Elihu Benjamin Washburne

Photograph of Elihu Washburne
Photograph of Elihu Washburne

Library of Congress

Quick Facts

Significance:
U.S Representative, Secretary of State
Place Of Birth:
Livermore, ME
Date Of Birth:
September 23, 1816
Place Of Death:
Chicago, IL
Date Of Death:
October 23, 1887
Place Of Burial:
Galena, IL
Cemetery Name:
Greenwood Cemetery

From the Peninsula to Maryland: Washburne's role in the summer of 1862

Politician and diplomat, Elihu Benjamin Washburne was one of four brothers from Maine who helped establish the Republican Party in four different states. He attended Harvard Law School and settled in Galena, Illinois in 1840, where he opened a law practice. Active in the anti-slavery movement, Washburne was elected to Congress in 1858 as a Whig and reelected eight times as a Republican, serving until 1869, when he resigned.

A confidante and early supporter of President Lincoln, Washburne served as a conduit between Lincoln and Union General Grant, his famous constituent from Galena. He was a leader of the Radical Republican faction in Congress during and after the war. A proponent of legal racial equality, Washburne and other similar staunch abolitionists impacted Lincoln's opinions on slavery throughout his term. Following the war, Washburne believed that large Southern plantations should be divided up to provide compensatory property for freedmen.