Ewing, Thomas, Jr., soldier and first chief justice of the State of Kansas, was born at Lancaster, Ohio, Aug. 7, 1829. He was the third son of the statesman of that name, who was one of the leaders of the Whig party while a member of the United States senate and served in the cabinets of Presidents Harrison and Taylor. The Ewings are Scotch-Irish, being descended from Findley Ewing, of lower Loch Lomond, Scotland, who was presented with a sword by William II for conspicuous bravery at the siege of Londonderry. The first American ancestor was Thomas Ewing, whose son, George, was ensign and subsequently lieutenant of the Second Jersey regiment in the Revolutionary war. On the maternal side, Gen. Ewing's great-grandfather was Neil Gillespie, who came from Donegal, Ireland, to western Pennsylvania late in the eighteenth century. Chief Justice Ewing received a common school education and when only nineteen years old was appointed secretary of the commission to settle the boundary between Ohio and Virginia. He also served as private secretary to President Taylor during his administration. After the president's death he entered Brown University, where he graduated in 1854. A year later he received his degree from the Cincinnati Law School and was admitted to the bar. In Nov., 1856, he removed to Leavenworth, Kan., and became a member of the law firm of Sherman, Ewing & McCook. Mr. Ewing soon took a place at the head of his profession and played a conspicuous part in the great political struggle of the territorial era as a free-state man. When the free-state men met in convention in Dec., 1857, to decide whether the opponents of slavery in the territory should take part in the election of Jan. 4, 1858, Mr. Ewing urged that they vote. This motion was defeated and with twelve others Ewing retired. They organized and nominated men for all the offices, each candidate being pledged to vote for a new constitution that should forever prohibit slavery in Kansas. Ten days before the election Ewing and his twelve associates started to canvass the territory. The surveyor-general, John Calhoun, whose duty it was to await the election returns, tried to defeat the free-state party by declaring the pro-slavery men had won, and went so far as to start for Washington, to submit the Lecompton constitution to Congress for the purpose of having Kansas admitted as a slave state. Mr. Ewing was able to get the free-state territorial legislature to appoint a committee, of which he was the head, to investigate the election returns. (See Walker's and Denver's Administrations.) At the election for state officers on Dec. 6, 1859, the first held under the Wyandotte constitution, Mr. Ewing was elected chief justice for a term of six years, and took his seat on the bench in Feb., 1861, when the state government was established. In the summer of 1862 he aided in recruiting the Eleventh Kansas. He was appointed colonel on Sept. 14, and soon after resigned as chief justice to take command of the regiment. He took part in the actions of Cane Hill, Van Buren and Prairie Grove, and on March 13, 1863, was commissioned brigadier-general of volunteers by President Lincoln, for "gallant and meritorious services." Until June, 1863, he commanded the first division of the Army of the Frontier, under Maj.-Gen. Herron. The division was then discontinued and Gen. Ewing was assigned to the command of the District of the Border, comprising all of Kansas north of the 38th parallel and of the western tier of counties in Missouri north of that line. His command was kept actively at work in repelling guerrilla raids. Gen. Ewing found that such men as Quantrill and Yeager had an impregnable base of operations in the three border counties of Missouri, with spies scattered throughout the country. After the Quantrill raid and sack of Lawrence, he issued "General Order No. II" (q. v.), a severe but necessary measure which effectually cleared the border of a population supporting the guerrillas. The order was sustained by the general government, but in the Democratic national convention, which met in New York city on July 6, 1868, he was defeated for nomination for vice-president because of this order. The assaults made upon him by his political enemies in Kansas and Missouri, caused Gen. Ewing to ask for a court of inquiry, but the president refused to order it and at the same time enlarged the district under the general's command. In Feb., 1864, when the District of the Border was divided by the erection of Kansas as a department, Gen. Ewing relieved Gen. Fish of the command of southeastern Missouri, with headquarters at St. Louis. In the fall of 1864, he was actively engaged against Gen. Price, who invaded Missouri. On Feb. 23. 1865, Gen. Ewing resigned his command and on March 13, breveted major-general. At the close of the war he resumed his law practice in Washington, but returned to his native state, Ohio, in 1870. In 1873 he was a member of the Ohio constitutional convention and served in Congress from 1877 to 1881. He opposed the rise of Federal troops at the state elections favored the remonetization of silver, and was one of the leaders of the movement to preserve the greenback currency. In 1879 he was the Democratic candidate for governor of Ohio. Three years later he removed to New York city and entered into partnership with Southard & Fairchild, subsequently the firm became Ewing, Whitman & Ewing. He was the founder of the Ohio society in New York and its president for three years. In 1856 Gen. Ewing married Ellen E., daughter of William Cox of Piqua, Ohio. They had three sons and two daughters. Gen. Ewing died Jan. 21, 1896, as a result of an accident on a street car.Pages 601-603 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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