Well known for his military as well as his governmental service, AMBROSE EVERETT BURNSIDE was born in Liberty, Indiana. He apprenticed to a tailor, becoming an expert tailor himself before entering West Point. He graduated in 1847 as Lieutenant of Artillery and resigned from military service in 1853. He went on to manufacture a rifle that he had invented and then moved to Illinois, where he became Treasurer of the Illinois Central Railroad company. He reentered the military during the Civil War as Colonel of the First Regiment, Rhode Island Detached Militia, distinguishing himself at the first Battle of Bull Run. Winning a promotion to Brigadier-General of Volunteers, he led the celebrated Burnside Expedition to North Carolina, following which he was promoted once more to Major-General of Volunteers. That same year he commanded the left wing of the Union Army at the Battle of Antietam and then assumed command of the Army of the Potomac for a number of months, during which time his troops suffered defeat by General Robert E. Lee. He was then transferred to command of the Department of the Ohio. Burnside was nominated for governor by the Republican Party in 1866, winning election that year and reelection for the following two years. As governor, he obtained prompt payment of Rhode Island’s war claims and focused attention on the state’s volunteer Militia. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1874 and died one year after his reelection in 1880.
The American Civil War
Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress
Mohr, Ralph S. Governors for Three Hundred Years (1638-1954): Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.State of Rhode Island, Graves Registration Committee, August 1954.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.