Portrait of Stephen A. Hurlbut

Stephen A. Hurlbut’s involvement in numerous sordid activities while commander of the Department of the Gulf gradually became such an embarrassment to the Lincoln administration that by December 1864 the President convened a committee to investigate Hurlbut’s disreputable operations in New Orleans. [Wikimedia Commons]

Stephen Augustus Hurlbut - Facts

November 29, 1815 - March 27, 1882

Key facts about Stephen A. Hurlbut, a political general who had a checkered career serving in the Western Theater of the American Civil War.

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Full Name:

  • Stephen Augustus Hurlbut

Birth Date:

  • November 29, 1815

Birth Location:

  • Charleston, South Carolina

Parents:

  • Martin Luther Hurlbut and Lydia (Bunce) Hurlbut

Education:

  • Local schools in Philadelphia

Occupation:

  • Lawyer,
  • Military officer

Career Summary:

  • Major General (USVA),
  • Minister Resident to the United States of Colombia
  • U.S. Congressman
  • U.S. Ambassador to Peru

Spouse:

  • Sophronia R. Stevens (1847)

Place of Death:

  • Lima, Peru

Date of Death:

  • March 27, 1882

Place of Burial:

  • Belvidere Cemetery, Belvidere, Illinois

Significance:

  • Stephen A. Hurlbut was the third of four children born to Martin Luther Hurlbut and Lydia (Bunce) Hurlbut.
  • Stephen A. Hurlbut’s father, a native of Massachusetts, was a Unitarian minister and teacher.
  • Stephen A. Hurlbut’s mother was a native of Charleston who died on January 19, 1821, when Stephen was five years old.
  • Stephen A. Hurlbut attended local schools in Philadelphia.
  • In 1837, Stephen returned to Charleston where he studied law and apprenticed under his father’s friend, attorney James Louis Petigru. Later that year, Hurlbut passed his examinations and was admitted to the bar.
  • In 1840 Stephen A. Hurlbut joined the 17th South Carolina Militia Regiment as an enlisted man. He was soon elected as a commissioned officer.
  • Stephen A. Hurlbut campaigned against American Indians in Florida during the Second Seminole War (1835 – 1842). Although Hurlbut participated in some reconnaissance missions, he saw no combat.
  • Stephen A. Hurlbut opened his own law practice in Charleston in 1842.
  • In 1845, Stephen A. Hurlbut was forced to leave Charleston under a cloud of suspicion for forgery and embezzlement to pay off a mountain of gambling debts.
  • In 1845, Stephen A. Hurlbut settled in Belvidere and established a law practice that thrived.
  • In 1846, Stephen A. Hurlbut met and began courting Sophronia R. Stevens. The couple wed on May 13, 1847. Their marriage produced no children.
  • In 1847, Stephen A. Hurlbut served as a delegate to the Illinois state constitutional convention.
  • In 1858 Stephen A. Hurlbut was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, and he was reelected in 1860.
  • During his activity in Whig politics in Illinois, Stephen A. Hurlbut became friends with future U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.
  • When the Civil War began, Stephen A. Hurlbut enlisted with the 15th Illinois Infantry Regiment on April 20, 1861, and was elected as a company captain.
  • On June 14, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln rewarded his friend Stephen A. Hurlbut, with a commission as a brigadier general of U.S. volunteers.
  • Stephen A. Hurlbut joined General Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of West Tennessee following the Battle of Fort Donelson (February 11–February 16, 1862) as commander of the 4th Division.
  • Stephen A. Hurlbut’s division was the first to reach Pittsburg Landing, the site of the Battle of Shiloh (April 6–7, 1862).
  • Stephen A. Hurlbut commanded the 4th Division of the Army of West Tennessee during the Battle of Shiloh where he demonstrated personal bravery.
  • Stephen A. Hurlbut subsequently commanded the 4th Division of the Army of West Tennessee during the Siege of Corinth (April 29 – May 30, 1862).
  • On September 17, 1862, Stephen A. Hurlbut was promoted to major general of volunteers for personal bravery and meritorious conduct during the battle of Shiloh.
  • In October, Stephen A. Hurlbut demonstrated personal bravery at the Battle of Hatchie’s Bridge (October 5, 1862), while pursuing the combined Confederate forces of Major General Earl Van Dorn and Major General Sterling Price in Northern Mississippi.
  • On December 18, 1862, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders No. 210 placing Stephen A. Hurlbut in command of the newly created 16th Army Corps. General Grant then appointed Hurlbut as governor of the Military District of Memphis.
  • During his tenure in Memphis, Stephen A. Hurlbut came under suspicion of involvement in felonious activities involving smuggling and prostitution. He was also accused of falsely imprisoning and stealing the property of persecuted Jews in the area.
  • On July 7, 1863, Stephen A. Hurlbut tendered his resignation from the volunteer army, but withdrew it on August 10.
  • Stephen A. Hurlbut’s role in the “Fort Pillow Massacre” coupled with his general inability to stop Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s marauding in the Memphis area led Major General Ulysses S. Grant to dismiss Hurlbut from his role as governor of the Military District of Memphis in April 1864.
  • In August 1864 President Lincoln rewarded his friend, Stephen A. Hurlbut, with an appointment as commander of the Department of the Gulf.
  • Stephen A. Hurlbut’s involvement in numerous sordid activities while commander of the Department of the Gulf gradually became such an embarrassment to the Lincoln administration that by December 1864 the President was forced to convene a committee to investigate Hurlbut’s disreputable operations in New Orleans.
  • On April 22, Nathaniel P. Banks replaced Stephen A. Hurlbut as commander of the Department of the Gulf.
  • On June 20, 1865, Stephen A. Hurlbut was mustered out of volunteer service.
  • After leaving the service, Stephen A. Hurlbut helped found the Grand Army of the Republic and served as its first commander-in-chief from 1866 to 1868.
  • In 1869, newly inaugurated President Grant appointed Stephen A. Hurlbut as Minister Resident to the United States of Colombia. Hurlbut served in that position until 1872.
  • Stephen A. Hurlbut represented the 4th Illinois District in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 43rd and 44th Congresses (March 4, 1873–March 4, 1877).
  • Stephen A. Hurlbut served as U.S. Ambassador to Peru from August 2, 1881 to March 27, 1882.
  • Stephen A. Hurlbut suffered a heart attack and died in Lima, Peru on March 27, 1882.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Stephen Augustus Hurlbut - Facts
  • Coverage November 29, 1815 - March 27, 1882
  • Author
  • Keywords Stephen Augustus Hurlbut
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 31, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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