One-tank road trips: Arlington National Cemetery – Part 5
William W. Belknap had a star-crossed and controversial life. He is perhaps best known for his role in his friend Ulysses S. Grant’s administration when he became the only Cabinet member to ever be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. Belknap was born in Newburgh, New York, a scenic town along the Hudson River in upstate New York. He graduated from Princeton and then studied law at Georgetown. He moved to Iowa, established a thriving legal practice, and became active in state politics. During the Civil War, he became colonel of the 15th Iowa Infantry and fought at Shiloh and in the Vicksburg Campaign. He rose to command a division as a major general and served under William T. Sherman in the March to the Sea and the Carolinas Campaign. After a stint in the IRS, he became Grant’s Secretary of War, but was unanimously impeached by the House for allegedly accepting bribes in exchange for political appointments to Western trading posts. He resigned his Cabinet position before the Senate voted. He resumed his law practice and died in 1890.
William Denison Whipple was born in Nelson, New York, in 1826. He graduated from West Point in 1851 near the bottom of his class. He served on the frontier in New Mexico Territory and Texas before coming East when Texas seceded. He was a staff officer at the First Battle of Bull Run, and then remained in administrative posts throughout the war, ending it as a brevet major general. From 1878 until his retirement in 1890 he was Adjutant General of the Division of the Missouri, Division of the Atlantic and Department of the East. He thereafter lived in New York City, where he died on April 1, 1902.
John Lincoln Clem (born John Joseph Klem near Newark, Ohio, in 1851) is remembered as the ‘Drummer Boy of Chickamauga,” and for being the youngest non-commissioned officer in U.S. Army history. He was immortalized in the 1960s Walt Disney classic movie “Johnny Shiloh,” in which his reputed exploits were exaggerated but gave him iconic status with a generation of American boys. The real Clem shot and captured a Confederate colonel at Chickamauga, a feat that garnered him a promotion to sergeant. He was wounded twice in combat and discharged in 1864. He returned home and graduated from school. After unsuccessfully trying to get a West Point appointment, Clem received a commission as a lieutenant at the behest of President Grant. He retired as a colonel and was granted a brevet rank as a major general by a special act of Congress upon his retirement in 1916.
Matthew Brady photograph of young John Clem. Library of Congress.
James Porter Martin was a staff officer throughout much of the Civil War, but was commended for his bravery in action at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. A native of Louisville, Kentucky, he graduated from West Point in 1860 as the war loomed and served initially in the 6th U.S. Infantry. He fought in the Peninsula Campaign and Maryland Campaigns. After the war, he remained on General Meade’s staff during Reconstruction.