Edwin McMasters Stanton. U.S. Secretary of War during the American Civil War. b. 1814 d. 1869.
Edwin Stanton was born in Ohio and attended Kenyon College but left college before receiving a degree. He was admitted to the bar in 1836. He operated successful law practices in Steubenville, Ohio as well as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By 1856 he became so respected in the field of government law that he was named special counsel to the United States government to handle land disputes arising from the conclusion of the Mexican War.
On December 20, 1860, President James Buchanan appointed Stanton to the post of attorney general. Little more than a month later, he was dismissed from the position by the incoming Lincoln administration. Stanton, a Democrat, had been highly critical of Abraham Lincoln prior to his election and openly suspicious of his motivations. This insured his dismissal from his attorney general post, but Lincoln re-enlisted his services in January, 1862 when he appointed Stanton Secretary of War after the removal of Simon Cameron from the post.
Stanton was brought in for his organizational skills and efficiency. After his appointment, he re-organized the entire war department and changed the prosecution of the war. Close friends with General George B. McClellan, Stanton broke sharply with him after the war department realized McClellan's resistance to move his troops into battle. He dramatically improved the war department's ability to arm and supply troops, and closed its internal working to the press, who could have had their own pup tents set up inside the war department during Simon Cameron's supervision.
Stanton remained at odds with Lincoln throughout his time in office. Despite the undercurrent of animosity, Stanton did not allow personal differences to affect his prosecution of the war. When Lincoln was assasinated, it was Edwin Stanton who was credited with the famous line "Now he belongs to the ages."
Both Edwin Stanton and Clement Vallandigham were at times suspected of involvement in the plot to assasinate Abraham Lincoln. Because of their positions in the administration and known dislike for Lincoln, those who felt John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices needed someone close to the president to carry out their plan were quick to jump in their direction.
Stanton held his position as secretary of war until 1868. He was directly involved in the effort to impeach Andrew Johnson. As a Democrat, his involvement with the radical Republicans in their opposition to Johnson put him in a strange light. The light became so strange that when Andrew Johnson won his impeachment trial, Stanton immediately resigned his position at the end of the trial.
Ulysses S. Grant named Stanton to the Supreme Court in 1869, however Stanton died before he could ever take a seat on the bench.