Portrait of Francis P. Blair

On November 29, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Frank Blair as a major general in the volunteer army (as announced in General Orders, No. 316, U.S. War Department, September 18, 1863). [Library of Congress]

Francis Preston Blair, Jr. - Facts

February 19, 1821–July 9, 1875

Key facts about U.S. Senator and Congressman Frank P. Blair who was one of President Abraham Lincoln's more successful political generals.

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Full Name:

  • Francis Preston Blair, Jr. (AKA Frank)

Birth Date:

  • February 19, 1821

Birth Location:

  • Lexington, Kentucky

Parents:

  • Francis Preston and Elizabeth (Gist) Blair

Education:

  • North Carolina (did not graduate)
  • Yale University (did not graduate)
  • Princeton (1842)

Occupation:

  • Lawyer
  • Politician
  • Newspaper publisher
  • Military officer

Career Summary:

  • New Mexico Territory attorney general
  • Newspaper owner
  • U.S. Congressman
  • U.S. Senator
  • Major General (USVA)

Spouse:

  • Appoline Alexander (1847)

Place of Death:

  • St. Louis, Missouri

Date of Death:

  • July 9, 1875

Place of Burial:

  • Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri

Significance:

  • Francis Preston Blair, Jr. is more commonly known as Frank Blair.
  • Frank Blair was the youngest child of Francis Preston and Eliza Gist Blair.
  • Frank Blair’s older brother, Montgomery Blair, served as Postmaster General of the United States during the American Civil War.
  • Frank Blair’s mother, Elizabeth “Eliza” Violet (Gist) Blair, was the daughter of Colonel Nathaniel Gist who fought in the American Revolution.
  • Frank Blair’s great grandfather was the famous Ohio Country explorer and surveyor, Christopher Gist.
  • Frank Blair’s father, Francis Preston Blair, Sr., was a public official in Kentucky who later was a close confidant and strong supporter of President Andrew Jackson.
  • Frank Blair’s father, Francis Preston Blair, Sr., served as an unofficial advisor to President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War.
  • Frank Blair attended the University of North Carolina and Yale University, but each of the schools expelled him for misconduct.
  • Frank Blair finished his required coursework at Princeton University in 1841, but was denied a diploma for participating in a raucous party a few weeks before graduation. A year later, bending to pressure from the influential Blair family, Princeton granted Blair his degree.
  • Frank Blair studied law at Transylvania University, in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1842.
  • In the autumn of 1842, Frank Blair joined his older brother, Montgomery, in St. Louis to practice law.
  • In 1846, Frank Blair enlisted as a private in General Stephen W. Kearny’s expeditionary force as it passed through Colorado on its way to New Mexico during the Mexican-American War.
  • Frank Blair served as attorney general of the New Mexico Territory from 1846–1847.
  • Frank Blair married Appoline Alexander on September 8, 1847. Their marriage, which lasted until Blair’s death in 1875, produced eight children.
  • Frank Blair’s wife was later a co-founder of the St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
  • Although Frank Blair came from a slaveholding family and personally owned a few slaves, he opposed the extension of slavery into the territories.
  • Frank Blair was a member of the Free Soil Movement.
  • In 1848, Blair established a short-lived Free Soil newspaper, the Barnburner.
  • In 1852, Blair was part of a group that purchased the St. Louis Morning Signal. The new owners soon renamed the newspaper the Missouri Democrat and adopted an editorial stance that opposed the extension of slavery.
  • In 1852, voters elected Frank Blair to a seat in the Missouri House of Representatives, where he served for four years.
  • By 1856, Frank Blair’s Free Soil beliefs had motivated him to join the newly emerging Republican Party.
  • Frank Blair served in the 35th U.S. Congress as a Republican representative from Missouri’s 1st district from March 4, 1857 to March 3, 1859.
  • During Frank Blair’s tenure in Congress, he was an outspoken proponent of gradual emancipation, but he also endorsed the deportation of freed slaves for overseas colonization.
  • Frank Blair lost his bid for reelection to Congress in 1858, to his Democratic opponent, John R. Barret. Blair successfully challenged the election results and was subsequently declared the winner. Seated on June 8, 1860, he resigned on June 25.
  • Frank Blair served in the 35th U.S. Congress as a Republican representative from Missouri’s 1st district from June 8, 1860 – June 25, 1860.
  • In November 1860, Frank Blair supported Abraham Lincoln’s bid for the U.S. presidency, while he himself stood for reelection.
  • Frank Blair organized the Wide Awakes, a group that provided protection for pro-Republican speakers in Missouri during the 1860 election.
