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Robert C. Schenck

Robert C. Schenck

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Robert Cumming Schenck (October 4, 1809 – March 23, 1890) was a Union Army
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 general in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, and American diplomatic representative to Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 and the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. He was at both battles of Bull Run
Battle of Bull Run
Two conflicts during the American Civil War were known as Battle of Bull Run or Battle of Manassas:*First Battle of Bull Run - 1861*Second Battle of Bull Run - 1862Geographical Location of these conflicts:*Manassas National Battlefield Park‎...

 and took part in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign
Valley Campaign
Jackson's Valley Campaign was Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's famous spring 1862 campaign through the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia during the American Civil War...

 of 1862, and the Battle of Cross Keys
Battle of Cross Keys
The Battle of Cross Keys was fought on June 8, 1862, in Rockingham County, Virginia, as part of Confederate Army Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's campaign through the Shenandoah Valley during the American Civil War...

. His eldest brother, James Findlay Schenck
James F. Schenck
James Findlay Schenck was a rear admiral in the United States Navy who served in the Mexican–American War and the American Civil War.-Biography:...

, was rear admiral
Rear admiral (United States)
Rear admiral is a naval commissioned officer rank above that of a commodore and captain, and below that of a vice admiral. The uniformed services of the United States are unique in having two grades of rear admirals.- Rear admiral :...

 of the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

.

Early life and career


Schenck was born in Franklin
Franklin, Ohio
Not to be confused with Franklin County, Ohio.Franklin is a city in Warren County, Ohio, United States. The population was 11,771 at the 2010 census.-History:...

, Warren County, Ohio
Warren County, Ohio
Warren County is a county located in the state of Ohio, United States. The population was 212,693 at the 2010 census. Its county seat is Lebanon. Warren County was erected May 1, 1803, from Hamilton County, and named for Dr...

 to William Cortenius Schenck (1773–1821) and Elizabeth Rogers (1776–1853). William Schenck was descended from a prominent Dutch family and was born in Monmouth County, New Jersey
Monmouth County, New Jersey
Monmouth County is a county located in the U.S. state of New Jersey, within the New York metropolitan area. As of the 2010 Census, the population was 630,380, up from 615,301 at the 2000 census. Its county seat is Freehold Borough. The most populous municipality is Middletown Township with...

. William Schenck was a land speculator and an important early settler of Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

 who had also been in the War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

 and, like his son, rose to the rank of general. He died when Robert was only twelve and the boy was put under the guardianship of General James Findlay
James Findlay (Cincinnati mayor)
James Findlay was a soldier, political official, and merchant who for decades was one of the leading citizens of Cincinnati, Ohio....

.

In 1824, Robert Schenck entered Miami University
Miami University
Miami University is a coeducational public research university located in Oxford, Ohio, United States. Founded in 1809, it is the 10th oldest public university in the United States and the second oldest university in Ohio, founded four years after Ohio University. In its 2012 edition, U.S...

 as a sophomore and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree with honors in 1827, but remained in Oxford, Ohio, employing his time in reading, and as tutor
Tutor
A tutor is a person employed in the education of others, either individually or in groups. To tutor is to perform the functions of a tutor.-Teaching assistance:...

 of French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 and Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, until 1830, when he received the degree of Master of Arts
Master of Arts (postgraduate)
A Master of Arts from the Latin Magister Artium, is a type of Master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The M.A. is usually contrasted with the M.S. or M.Sc. degrees...

.

He began to study law under Thomas Corwin
Thomas Corwin
Thomas Corwin , also known as Tom Corwin and The Wagon Boy, was a politician from the state of Ohio who served as a prosecuting attorney, a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Senate, and as the 15th Governor of Ohio 20th...

 and was admitted to the bar in 1831. He moved to Dayton, Ohio
Dayton, Ohio
Dayton is the 6th largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Montgomery County, the fifth most populous county in the state. The population was 141,527 at the 2010 census. The Dayton Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 841,502 in the 2010 census...

 and there rose to a commanding position in his profession. He was in partnership with Joseph Halsey Crane
Joseph Halsey Crane
Joseph Halsey Crane was an attorney, soldier, jurist, and legislator. He was born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey He was the son of General Wiliam Crane and Abigail Crane and the grandson of Stephen Crane, member of the First Continental Congress, his brother was Colonel Ichabod B. Crane...

 in the firm of Crane and Schenck for many years.

