William W. Belknap
William Worth Belknap (September 22, 1829 – October 12, 1890) was a United States Army Major General, government administrator in Iowa, and United States Secretary of War. Although Belknap served with distinction in the Civil War, his tenure as President Grant's Secretary of War was controversial, for having indirectly sold weapons to France and for accepting illicit kickbacks in exchange for making a tradership appointment. The latter led to his resignation, impeachment by the House, and trial in the Senate during the summer of 1876. Sec. Belknap requisitioned portrait paintings by various artists for previous Secretaries of War to be displayed in honor of the United States Centennial. Sec. Belknap aided Chicago Fire victims in 1871 and pardoned James Webster Smith, America's first African American cadet at West Point. During the Reconstruction Era, Belknap's War Department and the U.S. military worked under supervision of President Ulysses S. Grant and the U.S. Attorney General's office to vigorously enforce the mandates of this policy upon the defeated South. Southern Reconstruction, according to most historians, ultimately ended in failure for both blacks and whites alike.
Belknap, a native of New York, graduated from Princeton college in 1848, studied law at Georgetown University, and passed the bar in 1851. Belknap moved to Iowa and started a law practice and partnership. Belknap entered politics as a Democrat and was elected Representative in Iowa legislature in 1857. When the Civil War broke out in spring 1861, Belknap joined Union Army and was eventually promoted Brevet Maj. General in 1865 for his gallantry during Maj. Gen. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign earlier in 1864. In hand to hand combat at Atlanta, Belknap crossed an entrenchment, captured the Confederate commander, and physically dragged him over to the Union side. Belknap was appointed Iowa Collector of Internal Revenue by President Andrew Johnson and served four years. In 1869, President Grant appointed Belknap Secretary of War.
Belknap was the only former Cabinet secretary ever to have been impeached by the House of Representatives. A Congressional investigation in 1876 revealed that Belknap had received kickback payments in return for a lucrative contract. Starting in 1870, Belknap and two successive wives had taken quarterly payments for the award of a Fort Sill "tradership" position, immediately after Belknap had been given sole authority to appoint post-traderships by Congress. Belknap resigned his position as Secretary of War shortly before being impeached by the House. President Grant had accepted his resignation before the House voted on Belknap's impeachment, later that same day. Belknap was tried in the Senate, but was acquitted when the vote for conviction failed to achieve the required two-thirds majority. A significant number of Senators believed that the Senate did not have jurisdiction to put a private citizen on trial. Belknap, with his reputation damaged, returned to his law practice until his death in 1890. Historians have debated how much Belknap's second and third wives influenced Belknap into accepting Fort Sill profit money from appointed sutler Caleb P. Marsh.
Read more about William W. Belknap: Early Life and Career, Marriage and Family, American War Between The States, Iowa Collector of Internal Revenue, Secretary of War, Senate Trial and Acquittal, Washington D.C. Indictment, Later Career, Death, Burial, and Memorial