Howard, Oliver Otis

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Howard, Oliver Otis

Oliver Otis Howard, 1830–1909, Union general in the Civil War, founder of Howard Univ., b. Leeds, Maine, grad. Bowdoin College, 1850, and West Point, 1854. Made a brigadier general of volunteers (Sept., 1861), he fought in the East from the first battle of Bull Run through the Gettysburg campaign. Howard lost his right arm at Fair Oaks in the Peninsular campaign (1862). His 11th Corps was completely routed by Stonewall Jackson's flank attack in the battle of Chancellorsville. On the first day at Gettysburg, Howard, assuming command after J. F. Reynolds was killed, was driven back with heavy losses to Cemetery Hill. His corps constituted part of the Union reinforcements under Hooker in the Chattanooga campaign. In the Atlanta campaign he commanded the Army of the Tennessee after the death of J. B. McPherson, and he led it in Sherman's march through Georgia and the Carolinas.

President Andrew Johnson made Howard, who was devoted to the cause of African-American betterment, chief commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau in May, 1865. The bureau, under difficult circumstances, provided necessary and useful services. Although some officials were dishonest, the corruption has sometimes been overstated. Howard himself was honest; but he was not an able administrator. A founder (1867) of Howard Univ. (named for him), he was its president (1869–73). He later helped to found Lincoln Memorial Univ. in Tennessee.

As commander of the Dept. of the Columbia (1874–81), Howard directed several campaigns against the Native Americans and negotiated with Chief Joseph in 1877. In 1886 he was promoted to major general and assigned to command the Division of the East; he held this post until his retirement in 1894. He wrote biographies of Chief Joseph (1881) and Zachary Taylor (1892), as well as Famous Indian Chiefs I Have Known (1908) and an autobiography (1907).

See biography by J. A. Carpenter (1964); study by W. S. McFeely (1968).

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