On August 21, 1834, Schenck was married to Miss Renelsche W. Smith (1811–1849) at Missequoque, Long Island, New York. Six children were born to the union, all girls. Three of them died in infancy. Three daughters survived him. His wife died of tuberculosis in 1849 in Dayton, Ohio
Dayton, Ohio
Dayton is the 6th largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Montgomery County, the fifth most populous county in the state. The population was 141,527 at the 2010 census. The Dayton Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 841,502 in the 2010 census...

.

His first foray into political life came in 1838 when he ran unsuccessfully for the State Legislature; he gained a term in 1841. In the Presidential campaign of 1840, he acquired the reputation of being one of the ablest speakers on the Whig
Whig Party (United States)
The Whig Party was a political party of the United States during the era of Jacksonian democracy. Considered integral to the Second Party System and operating from the early 1830s to the mid-1850s, the party was formed in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson and his Democratic...

 side. He was elected to the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 from his district in 1843, and re-elected in 1845, 1847 (when he was chairman of the Committee on Roads and Canals) and 1849. His first conspicuous work was to help repeal the gag rule that had long been used to prevent antislavery petitions being read on the floor of the house. He opposed the Mexican-American War as a war of aggression to further slavery.

He declined re-election in 1851, and, in March 1851, was appointed by President Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore was the 13th President of the United States and the last member of the Whig Party to hold the office of president...

, Minister to Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 and also accredited to Uruguay
Uruguay
Uruguay ,officially the Oriental Republic of Uruguay,sometimes the Eastern Republic of Uruguay; ) is a country in the southeastern part of South America. It is home to some 3.5 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area...

, Argentine Confederation
Argentine Confederation
The Argentine Confederation is one of the official names of Argentina, according to the Argentine Constitution, Article 35...

, and Paraguay
Paraguay
Paraguay , officially the Republic of Paraguay , is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the...

. He was directed by the Government to visit Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, and the second-largest metropolitan area in South America, after São Paulo. It is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the southeastern coast of the South American continent...

, Montevideo
Montevideo
Montevideo is the largest city, the capital, and the chief port of Uruguay. The settlement was established in 1726 by Bruno Mauricio de Zabala, as a strategic move amidst a Spanish-Portuguese dispute over the platine region, and as a counter to the Portuguese colony at Colonia del Sacramento...

, and Asunción
Asunción
Asunción is the capital and largest city of Paraguay.The "Ciudad de Asunción" is an autonomous capital district not part of any department. The metropolitan area, called Gran Asunción, includes the cities of San Lorenzo, Fernando de la Mora, Lambaré, Luque, Mariano Roque Alonso, Ñemby, San...

, and make treaties with the republics around the La Plata
La Plata
La Plata is the capital city of the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and of La Plata partido. According to the , the city proper has a population of 574,369 and its metropolitan area has 694,253 inhabitants....

 and its tributaries. Several treaties were concluded with these governments by which the United States gained advantages never accorded to any European nation. The Democratic victory in 1852 caused the treaty of commerce with Uruguay to fail to be ratified by the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

.

In 1854, Schenck returned to Ohio, and though sympathizing generally in the views of the Republican party
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

, his personal antipathy to John C. Fremont
John C. Frémont
John Charles Frémont , was an American military officer, explorer, and the first candidate of the anti-slavery Republican Party for the office of President of the United States. During the 1840s, that era's penny press accorded Frémont the sobriquet The Pathfinder...

 was so strong, that he took no part in the election. He was building up a lucrative law practice, and was also President of the Fort Wayne Western Railroad Company. He became more in sympathy with the Republican party, and, in September 1859, Schenck delivered a speech in Dayton regarding the growing animosity within the country. In this speech, Schenck recommended that the Republican Party nominate Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 for the presidency.

This was, perhaps, the first public endorsement of Lincoln for the presidency. He supported Lincoln with great ardor at the Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

 Convention
Political convention
In politics, a political convention is a meeting of a political party, typically to select party candidates.In the United States, a political convention usually refers to a presidential nominating convention, but it can also refer to state, county, or congressional district nominating conventions...

 in 1860 and in the campaign that followed.

Civil War


When the attack was made on Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter is a Third System masonry coastal fortification located in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The fort is best known as the site upon which the shots initiating the American Civil War were fired, at the Battle of Fort Sumter.- Construction :...

