Oliver Otis Howard portrait

Major General Oliver O. Howard, a Medal of Honor recipient, commanded Union troops in both the Eastern and Western Theaters of the American Civil War and served as the only commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau during Reconstruction. [Wikimedia Commons]

Oliver Otis Howard - Facts

November 8, 1830 – October 26, 1909

Key facts about Union General Oliver Otis Howard.

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Full Name:

  • Oliver Otis Howard

Birth Date:

  • November 30, 1830

Birth Location:

  • Leeds, Maine

Parents:

  • Rowland Bailey and Eliza (Otis) Howard

Education:

  • Bowdoin College (1850), United States Military Academy (1854)

Occupation:

  • Military officer

Career Summary:

  • Brigadier General (USA), Major General (USVA), Army of the Tennessee commander, Freedmen’s Bureau commissioner

Spouse:

  • Elizabeth Anne Waite (1855)

Nickname(s):

  • the Christian general, Uh-Oh Howard

Place of Death:

  • Burlington, Vermont

Date of Death:

  • October 26,

Place of Burial:

  • Lakeview Cemetery, Burlington, Vermont

Significance:

  • Oliver O. Howard was the oldest of three sons of Rowland Bailey and Eliza (Otis) Howard.
  • Oliver O. Howard’s father, who was a farmer, died in 1840, when Howard was nine years old.
  • As a youth, Oliver O. Howard attended Monmouth Academy, and North Yarmouth Academy.
  • Oliver O. Howard graduated from Bowdoin College in 1850.
  • Oliver O. Howard graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1854, ranking fourth in his class of 46 cadets.
  • After graduating from West Point, Oliver O. Howard was commissioned as a brevet second lieutenant of ordnance on July 1, 1854.
  • On February 14, 1855, Oliver O. Howard married Elizabeth Anne Waite. Their marriage lasted for over fifty years and produced seven children.
  • Oliver O. Howard was promoted to second lieutenant on February 15, 1855.
  • In 1856, Oliver O. Howard was transferred to Tampa, Florida, where he served during the Third Seminole War (1855 – 1858).
  • Oliver O. Howard was promoted to first lieutenant on July 1, 1857.
  • While serving in Florida, Oliver O. Howard became an evangelical Christian.
  • Colleagues and subordinates derisively referred to Oliver O. Howard as “the Christian general” due to his religious passion.
  • Oliver O. Howard served as an assistant mathematics at the United States Military Academy professor between 1857 and 1860.
  • When the American Civil War erupted, Oliver O. Howard was elected as colonel of the 3rd Maine Volunteers on May 28, 1861.
  • Oliver O. Howard was officially commissioned as a regimental commander in the volunteer army on June 4, 1861.
  • Oliver O. Howard resigned his commission in the regular army on June 7, 1861.
  • Oliver O. Howard served as a brigade commander during the First Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861).
  • Oliver O. Howard was promoted to brigadier general on September 3, 1861.
  • Doctors amputated Oliver O. Howard’s right arm as a result of injuries he received on June 1, 1862 during Battle of Seven Pines (May 31 – June 1, 1862).
  • In 1893, Congress awarded Oliver O. Howard the Medal of Honor for his bravery at the Battle of Seven Pines.
  • During the Maryland Campaign Howard commanded the 2nd Brigade of Major General John Sedgwick’s 2nd Division of the Army of the Potomac’s 2nd Corps.
  • When Major General John Sedgwick was wounded during the Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862) Oliver O. Howard replaced him as division commander.
  • Oliver O. Howard was promoted to major general of volunteers on November 29, 1862.
  • Oliver O. Howard participated in the failed Union assault on Marye’s Heights at the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11–15, 1862).
  • Oliver O. Howard replaced Major General Franz Sigel as commander of the Army of the Potomac’s 11th Corps on April 1, 1863.
  • Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall Jackson” outflanked and overran Oliver O. Howard’s corps on May 2, 1863 at the Battle of Chancellorsville (April 30 – May 6, 1863).
  • On the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – 4, 1863), Major General Jubal Early’s division exploited a salient in Oliver O. Howard’s defensive line and routed Howard’s corps.
  • Some historians credit Major General Winfield Scott Hancock with the decision to defend and hold Cemetery Hill at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – 4, 1863). Nonetheless, on January 28th, 1864 Oliver O. Howard received the “Thanks of Congress” for the decision (S. Res. 3).
  • On September 23, 1863, Oliver O. Howard and his corps were detached from the Army of the Potomac and sent under the command of Major General Joseph Hooker to help defend the city of Chattanooga.
  • On November 25, Oliver O. Howard’s Corps participated in the successful assault on Missionary Ridge.
  • On April 10, 1864 Major General William T. Sherman selected Oliver O. Howard to lead the 4th Corps of the Army of the Cumberland.
  • On July 27, 1864 Major General William T. Sherman selected Oliver O. Howard to command the Army of the Tennessee following the death of Major General James B. McPherson during the Battle of Atlanta on July 22.
  • Oliver O. Howard commanded the Army of the Tennessee throughout the Savannah Campaign (November 15 – December 21, 1864) and the Carolinas Campaign (February – April 1865).
  • Oliver O. Howard was brevetted to major general in the regular army on March 13, 1865 for his gallantry at the Battle of Ezra Church (July 28, 1864).
  • Oliver O. Howard was present when Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his forces to Major General William T. Sherman at Bennett Place, near Durham, North Carolina, on April 26, 1865.
  • Oliver O. Howard served as the first (and only) commissioner of the Bureau for the Relief of Freedmen and Refugees (more commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau) from May 12, 1865 to July, 1874.
  • Under Oliver O. Howard’s leadership the Freedmen’s Bureau provided a plethora of services to freedmen (and some poor whites) in the South, with varying levels of success.
  • Oliver O. Howard was instrumental in the founding of Howard University in Washington, DC, and he served as president of the university from 1867 until 1873.
  • Oliver O. Howard mustered out of volunteer service On January 1, 1869, but he remained in the regular army.
  • In March 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant temporarily reassigned Oliver O. Howard as Special Indian Commissioner to the hostile Apaches of New Mexico and Arizona.
  • In July 1874, Oliver O. Howard was placed in command of the Department of Columbia.
  • Oliver O. Howard campaigned against Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe as well as other Native Americans in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
  • Oliver O. Howard served as Superintendent of the U. S. Military Academy from January 21 to September 1, 1882.
  • Oliver O. Howard commanded the Department of the Platte from 1882 to 1886.
  • Oliver O. Howard was promoted to major general in the regular army on March 19, 1886.
  • Oliver O. Howard commanded the Division of the Pacific and Department of California from 1886 to 1888.
  • Oliver O. Howard commanded the Division of the Atlantic from 1888 to 1891.
  • Oliver O. Howard’s final command was the Department of the East from 1891 to 1894.
  • Oliver O. Howard retired from active service on November 8, 1894, at the age of sixty-four.
  • Oliver O. Howard was instrumental in the founding of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, which was chartered by the State of Tennessee on February 12, 1897.
  • Oliver O. Howard died from a stroke on October 26, 1909 at his home in Burlington, Vermont.
  • On November 12, 1932 the State of Maine dedicated an equestrian statue of Howard on Cemetery Hill at the Gettysburg National Military Park.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Oliver Otis Howard - Facts
  • Coverage November 8, 1830 – October 26, 1909
  • Author
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 27, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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