Adelbert Ames — the Last Living Full General of the Civil War

October 31, 1835–April 13, 1933

Adelbert Ames was an officer in the U.S. Army during the Civil War. Following the war, he served as the Governor of Mississippi and also served as a Senator. Ames was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions during the First Battle of Bull Run.

General Adelbert Ames, USA, Civil War, NA

Adelbert Ames. Image Source: National Archives.

Adelbert Ames Facts

  • Born: October 31, 1835, in Rockland, Maine.
  • Died: April 13, 1933, in Ormond Beach, Florida.
  • Education: 1861 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy.
  • Military Career: As a brigadier general in the Union volunteer army, Ames led numerous brigades and divisions in many of the major campaigns and battles of the American Civil War.
  • Political Career: Governor of Mississippi, United States Senator.
  • Major Achievement: Congressional Medal of Honor recipient for heroism during the First Battle of Bull Run.
  • Fun Fact: Adelbert Ames was the last surviving full-rank general who had served in the Civil War.

Early Life and Education

Adelbert Ames was born on October 31, 1835, in Rockland, Maine. He was the younger of two sons of Jesse and Martha Bradbury Ames. Jesse Ames was a sea captain and owner of the Ames Mill in Northfield, Minnesota.

Educated in local schools, Adelbert followed in his father’s footsteps and went to sea as a young man. In 1856, he received an appointment to the United States Military Academy. Ames graduated in 1861, two months after the Civil War began.

Adelbert Ames in the Civil War

First Battle of Bull Run

After graduating from West Point, Ames was commissioned as a second lieutenant with the 2nd U.S. Artillery on May 6, 1861. Eight days later, he was promoted to first lieutenant and reassigned to the 5th U.S. Artillery.

On July 21, Ames was severely wounded in the right thigh during the First Battle of Bull Run. Thirty-two years later, Ames received the Congressional Medal of Honor for refusing to abandon his position after being wounded.

First Battle of Bull Run, Illustration
The First Battle of Bull Run. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Peninsula Campaign

After returning to duty the in the spring of 1862, Ames served briefly in the defenses of Washington, D.C. Later, during the Peninsula Campaign he saw action at the Siege of Yorktown (April 5–May 4), the Battle of Gaines’ Mill (June 27), and the Battle of Malvern Hill (July 1). His performance at Malvern Hill earned Ames a brevet promotion to lieutenant colonel.

Volunteer Army Officer

Following the Peninsula Campaign, Ames returned to Maine to seek an appointment as a regimental commander in the volunteer army. On August 20, 1862, he was commissioned as the colonel of the 20th Maine Infantry Regiment.

As the regimental commander of the 20th Maine, Ames took part in the Maryland Campaign, the Fredericksburg Campaign, and the Chancellorsville Campaign.

On April 27, 1863, just prior to the Battle of Chancellorsville (April 30–May 6), the 5th Corps commander, Major General George G. Meade, appointed Ames as his aide-de-camp.

Two weeks later, on May 20, 1863, officials promoted Ames to brigadier general of volunteers.

George Meade, Civil War General
General George G. Meade (USA). Image Source: Library of Congress.

Gettysburg Campaign

On May 20, 1863, Prior to the Gettysburg Campaign (June 3–July 23, 1863), Ames relinquished command of the 20th Maine to Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

On May 24, Ames took command of the 2nd brigade, first division, of the 11th Corps in the Army of the Potomac.

Although Ames did not achieve the acclaim that Chamberlain did during the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3) he performed well. He took command of his division when Brigadier General Francis C. Barlow was wounded and captured during the first day of the battle.

The next day, Ames personally engaged in hand-to-hand fighting as his division stopped Major General Jubal A. Early’s assault on East Cemetery Hill. Afterward, the men of the 20th Maine awarded Ames their battle flag as a token of their esteem. 

Following the Battle of Gettysburg, Ames reverted to brigade command, and he received a brevet promotion to colonel in the regular army.

Battle of Gettysburg, Union Advance
This illustration depicts the Battle of Gettysburg. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Late War Assignments

In August 1863, Ames was reassigned to the Department of the South.

For the next two years, he held numerous brigade and division commands with the 10th, 18th, and 24th Corps while serving with the Army of the James (USA).

In 1864 Ames participated in the Bermuda Hundred Campaign and the Siege of Petersburg. In 1865, he received brevet promotions to major general of volunteers and brigadier general in the regular army for leading a successful assault during the Battle of Fort Fisher near Wilmington, North Carolina.

Ames mustered out of the volunteer army on April 30, 1866, but remained in the regular army. On July 28, officials promoted him to lieutenant colonel.

Post-Civil War Career

In 1867, the federal government enacted the Reconstruction Acts, dividing the South into five military districts that were occupied by U.S. Army troops.

The next year, the War Department appointed Ames as commander of the 4th Military District, comprising the states of Mississippi and Arkansas.

On June 15, 1868, President Andrew Johnson also appointed Ames as the provisional governor of Mississippi. Ames held that position until February 1870 when Mississippi was re-admitted to the Union.

Governor Adelbert Ames, Mississippi, NA
Adelbert Ames. Image Source: National Archives.

Soon thereafter, the Republican-dominated state legislature appointed Ames to the U.S. Senate.

In 1873, while still a U.S. Senator, Ames was elected as Governor of Mississippi. Serving from 1874-76, Ames championed the rights of blacks while struggling with white obstructionists who considered him a scallywag and carpetbagger.

After Southern Democrats regained control of the state government in 1876, Ames resigned from office on March 29 rather than face impeachment proceedings.

Personal Life

Ames married Blanche Butler in 1870. She was the daughter of Civil War General Benjamin Butler. Together, the couple had six children.

Death of Adelbert Ames

Ames died on April 13, 1933, in Ormond Beach, Florida, at age 97. He was the last surviving full-rank general who had served in the Civil War.

Why is Aldelbert Ames Important?

Adelbert Ames is important to United States history for his contributions, both as a military officer and politician, to the preservation of the Union and the end of slavery.

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Adelbert Ames — the Last Living Full General of the Civil War
  • Date October 31, 1835–April 13, 1933
  • Author
  • Keywords Adelbert Ames
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date April 16, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 13, 2023