Portrait of Nathaniel P. Banks

Nathaniel Prentice Banks was a ten-time member of the United States House of Representatives and, during the American Civil War, one of President Abraham Lincoln’s political generals. [Wikimedia Commons]

Nathaniel Prentice Banks - Facts

January 30, 1816–September 1, 1894

Key facts about Nathaniel Prentice Banks, a ten-time member of the United States House of Representatives and, during the American Civil War, one of President Abraham Lincoln's political generals.

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Full Name:

  • Nathaniel Prentice Banks

Birth Date:

  • January 30, 1816

Birth Location:

  • Waltham, Massachusetts

Parents:

  • Nathaniel P. and Rebecca (Greenwood) Banks

Occupation:

  • Newspaper editor
  • Politician
  • Military officer

Career Summary:

  • U.S. Congressman
  • Massachusetts Governor
  • U.S. Volunteer Army Major General

Marriage Date:

  • April 11, 1847

Spouse:

  • Mary Theodosia Palmer

Nickname(s):

  • Commissary Banks

Place of Death:

  • Waltham, Massachusetts

Date of Death:

  • September 1, 1894

Place of Burial:

  • Grove Hill Cemetery in Waltham, Massachusetts

Significance:

  • Nathaniel Banks was the first of nine children of Nathaniel P. Banks and Rebecca Greenwood.
  • When he was 14 years old, Nathaniel Banks began working as a bobbin boy in the textile mill his father managed.
  • While working as a mechanic, Nathaniel Banks studied law and was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1839, at age twenty-three.
  • Nathaniel Banks was the editor of three newspapers during his lifetime.
  • On April 11, 1847, Nathaniel Banks married Mary Theodosia Palmer who worked in a Waltham cotton mill. Their marriage produced four children.
  • In 1848, Nathaniel Banks was elected as a member of the Free Soil Party, to the first of four one-year terms in the Massachusetts state legislature.
  • Nathaniel Banks also served as president of the Massachusetts state constitutional convention of 1853.
  • In 1852, voters of Massachusetts seventh Congressional district elected Nathaniel Banks to the Thirty-third Congress (1853 – 1855) as a member of the Democratic Party.
  • In 1854, voters of Massachusetts seventh Congressional district elected Nathaniel Banks to the Thirty-fourth Congress (1855 – 1857) as a member of the American Party, also known as the Know-Nothing Party.
  • Nathaniel Banks served as Speaker of the House during Thirty-fourth Congress (1855–1857)
  • In 1856, voters of Massachusetts seventh Congressional district elected Nathaniel Banks to the Thirty-fifth Congress (1857–1858) as a member of the Republican Party.
  • Nathaniel Banks resigned his seat in the Thirty-fifth Congress on December 24, 1857, after being elected Governor of Massachusetts.
  • Nathaniel Banks served one term as Governor of Massachusetts, from January 1858, until January 1861.
  • In 1860, Nathaniel Banks made an unsuccessful bid to become the Republican presidential candidate, losing to Abraham Lincoln.
  • At the expiration of his gubernatorial term, Nathaniel Banks moved his family to Chicago, where he succeeded George B. McClellan as director of the Illinois Central Railway.
  • After the Civil War began, President Lincoln appointed Nathaniel Banks as a major general in the volunteer army, on May 16, 1861.
  • Nathaniel Banks’s first military assignment was commanding the Department of Annapolis where he played a prominent role in suppressing Confederate sympathizers and keeping Maryland in the Union.
  • In July 1861, Nathaniel Banks was reassigned and placed in command of the Department of the Shenandoah.
  • Nathaniel Banks defeated Confederate General Stonewall Jackson at the Battle of Kernstown, on March 23, 1862.
  • Confederate General Stonewall Jackson defeated Nathaniel Banks at the Battle of Winchester I, on May 25, 1862.
  • Confederate General Stonewall Jackson defeated Nathaniel Banks at the Battle of Cedar Mountain on August 9, 1862.
  • Nathaniel Banks lost so many supplies during his encounters with Confederate General Stonewall Jackson that Confederate soldiers began referring to him as “Commissary Banks.”
  • In December 1863 Nathaniel Banks replaced fellow Massachusetts resident and political general Benjamin F. Butler as commander of the Department of the Gulf.
  • Nathaniel Banks successfully besieged the river town of Port Hudson, Louisiana during the summer of 1863.
  • Nathaniel Banks suffered a humiliating defeat at the Second Battle of Sabine Pass on September 8, 1863.
  • On November 2, 1863, Nathaniel Banks succeeded in landing an invasion force near the mouth of the Rio Grande River and occupied Brownsville, Texas.
  • Nathaniel Banks was the commanding officer during the unsuccessful Red River Campaign in the spring of 1864.
  • Nathaniel Banks mustered out of the volunteer army on August 24, 1865, and resumed his political career.
  • In 1865, Nathaniel Banks was elected to fill a vacancy in the Thirty-ninth Congress representing Massachusetts’s sixth Congressional district.
  • In 1866, Nathaniel Banks was elected as a Republican to the Fortieth, Forty-first, and Forty-second Congresses, serving until March 3, 1873.
  • A break with President Grant prompted Nathaniel Banks to join the short-lived Liberal Republican Party and endorse Horace Greeley in the presidential election of 1872. Without the support of the president and mainstream Republicans, Banks lost his seat in the House that year.
  • In 1874, voters from Massachusetts’s fifth Congressional district elected Nathaniel Banks to represent them in the Forty-fourth Congress (1875 – 1877) as an independent candidate.
  • In 1876, voters from Massachusetts’s fifth Congressional district elected Nathaniel Banks to represent them in the Forty-fifth Congress (1877 – 1879) as a Republican.
  • In 1879, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Nathaniel Banks as a United States Marshal for Massachusetts, a post he held until 1888.
  • In 1888, voters from Massachusetts’s fifth Congressional district elected Nathaniel Banks to represent them in Congress.
  • Nathaniel Banks served his tenth and final term in the Fifty-first Congress from 1889 to 1891.
  • Nathaniel Banks retired from politics and returned to his home in Waltham, Massachusetts in 1890.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Nathaniel Prentice Banks - Facts
  • Coverage January 30, 1816–September 1, 1894
  • Author
  • Keywords Nathaniel Prentice Banks
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 28, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 28, 2021
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