Brigadier General James Shields


James Shields (1806–79) was a Union general in the American Civil War. He is the only person to be elected to the United States Senate from three states. Born in Altmore, Ireland, he emigrated to the United States in 1827 and the following year settled in Kaskaskia, Illinois. As a young man he practiced law and became active in politics. He was elected to the Illinois legislature and later served on the Board of Public Works and as state auditor. A Jacksonian Democrat, he disagreed with Abraham Lincoln on many issues. Amid the political controversy over the bankruptcy of state banks in 1842, Shields challenged Lincoln to a duel. On September 22, 1842, the two men met on “Bloody Island”, Missouri, for their face off, which failed to occur after Shields withdrew charges that Lincoln had written scurrilous articles about him. During the Mexican War (1846‒48), Shields raised a regiment, was commissioned a brigadier general, and served with distinction. After the war, he returned to Illinois and was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served from 1849 until 1855. After suffering defeat in his bid for re-election, he moved to the Minnesota Territory. After Minnesota was admitted to the Union as a state, he was again elected to the U.S. Senate (1858–59). Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, he was appointed brigadier general and served under General Nathaniel Banks in the Department of the Shenandoah. Shields resigned when the Senate refused to confirm his promotion to major general. He settled in Missouri and resumed his law practice. In 1879 he was again elected to the U.S. Senate, this time from Missouri, to serve a few months of an unexpired term. He declined to run for reelection in 1879 and died shortly after completing his service in the Senate. The image is from an album of mostly Civil War-era portraits by the famous American photographer Matthew Brady (circa 1823‒96) that belonged to Emperor Pedro II of Brazil (1825‒91), a collector of photography as well as a photographer himself. The album was a gift to the emperor from Edward Anthony (1818‒88), another early American photographer who, in partnership with his brother, owned a company that in the 1850s became the leading seller of photographic supplies in the United States. Dom Pedro may have acquired the album during a trip to the United States in 1876 when he, along with President Ulysses S. Grant, opened the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Brady was born in upstate New York, the son of immigrants from Ireland. Best known for his photographs documenting the battles of the American Civil War, he began his career in 1844 when he opened a daguerreotype portrait studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Streets in New York City. Over the course of the next several decades, Brady produced portraits of leading American public figures, many of which were published as engravings in magazines and newspapers. In 1858 he opened a branch in Washington, DC. The album, which also contains a small number of non-photographic prints, is part of the Thereza Christina Maria Collection at the National Library of Brazil. The collection is composed of 21,742 photos assembled by Emperor Pedro II throughout his life and donated by him to the national library. The collection covers a wide variety of subjects. It documents the achievements of Brazil and Brazilians in the 19th century and also includes many photographs of Europe, Africa, and North America.

Last updated: March 22, 2016