Portrait of William B. Franklin

On July 10, 1864, Franklin was traveling on a train near Baltimore when Confederate Colonel Harry Gilmore took him prisoner during a raid on the Magnolia Station. Franklin escaped the next night. [Wikimedia Commons]

William Buel Franklin - Facts

February 27, 1823 - March 8, 1903

Key facts about William B. Franklin, commander of the 6th and 19th Army Corps, during the American Civil War.

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Full Name:

  • William Buel Franklin

Birth Date:

  • February 27, 1823

Birth Location:

  • York, Pennsylvania

Parents:

  • Walter S. and Sarah (Buel) Franklin

Education:

  • United States Military Academy (1843)

Occupation:

  • Military officer

Career Summary:

  • Colonel (USA)
  • Brevet Major General (USA)
  • Brigadier General (USVA)

Spouse:

  • Anna L. Clarke (1852)

Place of Death:

  • Hartford, Connecticut

Date of Death:

  • March 8, 1903

Place of Burial:

  • Prospect Hill Cemetery, York, Pennsylvania

Significance:

  • William B. Franklin was the first of six children of Walter S. Franklin and Sarah Buel that included five boys and one girl.
  • William B. Franklin’s father was a lawyer who served as Clerk of the United States House of Representatives from 1833 until his death in 1838.
  • William B. Franklin’s great-grandfather, Samuel Rhoads, was a member of the First Continental Congress.
  • William B. Franklin graduated from the United States Military Academy on July 1, 1843, ranked first in his class 39 cadets.
  • After graduating from the United States Military Academy, William B. Franklin was brevetted to second lieutenant and assigned to the topographical engineers.
  • William B. Franklin performed survey duties on Brigadier General Stephen W. Kearny’s Expedition to South Pass of the Rocky Mountains in 1845.
  • On September 21, 1846, Franklin was promoted to the full rank of second lieutenant.
  • William B. Franklin served under General Zachary Taylor’s command during the Mexican-American War (April 25, 1846 – February 2, 1848).
  • William B. Franklin received a brevet promotion to first lieutenant “for gallant and meritorious service during the Battle of Buena Vista” (February 22–23, 1847).
  • William B. Franklin served as an assistant professor of natural and experimental philosophy at the U.S. Military Academy between 1848 and 1851.
  • William B. Franklin was promoted to first lieutenant on March 3, 1853
  • William B. Franklin was promoted to captain on July 1, 1857.
  • In 1859 William B. Franklin was promoted was selected as the superintending engineer in charge of the extension of the capitol building in Washington, including the construction of the new dome.
  • William B. Franklin was promoted was promoted to the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army and assigned to the 112th U.S. Infantry, on May 14, 1861.
  • William B. Franklin was promoted to brigadier general in the volunteer army on May 18, 1861.
  • William B. Franklin led the 1st brigade of 3rd Division of the Army of Northeastern Virginia into combat at the First Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861).
  • Major General George B. McClellan named William B. Franklin as a division commander in the newly-created Army of the Potomac in September 1861.
  • William B. Franklin commanded the 1st Division of Major General Irvin McDowell’s 1st Corps during the Siege of Yorktown (April 5–May 4, 1862) in the Peninsula Campaign.
  • Major General George B. McClellan issued General Order No. 125, (Army of the Potomac) on May 18, 1862, creating a provisional 6th Corps of the Army of the Potomac, commanded by William B. Franklin.
  • During the Seven Days Battles (June 25–July 1, 1862), William B. Franklin’s Corps played major roles in the Battle of Gaines’ Mill (June 27, 1862) and Battle of Savage’s Station (June 29, 1862).
  • On July 24, 1862, William B. Franklin was brevetted to brigadier general in the regular army “for gallant and meritorious conduct in the battle before Richmond, Virginia,” effective June 30, 1862 (U.S. War Department, General Order No. 87).
  • On August 2, 1862, the War Department issued General Order No. 93 promoting William B. Franklin to the rank of major general, U. S. Volunteers, effective July 4, 1862.
  • William B. Franklin’s delay in relieving the garrison at Harpers Ferry led to the fall of that important federal outpost on September 15, 1862.
  • On November 14, Major General Ambrose Burnside issued General Order No. 184 (Army of the Potomac), which named William B. Franklin as commander of the Left Grand Division, of the Army of the Potomac.
  • On January 23, 1863, Major General Ambrose Burnside asked President Abraham Lincoln to relieve William B. Franklin of his duties with the Army of the Potomac.
  • On January 25, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln drafted General Orders No. 20 (U.S. War Department) announcing that William B. Franklin was being relieved of his duties with the Army of the Potomac.
  • On April 6, 1863, the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War issued a report targeting William B. Franklin as a major cause of the Union defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg.
  • On June 25, 1863, Major General Henry Halleck ordered William B. Franklin to report to New Orleans for duty with the Department of the Gulf, commanded by Major General Nathaniel P. Banks.
  • On August 15, 1863, Major General Nathaniel P. Banks issued Special Orders No. 200 (Department of the Gulf), naming William B. Franklin as commander of the 19th Corps.
  • On August 20, William B. Franklin issued General Orders No. 1 (19th Army Corps), assuming command of the 19th Corps.
  • On September 8, 1863, fewer than 50 Confederate defenders repulsed a contingent of four gunboats, and roughly 6,000 Federal infantrymen commanded by William B. Franklin, as they attempted to subdue Fort Griffin on the Sabine River in Texas.
  • In the spring of 1864, William B. Franklin’s corps spearheaded the Union’s ill-fated Red River Campaign.
  • During the Red River Campaign, William B. Franklin received a wound to his left leg at the decisive Battle of Mansfield (April 8, 1864).
  • On July 10, 1864, Franklin was traveling on a train near Baltimore when Confederate Colonel Harry Gilmore took him prisoner during a raid on the Magnolia Station. Franklin managed to escape the next night.
  • From December 2, 1864, to November 10, 1865, William B. Franklin served as President of the Board for Retiring Disabled Officers, at Wilmington, Delaware.
  • William B. Franklin was brevetted to major general in the U.S. Army, effective March 13, 1865, “for Gallant and Meritorious Services in the Field during the Rebellion.”
  • William B. Franklin resigned from the army on March 15, 1866.
  • Following his military career, William B. Franklin worked for the Colt Firearms Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut, for twenty-three years, from November 15, 1865, to April 1, 1888.
  • In 1872 William B. Franklin declined an opportunity to run for President of the United States as a Democratic candidate.
  • On the morning of March 8, 1903, William B. Franklin peacefully died at his residence in Hartford, Connecticut
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title William Buel Franklin - Facts
  • Coverage February 27, 1823 - March 8, 1903
  • Author
  • Keywords William Buel Franklin
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date August 1, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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