The War of the Rebellion produced numerous veterans who went into politics, and they were both from the North and the South. All of the Republican presidents from 1869 to 1901 served in the War of the Rebellion, and all of them relied on endorsements from the Grand Army of the Republic. However, as time passed by, their numbers dwindled as the numbers have for World War II veterans, and by the 1920s there were two left: Senator Francis E. Warren (1844-1929) of Wyoming and Representative Charles M. Stedman (1841-1930) of North Carolina.
Francis E. Warren
During the War of the Rebellion, Warren joined up with the 49th Massachusetts Infantry. At the age of 19 he won the Medal of Honor for disabling Confederate artillery after most of his unit had been killed, he himself having suffered a serious scalp wound in the process. Warren would rise to the rank of captain by the war’s end. Although a Bay Stater by birth and upbringing, he found himself attracted to the West, making significant investments in real estate and livestock and establishing the Wyoming Territory’s electrical grid, which made him quite wealthy. In 1885, Warren was appointed Governor of the Wyoming Territory and in this capacity had to respond to the Rock Springs Massacre, the single worst incident of anti-Chinese violence in American history. His decisive and courageous actions, including requesting the sending of federal troops, prevented more killings, but also employed trickery to ensure that the Union Pacific would continue to have Chinese laborers. Warren denounced the massacre as “the most damnable and brutal outrage that ever occurred in any country”, but a grand jury refused to indict any accused perpetrators (Drake).
In 1890, the state legislature of the newly admitted Wyoming elected Warren as one of its first two senators. The other senator elected was Joseph M. Carey. Although the two men were both Republicans and had cooperated in getting Wyoming admitted as a state, the men were arch-rivals and deeply personally disliked each other. During the currency debates, Warren during the Cleveland Administration sided with the cause of bimetallism, while Carey stuck to supporting gold. This cost the latter reelection.
Warren would proceed to build a political machine that guaranteed him to remain in the Senate as long as he wished. He relentlessly pushed for the construction of federal buildings in Wyoming, and many buildings in Cheyenne, constructed publicly or privately, can be attributed to Warren’s direction or influence. Carey, after losing the Republican nomination for the governorship in 1910, ran an independent campaign and won the Democratic nomination, then won the election.
Progressive Republican Senator Robert La Follette (R-Wis.) identified Warren clearly as a member of the conservative wing of the party, writing “He is the boss of Wyoming, with a powerfully entrenched political machine of the ‘pork barrel’ and ‘patronage’ type. He is one of the high moguls of the Old Guard” (Drake). He was a big supporter of high tariffs, particularly on cattle and wool, and was a fiscal conservative. Warren also supported women’s suffrage and opposed Prohibition. Indeed, on the subject of women Warren had hired Leona Wells for his staff in 1900, the first time a woman was ever employed on a senator’s staff. In 1921, he was one of the few senators to vote against the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Act, a bit of an unusual vote for a politician who voted for suffrage, as opposition to that act and suffrage often went together. Warren had a critical connection, or should I say, General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing had a critical connection to Warren as he had married his daughter, and the senator had a major role in funding the war effort during World War I. served throughout the Harding and Coolidge Administrations, backing their conservative agendas. In early November 1929, Warren developed bronchitis and pneumonia and deteriorated until his death on November 24th. At the time of his death, he had served in the Senate for 37 years, which at the time was a record for service. Warren’s MC-Index score was an 87%.
Charles M. Stedman
At the start of the War of the Rebellion, Stedman enlisted in the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry Company of the Confederate Army, and by the war’s end would rise to the rank of major. He would subsequently practice law and later take some time to get involved in politics, doing so in 1880 as a delegate for the Democratic National Convention. In 1884, he was elected lieutenant governor of North Carolina, serving for four years. Stedman ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1888 but lost. He proceeded to resume practicing law and served as the president of the North Carolina Bar Association from 1900 to 1901. After this, Stedman again ran in the Democratic primary for governor in 1904, but once again lost the nomination.
An opportunity arose for Stedman to return to elected office in 1910 when North Carolina’s 5th district had a vacancy, and he was elected to Congress in the Democratic wave. He proved a staunch supporter of President Woodrow Wilson and voted as a rural-minded progressive, supporting lower tariffs and anti-trust legislation. He was far from the most influential members of Congress but was known for the courtly manners that were regarded as characteristic of the Southern aristocracy and was popular among his colleagues. Among younger members of Congress, Stedman was a subject of great fascination as a historical link to the War of the Rebellion.
In 1923, Stedman proposed a “Mammy Memorial” in Washington D.C. to commemorate black slave women who remained loyal to their masters during the War of the Rebellion. Although this passed the Senate, it was defeated in the House after opposition from civil rights groups and the Grand Army of the Republic. In 1926, Congress celebrated Stedman’s 85th birthday, presenting him with a cake with 85 candles. In 1928, the Republicans made substantial inroads in the South, defeating two incumbents in North Carolina and Stedman was almost a third, winning only by 0.2%. Like Warren, Stedman died in office on September 23, 1930. His lifetime MC-Index score was a 10%.
Drake, K. (2014, November 8). Francis E. Warren: A Massachusetts Farm Boy Who Changed Wyoming.
Glass, A. (2018, September 23). Rep. Charles Manly Stedman dies at age 89, Sept. 23, 1930. Politico.
Last Union Veteran. U.S. Senate.
Warren, Francis. Encyclopedia of the Great Plains.
Williams, M.R. (1994). Stedman, Charles Manley. NCPedia.