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McConnel, John L.

Born: 1826-11-11 Jacksonville, Illinois

Died: 1862-XX-XX

John L. McConnel was a lawyer, military officer, author, and one-time candidate for Congress. He received his early education in Jacksonville, Illinois, and showed an interest in writing from a young age. He studied law first with his father, Murray McConnel, then at Transylvania Law School in Lexington, Kentucky. After graduating in 1843 and earning admission to the Illinois bar, he began practicing law in Carrollton, Illinois. He served as a captain in the Mexican War, under Colonel John J. Hardin in the First Regiment of Illinois Volunteers, and was seriously wounded at the Battle of Buena Vista. In 1849, he married Eliza Deniston, with whom he had two children. During 1850 and 1851, he wrote three novels and several short stories, in 1853 he wrote a series of essays that were published in book form as Western Characters; or Types of Border Life in the Western States, and he published additional short stories in 1854 and 1855. He drew heavily upon his experiences as a lawyer and military officer in his writing and was one of the first American-born authors to receive critical acclaim in the eastern United States. While writing his novels, short stories, and essays, he continued practicing law in Jacksonville. In 1858, he made an unsuccessful bid for Congress as a Democrat. By 1860, he was still prosperous, possessing real estate valued at $7,000 as well as a personal estate valued at $3,500. In the days leading up to the election of 1860, he spoke highly of Abraham Lincoln despite their political differences. McConnel died at the age of thirty-five due to complications related to hepatitis and the wounds he received at the Battle of Buena Vista.

John E. Hallwas, "Early Illinois Author John L. McConnel and 'The Ranger's Chase,'" Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 73 (Autumn 1980), 177-83; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Jacksonville, Morgan County, IL, 117; Illinois Journal (Springfield), 29 October 1860, 2:3-4.