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In 1860, Galena, Ill., was a populous river town. Nestled in the northwest corner of the state, Galena owed its fortunes to local lead mines—the name “Galena” itself is Latin for lead sulfide. Galena was officially chartered in 1841, when the community already boasted 2,225 residents. By its peak lead ore production in 1846, Galena produced more than 80 percent of the nation’s total.

During these boom years, businessman Jesse Root Grant opened a leather goods store in Galena, employing two of his younger sons to manage it. His oldest son Ulysses, destined to be Galena’s most famous resident, arrived from St. Louis to join them in 1860. By then, Galena’s early prosperity had ebbed. But in the intervening years, the city’s population had swollen to nearly 12,000.

The connections Ulysses S. Grant made in Galena helped propel his career when he rejoined the Army in 1861, and he in turn helped secure the advancement of other local men, several of whom served on his staff. In all, nine Galena men would rank as generals during, or as a result of, their service in the Civil War—many because of their association with Grant. Of the nine, Grant alone had been a Regular Army officer. The rest included merchants, an attorney, a bureaucrat, an engineer and a jeweler.

Today, Galena is a popular tourist destination with a population of about 3,500; its connection to all those generals is part of the draw. Grant and the others would still recognize their old haunts—85 percent of the city’s buildings lie within its historic district.

Ulysses S. Grant


Trained at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Grant had proven himself a fine soldier—but a long separation from his family and issues with his commander had compelled him to leave his post in California and resign from the Army in 1854. He happily rejoined his family, but endured a series of financial setbacks. Finally Grant’s father offered the future general and president a job as a clerk in the leather goods store he owned in Galena. Grant arrived in 1860, rented a small home for his family and went to work. When President Lincoln called for troops in 1861, Galena officials tapped him to train local recruits from Jo Daviess County.

Ely S. Parker


Ely Parker, a full-blooded Native American of the Seneca tribe, overcame discrimination to find success as a civil engineer, military officer and civil servant. Born in New York, Parker studied law but was denied a legal career because he was not considered a U.S. citizen. He became an engineer instead, assigned to a number of government projects—including construction of the customs house in Galena. There he met Grant, who, during the war, helped Parker get a commission as an engineer. Parker eventually became Grant’s adjutant, and was the officer who recorded surrender terms at Appomattox. He later served as commissioner of Indian Affairs in President Grant’s first administration.

John A. Rawlins


The military career of Galena attorney John A. Rawlins was directly tied to the fortunes of General Grant. Joining Grant’s staff as a lieutenant and aide-de-camp, Rawlins fought at Belmont, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Shiloh and the Vicksburg, Overland, Petersburg and Appomattox campaigns. Rawlins was regularly promoted, reaching the rank of brigadier general of volunteers August 11, 1863, and brigadier general and chief of staff in the Regular Army on March 3, 1865.

Rawlins had been a Douglas Democrat in 1860, but that didn’t keep him from supporting the war effort or serving as secretary of war in President Grant’s first Republican administration. Many credit Rawlins with limiting Grant’s access to alcohol during the war, though what role he played—and how much Grant actually drank—remains a topic of debate. What is certain is that Rawlins proved a faithful friend, serving in Grant’s Cabinet until his early death from tuberculosis in 1869.

Jasper A. Maltby


Jasper Maltby served in the Mexican War and was wounded at Chapultepec. A gunsmith in Galena before the Civil War, he joined the 45th Illinois as a lieutenant colonel in December 1861. His performance at Vicksburg got him promoted to brigadier general, and he remained in Vicksburg until he died in 1867.

John E. Smith


Born in Switzerland, Smith was raised in Philadelphia and was a jeweler before arriving in Galena. He enlisted in summer 1861 and was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers in November 1862 and saw action throughout the West—including the March to the Sea. He continued his military career until 1881.

John C. Smith


John Corson Smith was born in Philadelphia and became an accomplished builder in Galena before the war. Smith was steadily promoted, cited for gallantry at Chickamauga, wounded at Kennesaw Mountain and breveted brigadier general after the war. A noted Freemason, he later held several state offices.

John O. Duer


Of Galena’s generals, John Oliver Duer spent the least time there. Born in Baltimore, he arrived in Galena in 1860 and enlisted in the 45th Illinois in 1861. Frequently promoted, he was breveted a brigadier general in July 1865. He returned briefly, got married, then became a successful merchant in Monticello, Iowa.

William R. Rowley


A former teacher and local official, Rowley joined Grant’s staff after Donelson and was promoted to major for his service at Shiloh. Illness forced him to resign as Grant’s military secretary in August 1864, but Grant had him breveted brigadier general of volunteers in 1865. He later became a county judge.

Augustus J. Chetlain


Like John Rawlins, Augustus Chetlain owed much of his military career to Grant, who recommended him for a captaincy early in the war. But unlike Grant, St. Louis–born Chetlain had been a successful businessman in Galena before hostilities broke out. Chetlain achieved the rank of brigadier general of volunteers in December 1863 and was tasked with raising black troops in Kentucky and Tennessee. Brevetted a major general for war service, he became a civil servant and diplomat after the war.


Originally published in the July 2012 issue of America’s Civil War. To subscribe, click here.