  • Frank Blair served in the 37th U.S. Congress from March 4, 1861 until July 1862.
  • On April 22, 1861, Captain John Schofield mustered four regiments of Frank Blair’s paramilitary group known as the Home Guards into the Union’s volunteer army as the 1st Missouri Volunteer Infantry.
  • The 1st Missouri Volunteer Infantry elected Frank Blair as their regimental colonel in 1861.
  • In 1861, Frank Blair successfully contrived to have Brigadier-General William S. Harney removed as commander of the Department of the West.
  • In 1861, Frank Blair lobbied to have John C. Frémont removed as commander of the Department of the West.
  • On September 15, 1861, John C. Frémont had Frank Blair placed under arrest for “insubordination in communicating . . . with the authorities at Washington; making complaints against and using disrespectful language towards Gen. Frémont, with a view of effecting his removal.”
  • In July 1862, Frank Blair resigned his seat in the House of Representatives.
  • On August 7, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Frank Blair as a brigadier general in the volunteer army, (as announced in General Orders, No. 181, U.S. War Department, November 1, 1862).
  • On November 29, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Frank Blair as a major general in the volunteer army (as announced in General Orders, No. 316, U.S. War Department, September 18, 1863).
  • Frank Blair commanded 1st Brigade, of the 4th Division, of Major General William T. Sherman’s 13th Army Corps during the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou (December 26–29, 1862).
  • By the end of the Vicksburg Campaign (July 1863), Frank Blair was commanding the 2nd Division of the 15th Army Corps.
  • Frank Blair served as commander of the 15th Army Corps from October 29 until December 11, 1863.
  • Frank Blair played a significant role in the Battle of Missionary Ridge on November 25, 1863.
  • In late 1863 Frank Blair’s 15th Army Corps helped relieve Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s troops, who were under siege by Confederate General James Longstreet at Knoxville, Tennessee.
  • At the request of President Lincoln, Frank Blair relinquished his command of the 15th Corps on December 11, 1863, to return to Congress where he defended Lincoln’s Reconstruction plans against radical elements of the Republican Party.
  • On April 23, 1864, the War Department issued General Orders, No. 178, naming Frank Blair as commander of the 17th Army Corps.
  • Frank Blair’s 17th Army Corps took part in the Atlanta Campaign, the Savannah Campaign, and the Carolinas Campaign as part of the Army of the Tennessee.
  • On June 10, 1864, Frank Blair’s political enemies in Congress stripped him of his seat in the House and awarded it to Samuel Knox, who had been contesting Blair’s victory in the previous election.
  • On April 26, 1865, two weeks after Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, Frank Blair was present when General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his forces to William T. Sherman at Bennett Place, North Carolina, essentially ending major organized combat in the American Civil War.
  • On July 11, 1865, Frank Blair left the 17th Army Corps and returned to Missouri where he served as the chief of cavalry in the Department of the Missouri until November 1, 1865.
  • On November 1, 1865, Frank Blair resigned his commission in the volunteer army and returned to civilian life.
  • During Reconstruction, Frank Blair did not support the civil and legal rights reforms enacted by Radical Republicans.
  • Frank Blair unsuccessfully ran as the Democratic candidate for Vice-president of the United States during the 1868 election.
  • In 1870, Frank Blair won a seat in the Missouri State Legislature.
  • In 1870, the Missouri State Legislature chose Frank Blair to complete the unexpired term of U.S. Senator Charles D. Drake, who had resigned to accept a judicial appointment.
  • Frank Blair served as a U.S. Senator from Missouri in the 41st and 42nd Congresses from January 20, 1871, to March 3, 1873.
  • While serving in Congress, Senator Frank Blair suffered a debilitating stroke in November 1872.
  • In 1874, Missouri Governor Silas Woodson appointed Frank Blair as state superintendent of insurance. The appointment was largely a benevolent gesture to provide Blair a source of income as he futilely tried to recover from his stroke.
  • Frank Blair died at his home in St. Louis, Missouri on July 9, 1875.
  • After an unpretentious funeral on July 11, Frank Blair was buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Francis Preston Blair, Jr. - Facts
  • Coverage February 19, 1821–July 9, 1875
  • Author
  • Keywords Frank P. Blair
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 27, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 28, 2021
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