Samuel Ryan Curtis - Facts

February 3, 1805 - December 26, 1866

Key facts about Major General Samuel R. Curtis who played a prominent role in securing and maintaining Federal control of the border state of Missouri throughout the American Civil War.

Portrait of Samuel R. Curtis

Perhaps one of the more underrated Union officers of the Civil War, Major General Samuel R. Curtis played a leading role in securing and maintaining federal control of Missouri throughout the conflict. [Wikimedia Commons]

Full Name:

  • Samuel Ryan Curtis

Birth Date:

  • February 3, 1805

Birth Location:

  • near Champlain, New York


  • Zarah and Phalley (Yale) Curtis


  • United States Military Academy (1831)


  • Military officer
  • Engineer
  • Lawyer
  • Politician

Career Summary:

  • Ohio Adjutant General
  • U.S. Congressman
  • Major General (USVA)


  • Belinda Buckingham (1831)

Place of Death:

  • Council Bluffs, Iowa

Date of Death:

  • December 26, 1866

Place of Burial:

  • Oakland Cemetery, Keokuk, Iowa


  • Samuel Ryan Curtis’ father was a veteran of the Continental Army during the American Revolution.
  • Samuel Ryan Curtis spent his youth in Washington Township, Licking County, Ohio.
  • Samuel R. Curtis attended the United States Military Academy from July 1, 1827 to July 1, 1831.
  • Samuel R. Curtis ranked twenty-seventh in his class of thirty-three cadets at the United States Military Academy.
  • Following his graduation from the United States Military Academy, Samuel R. Curtis was brevetted to second lieutenant and assigned to the U.S. 7th Infantry, stationed at Fort Gibson in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).
  • On November 3, 1831, Samuel R. Curtis married Belinda Buckingham, of Mansfield, Ohio. Their marriage produced eight children.
  • Less than a year after his marriage, Samuel R. Curtis resigned his army commission on, June 30, 1832, and returned to Ohio to pursue an engineering career and to study law.
  • Samuel R. Curtis worked as an engineer on the National Road.
  • Between 1837 and 1839 Samuel R. Curtis was the chief engineer on the Muskingum River improvement project constructing dams and locks to enhance river transportation in eastern Ohio.
  • In 1841, Samuel R. Curtis passed the Ohio bar exam and opened a law office in Wooster, Ohio.
  • In 1845, Ohio Governor Mordecai Bartley appointed Samuel R. Curtis as the state’s adjutant general.
  • Samuel R. Curtis served with the 3rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Mexican-American War (April 25, 1846 – February 2, 1848) .
  • During the Mexican-American War Samuel R. Curtis served as military governor of several cities including Matamoras, Camargo, Monterey, and Saltillo.
  • After the Mexican-American War, Samuel R. Curtis relocated to Iowa.
  • In 1856, the citizens of Keokuk elected Samuel R. Curtis as their mayor.
  • In 1856, voters in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District elected Curtis to a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Samuel R. Curtis served in the 35th, 36th, and 37th Congresses from March 4, 1857 until he resigned on August 4, 1861, to focus on his military duties.
  • A member of the Republican Party, Samuel R. Curtis was a strong supporter of Abraham Lincoln.
  • On June 1, 1861, Samuel R. Curtis was elected as colonel of the 2nd Regiment, Iowa Volunteer Infantry.
  • Samuel R. Curtis resigned his seat in the House on August 4, 1861.
  • On August 20, 1861, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders, No. 62, announcing that Curtis was appointed to the rank of brigadier general in the volunteer army, to date from May 17.
  • On December 25, 1861, Major General Henry W. Halleck, commander of the Department of the Missouri, issued Special Orders, No. 92 ( Department of the Missouri) assigning Curtis to command of the District of Southwest Missouri and the Army of Southwest Missouri.
  • Samuel R. Curtis resounding victory over Confederate Major General Earl Van Dorn at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas (March 6-8, 1862) secured Federal control of Missouri for the next two years.
  • On June 10 1862, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders, No. 63, announcing that Samuel R. Curtis was promoted to the rank of major general in the volunteer army, to date from March 21, 1862.
  • Samuel R. Curtis forced the Confederate state government of Arkansas to temporarily abandon Little Rock when his troops threatened the state capital in May 1862.
  • Samuel R. Curtis’ soldiers captured and occupied Helena, Arkansas in July 1862.
  • In the late summer of 1862, Samuel R. Curtis took a month of leave from his military duties to travel to Chicago, where served as president of the Pacific Railroad Convention from August 29 to September 24, 1862, shepherding the inauguration of the proposed transcontinental railway.
  • On September 19, 1862, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders, No. 135, appointing Samuel R. Curtis the Department of the Missouri.
  • Thus on March 9, 1863, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders, No. 57, announcing that Samuel R. Curtis was relieved from the command of the Department of the Missouri.
  • On January 1, 1864, the War Department issued General Orders, No. 1 announcing that Samuel R. Curtis was assigned to the command of the Department of Kansas.
  • On October 23, 1861, Samuel R. Curtis’ soldiers defeated Confederate General Sterling Price’s force at the Battle of Westport, the largest engagement west of the Mississippi River during the American Civil War.
  • On November 29, 1864, soldiers commanded by Samuel R. Curtis’ subordinate, Colonel John Chivington, killed and mutilated between 150 and 200 American Indians during the Sand Creek Massacre in the Colorado Territory.
  • On January 20, 1865 the U.S. War Department issued General Orders, No. 11, announcing that Samuel R. Curtis was reassigned to command the Department of the Northwest.
  • On June 27, 1865, the Department of the Northwest was merged into the Department of the Missouri, leaving Samuel R. Curtis without a command.
  • On August 21, 1865, Samuel R. Curtis was appointed as a U. S. Commissioner to negotiate treaties with Sioux, Cheyenne, and other Indian Tribes.
  • On November 25, 1865, President Andrew Johnson assigned Samuel R. Curtis as a U.S. Commissioner to oversee the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad.
  • Samuel R. Curtis mustered out of the volunteer army on April 30, 1866.
  • On December 26, 1866, Samuel R. Curtis suffered a stroke and died unexpectedly following an inspection of some Union Pacific track at Council Bluffs, Iowa.
  • Samuel R. Curtis was interred at Oakland Cemetery, Keokuk, Iowa.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Samuel Ryan Curtis - Facts
  • Date February 3, 1805 - December 26, 1866
  • Author
  • Keywords Samuel Ryan Curtis
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date September 21, 2023
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 11, 2023

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