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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Franklin, William Buel

< 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica

FRANKLIN, WILLIAM BUEL (1823-1903), Federal general in the American Civil War, was born at York, Pennsylvania, on the 27th of February 1823. He graduated at West Point, at the head of his class, in 1843, was commissioned in the Engineer Corps, U.S.A., and served with distinction in the Mexican War, receiving the brevet of first lieutenant for his good conduct at Buena Vista, in which action he was on the staff of General Taylor. After the war he was engaged in miscellaneous engineering work, becoming a first lieutenant in 1853 and a captain in 1857. Soon after the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 he was made colonel of a regular infantry regiment, and a few days later brigadier-general of volunteers. He led a brigade in the first battle of Bull Run, and on the organization by McClellan of the Army of the Potomac he received a divisional command. He commanded first a division and then the VI. Corps in the operations before Richmond in 1862, earning the brevet of brigadier-general in the U.S. Army; was promoted major-general, U.S.V., in July 1862; commanded the VI. corps at South Mountain and Antietam; and at Fredericksburg commanded the “Left Grand Division” of two corps (I. and VI.). His part in the last battle led to charges of disobedience and negligence being preferred against him by the commanding general, General. A. E. Burnside, on which the congressional committee on the conduct of the war reported unfavourably to Franklin, largely, it seems, because Burnside's orders to Franklin were not put in evidence. Burnside had issued on the 23rd of January 1863 an order relieving Franklin from duty, and Franklin's only other service in the war was as commander of the XIX. corps in the abortive Red River Expedition of 1864. In this expedition he received a severe wound at the action of Sabine Cross Roads (April 8, 1864), in consequence of which he took no further active part in the war. He served for a time on the retiring board, and was captured by the Confederates on the 11th of July 1864, but escaped the same night. In 1865 he was brevetted major-general in the regular army, and in 1866 he was retired. After the war General Franklin was vice-president of the Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company, was president of the commission to lay out Long Island City, N.Y. (1871-1872), of the commission on the building of the Connecticut state house (1872-1873), and, from 1880 to 1899, of the board of managers of the national home for disabled volunteer soldiers; as a commissioner of the United States to the Paris Exposition of 1889 he was made a grand officer of the Legion of Honour; and he was for a time a director of the Panama railway. He died at Hartford, Connecticut, on the 8th of March 1903. He wrote a pamphlet, The Gatling Gun for Service Ashore and Afloat (1874).

See A Reply of Major-General William B. Franklin to the Report of the Joint Committee of Congress on the Conduct of the War (New York, 1863; 2nd ed., 1867), and Jacob L. Greene, Gen. W. B. Franklin and the Operations of the Left Wing at the Battle of Fredericksburg (Hartford, 1900).