BORN: 1816 in Waltham, MA.
DIED: 1894 in Waltham, MA.
CAMPAIGNS: Cedar Mountain and Red River.
Nathaniel Prentiss Banks was born on January 30, 1816, in Waltham, Massachusetts. He became a self-made success, rising from poverty to take a leadership role in the Democratic Party. Banks left the party because of opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and joined the new Republican Party. In 1858, he became governor of Massachusetts. He joined the Union Army, using his political influence to help him attain high military rank. At the beginning of the war, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Banks major general of volunteers, . In 1861, when he was commanding troops in the Shenandoah Valley, Brig. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson was harassing Union troops. Banks received conflicting orders from Lincoln and Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, and was unable to trap the Confederates. The troops were defeated, but Banks was cleared of any wrongdoing. While commanding the vanguard of Maj. Gen. John Pope's troops, Banks met Jackson's forces at Cedar Mountain. Confederate reinforcements took the victory out of Union hands, and Banks suffered criticism for the defeat. Nevertheless, he managed to overcome the effects of these criticisms and obtain a position as commander of the Department of the Gulf. In this position, Banks worked with Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to open the Mississippi. Unfortunately, Banks was not effective, and his troops suffered heavy casualties during the attacks on Port Hudson. When he commanded the Red River Campaign in 1864; the Navy's gunboats were almost captured, and Banks returned to Mississippi without having accomplished anything significant in the attempt. He was removed from effective military command, and left the Army. In 1865, he returned to Massachusetts, and was elected to six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Banks died on September 1, 1894, in Waltham, Massachusetts.