, Schenck promptly tendered his services to the President. He later recalled his meeting with Lincoln:

"Lincoln sent for me and asked, 'Schenck what can you do to help me?' I said, 'Anything you want me to do. I am anxious to help you.' He asked, 'Can you fight?' I answered, 'I would try.' Lincoln said, 'Well, I want to make a general out of you.' I replied, 'I don't know about that Mr. President, you could appoint me as general but I might not prove to be one.' Then he did so and I went to war."

Schenck was commissioned Brigadier-General of Volunteers. Many West Point graduates sneered at political generals. Schenck had not been a military man, but he had been a diligent student of military science. In his first engagement on June 17, 1861, a reconnaissance by railroad cars, his troops were fired upon and several wounded as they approached the town of Vienna, Virginia
Vienna, Virginia
Vienna is a town in Fairfax County, Virginia, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, it had a population of 15,687. Significantly more people live in zip codes with the Vienna postal addresses bordered approximately by Interstate 66 on the south, Interstate 495 on the east, Route 7 to...

. General Schenck disembarked his soldiers and attacked the enemy. The engineer ran off with the train, and left his little handful of men at the mercy of four or five times their number. But the enemy believed these troops the advance-guard of a large force, and they ran, instead of capturing the Union troops. General Scott's subsequent investigation into what had become known as "the Vienna affair," found it highly creditable to General Schenck, except the railroad part, which was attributed to General Daniel Tyler
Daniel Tyler
Daniel Tyler was an iron manufacturer, railroad president, and one of the first generals of the American Civil War.-Biography:...

 (a West Point officer). Nevertheless, the affair was used to discredit Schenck.

General Schenck's next appearance was at the First Battle of Bull Run
First Battle of Bull Run
First Battle of Bull Run, also known as First Manassas , was fought on July 21, 1861, in Prince William County, Virginia, near the City of Manassas...

, July 21, 1861, where he commanded a brigade in Gen. Daniel Tyler
Daniel Tyler
Daniel Tyler was an iron manufacturer, railroad president, and one of the first generals of the American Civil War.-Biography:...

's division, and when the order for retreat was given, Gen. Schenck, forming his brigade, brought off the only portion of that great army that was not resolved into the original elements of a mob. He was subsequently in command under William Rosecrans
William Rosecrans
William Starke Rosecrans was an inventor, coal-oil company executive, diplomat, politician, and United States Army officer. He gained fame for his role as a Union general during the American Civil War...

 in West Virginia, and under John C. Fremont
John C. Frémont
John Charles Frémont , was an American military officer, explorer, and the first candidate of the anti-slavery Republican Party for the office of President of the United States. During the 1840s, that era's penny press accorded Frémont the sobriquet The Pathfinder...

 in the Luray Valley. He took part in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862, the Battle of Cross Keys
Battle of Cross Keys
The Battle of Cross Keys was fought on June 8, 1862, in Rockingham County, Virginia, as part of Confederate Army Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's campaign through the Shenandoah Valley during the American Civil War...

 and was, for a time, commander of the First Army Corps, in General Franz Sigel
Franz Sigel
Franz Sigel was a German military officer, revolutionist and immigrant to the United States who was a teacher, newspaperman, politician, and served as a Union major general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

's absence. Ordered to join the Army of Virginia
Army of Virginia
The Army of Virginia was organized as a major unit of the Union Army and operated briefly and unsuccessfully in 1862 in the American Civil War. It should not be confused with its principal opponent, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by Robert E...

, then under General John Pope
John Pope
John Pope is the name of:*John Pope , U.S. soldier, traveler, and author*John Pope , U.S. politician, senator for Kentucky, and governor of Arkansas Territory...

, fighting at heavy odds against Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

's large army, he joined it just before the second Bull Run battle, and was in the thick of the fighting of the two days that followed, being severely wounded on the second day, and his right arm permanently injured. He was promoted to major general
Major general (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Air Force, major general is a two-star general-officer rank, with the pay grade of O-8. Major general ranks above brigadier general and below lieutenant general...

 September 18, 1862 postdated from August 30, 1862.

He was unfit for field duty for six months, but was assigned to the command of the Middle Military Department, embracing the turbulent citizens of Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

, repressing all turbulence and acts of disloyalty or any complicity with treason. General Schenck was not popular with the disloyal portion of the inhabitants of Maryland. In December 1863, he resigned his commission
Officer (armed forces)
An officer is a member of an armed force or uniformed service who holds a position of authority. Commissioned officers derive authority directly from a sovereign power and, as such, hold a commission charging them with the duties and responsibilities of a specific office or position...

 to take his seat in Congress.

