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Isaac Stevens

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Title: Isaac Stevens  
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Subject: List of Governors of Washington, Washington/Selected biography/1, Washington/Selected biography, Stevens County, Washington, Battle of Chantilly
Collection: 1818 Births, 1862 Deaths, American Military Personnel of the Mexican–american War, American People of English Descent, Delegates to the United States House of Representatives from Washington Territory, Governors of Washington Territory, History of Olympia, Washington, Montana Articles Lacking Sources, People from North Andover, Massachusetts, People of New York in the American Civil War, Phillips Academy Alumni, Smithsonian Institution Archives Related, Union Army Generals, Union Military Personnel Killed in the American Civil War, United States Military Academy Alumni, Washington (State) Democrats
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Isaac Stevens

Isaac Stevens
Isaac Stevens during the Civil War
1st Governor of Washington Territory
In office
November 25, 1853 – August 11, 1857
Appointed by Franklin Pierce
Succeeded by LaFayette McMullen
Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from Washington Territory's at-large district
In office
March 4, 1857 – March 3, 1861
Preceded by James Patton Anderson
Succeeded by William H. Wallace
Personal details
Born (1818-03-25)March 25, 1818
North Andover, Massachusetts, US
Died September 1, 1862(1862-09-01) (aged 44)
Chantilly, Virginia, US
Resting place Island Cemetery, Newport, Rhode Island, US
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Margaret Hazard Stevens
Children Hazard, Virginia, Kate, Gertrude, Susan
Alma mater United States Military Academy
Profession Soldier
Awards Major General (posthumous)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1839–1853
Rank Brigadier General
Commands 79th New York Volunteer Infantry

Mexican-American War

American Civil War

Isaac Ingalls Stevens (March 25, 1818 – September 1, 1862) was the first Governor of Washington Territory, serving 1853-1857. He also served as a U.S. Congressman, and a Brigadier General in the Union Army during the American Civil War until his death at the Battle of Chantilly. He was appointed posthumously to the grade of Major General of volunteers.


  • Early life 1
  • Governor 2
    • footnote 2.1
  • Civil War 3
  • Memorialization 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Stevens was born and raised in Massachusetts, leaving his home state for the United States Military Academy at West Point in the late 1830s. He graduated in 1839, at the top of his class, and served for a number of years with the Army Corps of Engineers. He was promoted to first lieutenant in 1840.[1]

Stevens was the adjutant of the Corps of Engineers during the Mexican-American War, seeing action at the siege of Vera Cruz and at Cerro Gordo, Contreras, and Churubusco. In the latter fight, he caught the attention of his superiors, who rewarded him with the brevet rank of captain. He was again cited and breveted for gallantry at the Battle of Chapultepec, this time to the rank of Major. He participated in combat at Molino del Rey, and the Battle for Mexico City, where he was severely wounded. He later wrote a book on his adventures, Campaigns of the Rio Grande and Mexico, with Notices of the Recent Work of Major Ripley (New York, 1851).

He superintended fortifications on the New England coast from 1841 until 1849. He was given command of the coast survey office in Washington, D. C., serving in that role until March 1853.


Isaac Stevens (c. 1855–1862)

Having been a firm supporter of Puget Sound and the Spokane River. He took up his post at Olympia as governor in November that year.

As a result of his expedition, Stevens wrote a third book, Report of Explorations for a Route for the Pacific Railroad near the 47th and 49th Parallels of North Latitude, from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Puget Sound, (commissioned and published by the United States Congress) (2 vols., Washington, 1855–60).

Stevens was a controversial governor in his time. Historians consider him even more controversial, for his role in compelling the Native American tribes of Washington Territory by intimidation and force to sign treaties that ceded most of their lands and rights to Stevens' government. These included the Treaty of Medicine Creek, Treaty of Hellgate, Treaty of Neah Bay, Treaty of Point Elliott, Point No Point Treaty, and Quinault Treaty. When Stevens was met with resistance, he used the troops at his disposal to exact vengeance.

