Pictorial and Genealogical Record
of Greene County, Missouri

Together with Bibliographies of Prominent Men of Other Portions of the State, Both Living and Dead

HON. FRANCIS PRESTON BLAIR. The gentleman whose name heads this sketch was born at Lexington, Ky., February 19, 1821, a son of Francis P. Blair, by whom he was taken in 1830 to Washington, D. C., in which city young Francis attended the primary and preparatory schools and later entered college at Chapel Hill, N. C., and still later Princeton College, N. J., from which he graduated with high honors at the age of twenty. He then began reading law with Lewis Marshall, of Kentucky, and with his brother, Montgomery Blair, at St. Louis, and completed his legal studies in Transylvania University. After being admitted to the bar he began practicing in St. Louis in 1843, but his health becoming impaired soon after he made a trip across the plains with some traders and trappers, and remained in Colorado (then New Mexico) until the arrival of the force under Gen. Kearney, when he joined the enterprise and served with it in a military capacity. In 1847 he returned with restored health to St. Louis and again opened a law office, and in the same year he was united in marriage to Miss Appoline Alexander, of Woodford County, Ky., and of eight children born to them seven are living. In 1848 his father kindly provided him with a considerable amount of money, but unlike the majority, who obtain money in this manner, he invested it judiciously, and from it and his law practice derived a comfortable competency. He was deeply interested in political matters and soon became a prominent leader of the Free Soil party. At that time it required a good deal of courage to make speeches against slavery on slave soil, but Mr. Blair understood his opponents well and his political adversaries soon found that he could not be put down by threats He became a stanch supporter of Col. Benton in 1849, and in 1852 was elected to the Lower House, from St. Louis on the Benton ticket, and re-elected two years later. In 1856 be was elected to Congress, but in 1858, when running for re-election, he was opposed by J. R. Barrett, who was declared elected. Mr. Blair contested the seat and was decided to be entitled to it, but declined it, and left the question to be decided by the people. In the summer of 1860 the election for the unexpired and full term took place, and Mr. Barrett was elected for the former and Mr. Blair for the latter. In 1860 he was a leading delegate to the Republican National. Convention, at Chicago, and originated the idea of the "Wide Awake" organization, a peculiar feature of the campaign of that year. At the opening of the Civil War, Mr. Blair became captain of the first Federal company enlisted in Missouri, and was unanimously elected colonel of first regiment organized. He first discovered the plan to seize the arsenal at St. Louis, and on his advice Gen. Lyon captured Camp Jackson May 10, 1861, Col. Blair commanding the First Regiment of Volunteers on that occasion. He was the acknowledged leader of the Union party in 1861, and the following year was a candidate for Congress and was awarded the certificate of election, but his seat was successfully contested by his opponents Mr. Knox. He was active in his devotion to the Union cause, and after being appointed brigadier-general he raised a brigade in Missouri and joined Gen. Grant in his operations on the Mississippi and against Vicksburg. He commanded the First Brigade of the Fourth Division, which behaved so gallantly in the unsuccessful attack on Vicksburg in December, 1862, and was conspicuous for the good judgment he displayed until the fall of Vicksburg July 4, 1863. He was soon after promoted to major-general, and from that time on shared in the toils and honors of the grand old Army of the Tennessee until the war closed. Upon the organization of Gen. Sherman's army for the Atlanta campaign in the spring of 1864, Gen. Blair was placed in command of the Seventeenth Army Corps, succeeding Gen. McPherson, who was one of America's finest soldiers, and distinguished himself on the March to the Sea, for in him were imbued all the qualities of a great and chivalrous soldier. Praise of the courage, discipline and enterprise of his corps was the theme, of every tongue, and this was without doubt owing to having been commanded by McPherson and Blair. He was present at the surrender of Gen. Johnston's army, and the practical finish of the war, at Chapel Hill, the place where, as a boy, he first entered college, and was then present as a great military commander. He at once returned to his old home and entered the political arena, and with great spirit and characteristic generosity opposed the disfranchisement of the citizens of Missouri who had taken part in the rebellion against the Union. In 1867 be became one of the commissioners to inspect the work done on the Union Pacific Railroad, which business occupied his time until March, 1869. In 1868 he was the Democratic candidate for Vice-President, with Horatio Seymour, of New York, as candidate for President. In 1870 he was elected to the Lower House of the General Assembly, from St. Louis, and in January, 1871, was elected to the United States Senate to fill the unexpired term of Mr. Drake, who had resigned. In 1872 he supported the Nomination of Mr. Greeley for President, and was very active in the campaign of that year, particularly in Missouri. November 16, 1872, he was stricken with paralysis, and although he rallied somewhat be never entirely recovered from the shock. He was able to take his seat in the Senate in January, 1873, and took part, perhaps injuriously to himself, in its deliberations until the expiration of his term, March 4, 1973. Then began a slow decline, until finally, on the 8th of July, 1875, his brilliant career was closed forever. In his death Missouri lost one of her greatest, wisest and best men. He was a man of great and varied -powers of mind, an expressive and forcible writer, an eloquent, logical and ornate speaker, and was brilliant as a conversationalist. He was of fine and commanding presence and genial in disposition and manner. His honor was above suspicion, and while he entered public life with abundant means, he died comparatively poor. He was the soul of generosity and magnanimity, and yet in political or military strife, he was persistent, courageous and formidable. He had the utmost contempt for danger and morally and -physically was the bravest of men. His knowledge of men, his judgment of affairs, his insight into future events, was the most exceptional and remarkable. He was firm and true to his convictions, and bold, able and judicious -in his advocacy of them. He was not an Abolitionist, but early saw the necessity of Missouri becoming a free State. He was not a fanatic, and supported or opposed public measures at all times from a wide and comprehensive grasp of the situation, and was firm, energetic and immovable, but charitable and just toward his adversaries. He espoused the cause of the Union at the opening of the Rebellion with patriotic fervor, and taken all in all, he was truly great, and his history is an honorable and enduring part of his State and country. He was a professed member of the Presbyterian Church.


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