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Thomas Ewing Jr.

Frontier Lawyer and Civil War General

Ronald D. Smith

Publication Year: 2008

An Ohio family with roots in the South, the Ewings influenced the course of the Midwest for more than fifty years. Patriarch Thomas Ewing, a former Whig senator and cabinet member who made his fortune as a real estate lawyer, raised four major players in the nation’s history—including William Tecumseh “Cump” Sherman, taken into the family as a nine-year-old, who went on to marry his foster sister Ellen. Ronald D. Smith now tells of this extraordinary clan that played a role on the national stage through the illustrious career of one of its sons.
            In Thomas Ewing Jr.: Frontier Lawyer and Civil War General, Smith introduces us to the Ewing family, little known except among scholars of Sherman, to show that Tom Jr. had a remarkable career of his own: first as a real estate lawyer, judge, soldier, and speculator in Kansas, then as a key figure in national politics. Smith takes readers back to Bleeding Kansas, with its border ruffians and land speculators, reconstructing the rough-and-tumble of its courtrooms to demonstrate that its turmoil was as much about claim-jumping as about slavery. He describes the seat-of-the-pants law practice in which Ewing worked with his brothers Hugh and Charlie and foster brother Cump. He then tells how Tom came to national prominence in the fight over the proslavery Lecompton Constitution, was instrumental in starting up the Union Pacific Railroad, and became the first chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court.
Ewing obtained a commission in the Union Army—as did his brothers—and raised a regiment that saw significant action in Arkansas and Missouri. After William Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence, Kansas, he issued the dramatic General Order No. 11 that expelled residents from sections of western Missouri. Then this confidant of Abraham Lincoln’s went on to courageously defend three of the assassination conspirators—including the disingenuous Samuel Mudd—and lobbied the key vote to block the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.
            Smith examines Ewing’s life in meticulous detail, mining family correspondence for informative quotes and digging deep into legal records to portray lawmaking on the frontier. And while Sherman has been the focus of most previous work on the Ewings, this book fills the gaps in an interlocking family of remarkable people—one that helped shape a nation’s development in its courtrooms and business suites. Thomas Ewing Jr.: Frontier Lawyer and Civil War General retells a chapter of Kansas history and opens up a panoramic view of antebellum America, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Gilded Age.

Published by: University of Missouri Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9

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pp. ix-xi

The Kansas legislature sometimes pays lip service to teaching Kansas history in the schools of the Sunflower State. It is a feel-good issue for lawmakers who are frustrated on the other important but unresolved issues of the day. Some students might have heard ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

A work of this sort requires considerable support from people other than the author. I am indebted to many, and especially the staff at the University of Missouri Press whose encouragement to this neophyte writer was most helpful. I am most assuredly ...


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pp. xv-xvi

Part One: Hardscrabble

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1. The Judgment of Heaven on a Country

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pp. 3-19

Scottish-born Thomas Ewing, the first of several Thomas Ewings of America, settled in Greenwich, New Jersey, just before the Revolutionary War. Although Ewing’s ancestry was traceable to Cadet Finley Colquhoun, an Orangeman allied with ...

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2. Le Grand Détour

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pp. 20-65

French explorers were the first to navigate the river that divides the state of Missouri and gives the state its name. In 1804 Lewis and Clark mapped the river area of northwest Missouri as they moved northwest on their “Voyage of Discovery.” They passed through ...

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3. Mortgages, Press Books, and Office Boys

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pp. 66-98

After providing the ammunition that Douglas and Congress could use to reject the Lecompton Constitution, Tom went back to Kansas, where he returned to pursuit of his fortune mixed in with the fallout from his participation in the failure of the Lecompton ...

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4. Mr. Chief Justice and a Man Named Lincoln

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pp. 99-140

On October 10, 1859, John Brown and eighteen other men fought their way into a musty federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Hoping to provoke a slave uprising, they took hostages and fought for a day to hold off a local militia ...

Part Two: They'd as Soon Fight the Devil as to Fight Kansas Men

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5. A World Was Watching

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pp. 143-159

When Lincoln’s first call went out to the states for seventy-five thousand troops to suppress the rebellion, the federal government had never before raised an army of that size for any military purpose, including its wars with Great Britain or Mexico. The costs, initially borne ...

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6. Ewing's Light Artillery

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pp. 160-185

In the spring of 1862, with the casualty lists from Shiloh dominating the war news, action in Congress for the transcontinental railroad was almost forgotten. Congress ratified the Pottawatomie treaty for the LP&W. The railroad had not laid a single rail of track yet, but by ...

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7. Exterminate Them, Root and Branch

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pp. 186-211

No two men were less alike than Abraham Lincoln and James H. Lane. Lincoln was self-educated and had mastered the law enough to make a comfortable prewar living as a lawyer. He was a family man, erudite, virtuous, and at least among friends considered ...

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8. The Visible Interposition of God

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pp. 212-226

After Antietam, having had as much of Eliakim P. Scammon and Jacob Cox as he could stomach, Hugh Ewing asked for a transfer to the Western theater. Having met success in the East but also frustration with the psychology McClellan had instilled in the ...

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9. Thermopylae of the West

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pp. 227-255

The morning of Sunday, June 26, 1864, dawned quietly. In northern Georgia, two armies were catching their breath near Kennesaw Mountain, sensing that something big awaited them in the morning’s sweltering heat. Sergeant Nixon Stewart of the Fifty-Second ...

Part Three: The Politics of Money

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10. Dr. Mudd's Trial and Widow Adie's Cotton

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pp. 259-279

On April 14, 1865, Good Friday, four years to the day after the war began, the flamboyant John Wilkes Booth accomplished what the mercurial William Quantrill had only schemed to do. At Ford’s Theater the actor entered the president’s box while the ...

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11. The Gathering of Evil Birds

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pp. 280-313

At the center of any discussion of Reconstruction are the questions posed by Frederick Douglass. Was the enormous war fought so heroically by so many Americans to have no value to liberty or civilization? Would those who fought to preserve slavery in the South be given status in the ...

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12. The Crédit Mobilier and “His Fraudulency”

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pp. 314-328

At precisely noon on March 4, 1869, the greatest American soldier of the century stepped forward on the east portico of the Capitol and repeated the presidential oath of office. Ulysses S. Grant was about to begin a job he had been thrust into, not one he had pursued ...

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13. Sweaty Old Coins and Last Hurrahs

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pp. 329-344

During the early 1870s, in addition to his progression from moderate Republican to greenback Democrat, Tom Ewing tried to find his stride as an investor. Doing well in business had several advantages other than just making money. He had built ...


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pp. 345-357


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pp. 359-377

E-ISBN-13: 9780826266668
E-ISBN-10: 0826266665
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826218063
Print-ISBN-10: 0826218067

Page Count: 395
Illustrations: illus
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: 1