Major General Nathaniel P. Banks


Major General Nathaniel Prentice Banks was the commander of the Union forces at Port Hudson.  General Banks assumed command of the Army of the Gulf, or the Union XIX Corps, in December, 1862, succeeding General Benjamin Butler.

Banks was born in Waltham, Massachusetts, on January 30, 1816.  He was a politician, not a career Army officer.  He was 47 and had served for twelve years as a Congressman, then as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, then as Governor of his native state of Massachusetts.  His military appointment was in return for his service to the war effort.  His efforts as a commander had previously not been very successful, losing numerous battles against Stonewall Jackson in Virginia in the summer of 1862.

After the surrender of Port Hudson, Banks led his troops in the disastrous Red River campaign, whereupon he was relieved of all nonpolitical duties.

After the war, Banks returned to Congress. A jingoist in foreign policy, he apparently accepted a bribe as his price for supporting the purchase of Alaska. While posing as a champion of labor, he was on the take from businessmen. In 1872, Banks lost the House seat he had held since 1865 when he switched to the Liberal Republicans. He then recanted, was reelected, and waved the "Bloody Shirt" for Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876. Finally overtaken by his reputation as a political chameleon, he failed to win re-nomination in 1878. The rest of his career was spent in comparative obscurity. Banks died in Waltham on September 1, 1894.


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