Oglesby, Richard J.

Born: 1824-07-25 Kentucky

Died: 1899-04-24 Elkhart, Illinois

Richard J. Oglesby, attorney and politician, was orphaned in a cholera epidemic in 1833, after which his uncle took him to live with relatives who settled in Decatur, Illinois in 1836. He read law in 1845 and qualified at the bar that same year, practicing first in Sullivan, Illinois, then in Decatur. He served as a first lieutenant in the Fourth Illinois Infantry Regiment during the Mexican War and afterwards joined the gold rush to California, where he obtained $5,000 in gold. Oglesby returned to Decatur to practice law and to speculate in real estate. A Republican in politics, he ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1858, but was elected to the Illinois Senate two years later. At the outset of the Civil War, Oglesby resigned his state senate seat and organized the Eight Illinois Infantry Regiment and served as the unit’s colonel. He was made a brigadier general of volunteers in 1862, and promoted to major general later that same year, serving until 1864. Oglesby visited Abraham Lincoln in Washington, DC on April 14, 1865, and was among those at Lincoln’s deathbed. After helping to convince Mary Lincoln to return her husband’s body to Springfield, Illinois, Oglesby became president of the Lincoln National Monument Association. Oglesby served as governor of Illinois from 1865-69. In 1860, he owned real property valued at $12,000 and personal property valued at $2,000. Oglesby married Anna Elizabeth White in 1859 and Emma Gillett Keays in 1873; each of his marriages produced four children.

Mark A. Plummer, “Oglesby, Richard James,” American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 16:641-42; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Ward 2, Decatur, Macon County, IL, 40; Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1903), 1:757; The Chicago Daily Tribune (IL), 25 April 1899, 1:7, 2:1-2, 3:2-4.