His winter campaign against the Yakama tribe, led by Chief Kamiakin, and his execution of the Nisqually chieftain Leschi (for the crime of having killed Stevens' soldiers in open combat), among other deeds, led a number of powerful citizens in the territory to beg President Pierce to remove Stevens. Territorial Judge Edward Lander and Ezra Meeker (an influential private citizen) were both vocal in opposing Stevens—Lander was arrested as a result, and Meeker was simply ignored. Pierce sent word to Stevens of his disapproval of the governor's conduct, but refused to remove his appointee. Opponents of Stevens ultimately lost public support, as the majority of the citizens of Washington Territory considered the governor to be on the side of white settlers and Meeker to be overly concerned with the "Indians."

As a result of this public perception, Stevens was popular enough to be elected the territory's delegate to the United States Congress in 1857 and 1858. The tensions between the whites and the Native Americans would be left for others to resolve—Stevens is often charged with responsibility for the later conflicts in eastern Washington and Idaho, especially the war fought by the United States against Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce, but these events were decades away when Isaac Stevens left Washington State for good in 1857.


  1. ^ Steven's party included John Mullan and Fred Burr, son of David H. Burr

Civil War

When the Civil War began in 1861, following the Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run, Stevens was commissioned in the Army again. He was appointed as Colonel of the 79th New York Volunteers, known as the "Cameron Highlanders." He became a brigadier general on September 28, 1861, and fought at Port Royal. He led the Second Brigade of the Expeditionary Forces sent to attack the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina. He led a division at the Battle of Secessionville, where he personally led an attack on Fort Lamar in which 25% of his men were casualties.

Stevens was transferred with his IX Corps division to Virginia to serve under Major General John Pope in the Northern Virginia Campaign and the Second Battle of Bull Run. He was killed in action at the Battle of Chantilly on September 1, 1862 after picking up the fallen regimental colors of his old regiment, shouting "Highlanders, my Highlanders, follow your general!" Charging with his troops while carrying the banner of Saint Andrew's Cross, Stevens was struck in the temple by a bullet and died instantly.

He was buried in Newport, Rhode Island at Island Cemetery.[3] In March 1863, he was posthumously promoted to major general, backdated to July 18, 1862.[4]

Hazard Stevens, Isaac's son, was also injured in the Battle of Chantilly. He rose to become a general in the U.S. Army and an author. Together with P. B. Van Trump, he participated in the first documented ascent of Mount Rainier.[5]


But, Stevens Pass in the Cascade Mountains of Washington on US Highway 2 is named after John Frank Stevens (no relation), a locating engineer for the Great Northern Railway.

See also


  1. ^ Appletons' annual cyclopaedia and register of important events of the year: 1862. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1863. p. 760. 
  2. ^ "Newly elected President Franklin Pierce appointed Isaac I. Stevens as Governor of Washington Territory". Territorial Timeline. Washington Secretary of State. Retrieved February 12, 2012. 
  3. ^ Isaac Ingalls Stevens at Find a Grave
  4. ^ United States Senate (1887). "Friday, March 6, 1863". Journal of the executive proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America 1862-1864. Government Printing Office. p. 206. 
  5. ^ "Ascents of Mount Rainier".  


Further reading

  • Available online through the Washington State Library's Classics in Washington History collection  
  • Stevens, Hazard (1900). The Life of Isaac Ingalls Stevens. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company. 
  • Watson, C. L. (1862). Isaac I. Stevens : "In memoriam," 1862. Available online through the Washington State Library's Classics in Washington History collection A poem in 6 stanza. Holograph, signed. Discovered in Kate Stevens Bingham's Bible.
  • Kluger, Richard (2011). The Bitter Waters of Medicine Creek: A Tragic Clash Between White and Native America. New York: Vintage Books, Random House. 

External links

  • Stevens Hall on the campus of WSU
  • Isaac I. Stevens Elementary School, Seattle
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