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Willis A. Gorman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Willis A. Gorman
Willis A. Gorman, 1872
2nd Territorial Governor of Minnesota
In office
May 15, 1853 – April 23, 1857
Appointed byFranklin Pierce
Preceded byAlexander Ramsey
Succeeded bySamuel Medary
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 6th district
In office
March 4, 1849 – March 3, 1853
Preceded byGeorge G. Dunn
Succeeded byThomas A. Hendricks
Member of the Indiana House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Willis Arnold Gorman

(1816-01-12)January 12, 1816
Flemingsburg, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedMay 20, 1876(1876-05-20) (aged 60)
Saint Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Martha Stone
Professionlawyer and politician
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Union Army
Years of service1846–1848
Union Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg
Brigadier General
Unit3rd Indiana Volunteers
Commands4th Indiana Volunteers
1st Minnesota Infantry
1st Bde, 2nd Div, II Corps
Battles/warsMexican–American War
American Civil War

Willis Arnold Gorman (January 12, 1816 – May 20, 1876) was an American lawyer, soldier, politician, and a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.


Gorman was born near Flemingsburg, Kentucky. He was the only child of David and Elizabeth Gorman, both of Irish descent. In 1835, the family moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where Gorman attended Indiana University and then established a law practice. In January 1836, he married Martha Stone in Bloomington. By 1837 he began his move into politics, becoming a clerk in the Indiana State Senate. From 1841 to 1844, he was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives.[1]

In 1845 he returned to Indiana University and completed his law degree. In 1846 he volunteered for the army, enlisted as a private, and went to fight in the Mexican–American War. He was appointed as a major in the 3rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry, and led an independent rifle battalion at the Battle of Buena Vista, where he was severely wounded. When his term of service expired, he re-enlisted and was appointed colonel of the 4th Indiana. He served in the capture of Huamantla and in several other campaigns and battles under General Joseph Lane. In 1848 he was civil and military governor of Puebla, but soon after he returned to Indiana. He served in the United States House of Representatives from March 4, 1849, to March 3, 1853, as a representative of that state.

Willis Gorman and Martha Stone.
Willis Gorman and Martha Stone.

Gorman, politically a Democrat, served as the second Territorial Governor of Minnesota from May 15, 1853, to April 23, 1857, at the appointment of President Franklin Pierce. During his time as Governor of Minnesota, he masterminded an unsuccessful plan to move the capital of the territory from St. Paul to St. Peter, where he owned land that would have been eminently suitable for use as the new capitol grounds. The plan was sidetracked when legislator Joe Rolette disappeared with the bill until the last seconds of the legislative session.

He spent a number of years practicing law in St. Paul, Minnesota, and served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from May 11, 1858, to January 1859.

With the secession of several Southern slave states, Gorman offered his services to the army. He was appointed Colonel of the 1st Minnesota Infantry, serving in the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861. On September 7, 1861, he was appointed brigadier general of volunteers and assigned to command a brigade in the II Corps in Army of the Potomac during the Peninsular Campaign. His troops suffered high casualties during the Battle of Antietam in an ill-fated attack on Confederate positions in the West Woods. Later in the year, he was assigned to command the District of Eastern Arkansas.


In 1864 he left the service and resumed his law practice in St. Paul. He was elected City attorney in 1869, and continued in that position until his death. He is buried in Oakland Cemetery in St. Paul.

See also


  • United States Congress. "Willis A. Gorman (id: G000330)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved on 2008-02-14
  • Heitman, Francis (1903), Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army 1789-1903, Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office
  • Folsom, William Henry Carman; Edwards, Elijah Evan (1888), Fifty Years in the Northwest, Pioneer Press Co., pp. 581–582
  • The personal papers of Willis A. Gorman are available for research use at the Minnesota Historical Society.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Alexander Ramsey
2nd Governor of Minnesota Territory
1853 – 1857
Succeeded by
Samuel Medary
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
George G. Dunn
United States House of Representatives from Indiana
1849 – 1853
Succeeded by
Thomas A. Hendricks
This page was last edited on 7 January 2021, at 12:02
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