed to escape the next day and reported for duty as president of the retirement board stationed in Wilmington, Delaware, serving until 9 November 1865. He was brevetted major general in the regular army on 13 March 1865 for his war service.

Franklin resigned from the regular army on 15 March 1866. He was entered on the retirement roles with the rank of colonel. He became a vice president at the Colt Fire Arms Manufacturing Company and remained there for the next 22 years. He was an elector from Connecticut in the election of 1876 and served as adjutant-general of Connecticut from 1877 until 1878. For several years he served as president of the board of managers for the National Home for Disabled Soldiers. He was director of three different insurance companies. He was commissioner general at the 1888 Paris Expedition. Franklin died 8 March 1903 in Hartford, Connecticut.

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