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Francis H. West
Member of the Wisconsin Senate
from the 24th district
In office
January 1, 1854 – January 1, 1856
Preceded by Thomas S. Bowen
Succeeded by George E. Dexter
Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly
from the Milwaukee 7th district
In office
January 1, 1874 – January 1, 1875
Preceded by Henry L. Palmer
Succeeded by Lemuel Ellsworth
Personal details
Born
Francis Henry West

(1825-10-25)October 25, 1825
Charlestown, New Hampshire
Died March 6, 1896(1896-03-06) (aged 70)
Bessemer, Alabama
Resting place Forest Home Cemetery
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Political party
Spouse(s)
  • Emma M. Rittenhouse
  • (died 1915)
Children
  • Louise Ellen (Sylvester)
  • (b. 1850; died 1878)
  • Caroline L. West
  • (b. 1852; died 1934)
  • Edith (Erwin)
  • (b. 1854; died 1940)
  • Susan (Christie)
  • (b. 1859; died 1910)
  • Grace (Sinclair)
  • (b. 1866; died 1938)
  • Benjamin F. West
  • (b. 1868; died 1957)
  • Josephine West
  • (b. 1872; died 1876)
Mother Lydia Coffin (Fitch) West
Father Enoch Hammond West
Profession merchant
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Branch/service  United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1862–1865
Rank
Commands 31st Reg. Wis. Vol. Infantry
Battles/wars American Civil War

Francis Henry West (October 25, 1825 – March 6, 1896) was an American merchant and Union Army officer in the American Civil War. He also served one term each in the Wisconsin State Senate and Wisconsin State Assembly.

Early life and career

West was born in Charlestown, New Hampshire. He moved to the Wisconsin Territory in 1845, eventually settling in Monroe, in Green County, in 1846. In Green County, he worked in the lumber industry.

In 1853, he was elected as a Democrat to represent Green County in the Wisconsin State Senate for the 1854 and 1855 sessions. In 1855, he was the Republican nominee for Bank Comptroller, but was not successful.

In 1859 and 1860, he accompanied parties of migrants from New York to California.

Civil War

West joined the Army on August 28, 1862, and was commissioned a lieutenant colonel with the 31st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which was still being organized in Wisconsin. The 31st Wisconsin was created from two volunteer battalions from Crawford County and Racine. The 31st mustered into service in October 1862 and left Wisconsin in March 1863.

Kentucky and Tennessee

The 31st traveled to Kentucky via Cairo, Illinois, and was attached to the XVI Army Corps. They spent the summer of 1863 on patrols and picket duty in southern Illinois, western Kentucky, protecting supply routes along the Mississippi River.

In September 1863, they were ordered to Nashville. Here, their colonel, Isaac E. Messmore, resigned, and, on October 8, Lt. Colonel West was promoted to colonel of the 31st Wisconsin. Through the winter of 1863–64, the regiment was stationed at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and continued to serve as protection for logistics and supplies. In April 1864, the 31st was attached to the XX Corps and split into detachments to protect a long stretch of railroad lines in Tennessee. In June, the regiment was ordered to consolidate and return to Nashville.

Georgia

On July 5, the 31st Wisconsin was ordered by General William Tecumseh Sherman to proceed to the front of the ongoing Atlanta campaign. The 31st traveled by train to Marietta, Georgia, and reached its position on the line July 21. The regiment worked on constructing siege fortifications around Atlanta and came under frequent enemy fire due to their proximity to the enemy lines. The regiment did not take part in the actual battle, but was one of the first units to enter the city. The regiment was assigned to provide security in the city and protect foraging operations in the surrounding area.

On November 15, 1864, the XX Corps broke camp and marched out of the city to begin their part in Sherman's March to the Sea (the Savannah Campaign). They advanced without encountering any resistance until ten miles outside Savannah. There, on December 9, they encountered two small enemy fortifications. The 31st Wisconsin, along with the 61st Ohio, were ordered to flank the position through a thick swamp. They passed the swamp and charged the enemy, taking the position with light casualties. For their action, they received the compliments of General Sherman. The regiment joined the siege of Savannah, and after capturing the city were assigned quarters there.

Carolinas

On January 18, 1865, the 31st Wisconsin departed Savannah and marched for Purrysburg, South Carolina, at the start of the Carolinas campaign. The regiment proceeded through South Carolina, burning enemy facilities, tearing up railroad tracks, and pushing the enemy's rear guard toward North Carolina.

On March 1, the 31st advanced toward Chesterfield, South Carolina, near the border with North Carolina. They forced a small confederate force to flee north, then stopped in the village. On March 16, the 31st took position on the front line for Averasborough, where they were shelled and took casualties. Three days later, they were in the advance on approach to Bentonville, along with two other regiments, where they encountered significant Confederate opposition and found their flanks exposed. They fell back and formed a defensive position with elements of the XIV and XX Corps. The Confederates attacked their position five times and were repelled in fierce fighting. This was the worst fighting that they saw during the war, and suffered ten killed and forty-two wounded.

On March 24, they reached Goldsboro, North Carolina, where they stopped to rest and re-equip. While the 31st was camped at Goldsboro, Ulysses S. Grant accepted the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomatox. On April 10, the 31st marched out to continued their advance toward Raleigh, pursuing Joseph E. Johnston and the remnants of the Army of the South. But before they reached Raleigh, they received word that Johnston had surrendered to Sherman and the war was effectively over.

The 31st was ordered back to Washington, where they participated in the Grand Review of the Armies in May, and West mustered out on June 20, 1865. While in Washington, U.S. President Andrew Johnson nominated Colonel West for an honorary brevet to brigadier general of volunteers for gallant service in the field, effective back to March 19, 1865, the day of their combat at Bentonville. The United States Senate confirmed the brevet on March 12, 1866.

Postbellum years

After the war, General West moved to Milwaukee County and entered a partnership—Fowler & West—with James S. Fowler in the grain commission business. He served for six years on the board of directors of the Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce, including two years as president.

In 1873, he was elected on the Reform ticket to represent Northern Milwaukee County in the Wisconsin State Assembly for the 1874 session. The Reform Party was a short-lived coalition of Democrats, reformers, Liberal Republicans, and Grangers. Their signature accomplishment was the 1874 "Potter Law," 1874 Wisconsin Act 273—named for Republican state senator Robert L. D. Potter—which established a new state Railroad Commission to aggressively regulate railroad and freight fees. In the Assembly, Colonel West served on the Committee on Railroads and the Committee on State Affairs.

General West did not seek re-election in 1874.

During Grover Cleveland's first presidential term, West was appointed United States Marshal for the Milwaukee district. After completing this final public service, Colonel West retired to Alabama, where two of his sons lived.

While on a trip to New York, in 1896, West slipped while attempting to step off of a street car and was severely injured. He was confined to his bed for several days before he was healthy enough to return to Alabama. He died a few weeks later, on March 6, 1896, at Bessemer, Alabama.

Legacy

West was buried at Forest Home Cemetery, in Milwaukee.

His former home at Monroe, Wisconsin, now known as the General Francis H. West House, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Electoral history

Wisconsin Assembly, Milwaukee 7th District Election, 1873
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
General Election, November 4, 1873
Reform Francis H. West 705 65.04%
Republican John Hubbard Tweedy 379 34.96%
Total votes 1,084 100.0%
Reform gain from Democrat
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