Postbellum activities




He had been elected by a large majority over Copperhead
Copperheads (politics)
The Copperheads were a vocal group of Democrats in the Northern United States who opposed the American Civil War, wanting an immediate peace settlement with the Confederates. Republicans started calling anti-war Democrats "Copperheads," likening them to the venomous snake...

 Democrat Clement Vallandigham
Clement Vallandigham
Clement Laird Vallandigham was an Ohio resident of the Copperhead faction of anti-war Democrats during the American Civil War. He served two terms in the United States House of Representatives.-Biography:...

, from the Third Congressional District (Dayton) of Ohio. He was at once made House Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs. It was said that in military matters he was the firm friend of the volunteer, as against what he thought the encroachments and assumptions of the regulars; the remorseless enemy of deserters; a vigorous advocate of the draft, and the author of the disfranchisement of those who ran away from it; the champion of the private soldiers and subordinate officers. He was re-elected to the Thirty-Eighth, Thirty-Ninth, Fortieth and Forty-First Congresses, and from his position was a leader of the House, including service as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Failing re-election by just fifty-three votes in 1870, Schenck was appointed by President Ulysses Grant as Minister to the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, and he sailed for England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 in July 1871. As a member on the Alabama Claims
Alabama Claims
The Alabama Claims were a series of claims for damages by the United States government against the government of Great Britain for the assistance given to the Confederate cause during the American Civil War. After international arbitration endorsed the American position in 1872, Britain settled...

 Commission, he took part in settling the claims arising from the exploits of Raphael Semmes
Raphael Semmes
For other uses, see Semmes .Raphael Semmes was an officer in the United States Navy from 1826 - 1860 and the Confederate States Navy from 1860 - 1865. During the American Civil War he was captain of the famous commerce raider CSS Alabama, taking a record sixty-nine prizes...

 and his Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 raider.

At a royal party in Somerset
Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

, Ambassador Schenck was attending a reception hosted by Queen Victoria, when he was persuaded to write down his rules for poker
Poker
Poker is a family of card games that share betting rules and usually hand rankings. Poker games differ in how the cards are dealt, how hands may be formed, whether the high or low hand wins the pot in a showdown , limits on bet sizes, and how many rounds of betting are allowed.In most modern poker...

 by a duchess. She privately printed the rules for her court. Although several American books had previously discussed the game, this was the first book to deal solely with draw poker published on either side of the Atlantic. The game quickly became popular in England, where it was universally known as "Schenck's poker."

In October 1871, Schenk was bribed into using his name for the use of his name in the sale of stock in England for the Emma Silver Mine
Emma Silver Mine
The Emma Silver Mine is a currently inactive silver mine near Alta, Utah, in the United States. The mine is most famous for an attempt in 1871 by two American business promoters, including Senator William M. Stewart and James E. Lyon, to make a profit by promoting the depleted silver mine to...

, near Alta, Utah
Alta, Utah
Alta is a town in Salt Lake County, Utah, United States. It is part of the Salt Lake City, Utah Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 370 at the 2000 census, a slight decrease from the 1990 figure of 397....

, and became a director of the mining company. Seeing the American minister's name connected with it, British people invested heavily. The Emma mine paid large dividends for a brief time while company insiders sold their shares, but then share prices crashed when it was learned that the mine was exhausted. Schenck was blamed and was ordered home for investigation. He resigned his post in the spring of 1875. A congressional investigation in March 1876 concluded that he was not guilty of wrong-doing but that he had shown very bad judgment in lending his name and office to promote any such scheme.http://www.miningswindles.com/html/emma_mine.html

Upon his return from England later that year, he resumed his law practice in Washington, D.C. He also published a book on draw poker, Draw. Rules for Playing Poker (Brooklyn: Privately printed, 1880. 16mo, 17 pages)

He died in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, in 1890, aged 80, and was interred in Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio
Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio
Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum , located at 118 Woodland Avenue, Dayton, Ohio, is one of the oldest "garden" cemeteries in the United States....

.

General Schenck was an accomplished scholar, thoroughly informed on international and constitutional law, well versed in political history, and familiar with the whole range of modern literature, English, French and Spanish.

See also


  • List of American Civil War generals

External links