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[image ALT: A photograph of a middle-aged man with a full head of wavy hair and a shovel beard — and a worried expression. He is Francis H. Bates, a West Point graduate whose career is detailed on this webpage.]

Major Francis H. Bates

The preceding image, and the text that follows, are reproduced from (the report of the) Twenty-Seventh Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 11th, 1896.

 p14  Francis H. Bates
No. 1472. Class of 1850.
Died, August 12, 1895, at Washington, D. C., aged 68.

Major Bates was born in Maryland, and was appointed to the Military Academy from Massachusetts; he was descended  p15 from an old family of the latter State, that had been distinguished in both civil and military life during the Revolutionary War, and he, therefore, inherited many of the soldierly qualities that characterized his professional career.

Graduating from the Military Academy in 1850, he was promoted into the army as a brevet Second Lieutenant of Infantry, attached to the Fourth United States Infantry, and performed his first service at Fort Niagara, N. Y., where he remained until 1852 and was then transferred to Fort Columbus, New York Harbor, preparatory to a long and tedious journey to the then frontier station at Benicia, California,ºwhich was the headquarters of the military district of that territory.

His administrative ability was quickly recognized by the district commander, who selected him as his Adjutant-General, which position he held during his term of service at that post. Here it was that he displayed those qualities of head and heart that won for him the respect and commendation of his official superiors, and the affectionate regard of his comrades. His thorough knowledge of military administrative detail, combined with gentleness of manner, correctness of principle and rectitude of life, enabled him to perform the delicate duties of his office to the satisfaction of all, which contributed in no small degree to the successful conduct of military affairs at a time when good judgment, prudence and sound common sense were needed in so isolated a region of country. His friends will ever recall the fitting compliment paid him by Colonel Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Robert Buchanan, in styling him an "ideal Adjutant-General." He served successively at Fort Reading and the Presidio of San Francisco, California, and while at the latter station conducted successfully a large detachment of troops to Oregon, a service that, as is well known to officers of the date, was very trying and required, in its performance, great tact and skill in managing men, since mining excitement ran so high, that it was with extreme difficulty, soldiers on the march, or beyond the restraint of a garrison, could be held to duty with their colors, temptation to desert to the gold fields being so strong.

Returning to the East on sick leave, he was, at its expiration,  p16 assigned to recruiting service at Bedloe's Island, New York Harbor, having in the interim been promoted a First Lieutenant. At the close of this duty he conducted recruits to California, a memorable journey, as during the passage across the Isthmus, cholera made its appearance and created sad havoc among the men. In this trying time Lieutenant Bates was equal to the duties imposed upon him; he gave his personal attention to the stricken men, a christian burial to the dead, and by his coolness and calmness, as well as by his faithful and assiduous attentions as commanding officer, doctor, nurse and religious adviser, restored confidence in his command, which at one time was threatened with panic.

Returning to San Francisco, his new orders took him to Fort Humboldt, California, and later to Fort Townsend, Washington Territory, where he remained on the ordinary frontier duty of the day until 1858, when he was ordered East on recruiting service, at the expiration of which he returned to the frontier and served successively at Fort Mojave,º New Mexico, Los Angeles and San Diego, California, until the breaking out of the War of the Rebellion, when he was transferred to the East in the defense of the Capital.

During this period of isolation on the frontier, he was true to his standard of duty, steadily performing all that was given him to do; he encouraged reading and progress among his comrades and was a universal favorite.

His promotion to the rank of Captain came about the time of his arrival in Washington, and he assumed the command of his company, declining the offer of a field officer's commission in a volunteer regiment, believing that in the hour of trial and danger his first duty was with the men who had stood so faithfully by his side during the lonely frontier duty.

In the spring of 1862 he went with his regiment to the front and participated in the siege of Yorktown, and battles around Richmond, receiving a brevet of Major for gallant conduct at the battle of Gaines' Mill. Before this campaign, his health, which was much broken by his frontier service, was very delicate, and nothing but a high order of patriotism and a strict sense of duty  p17 carried him through those trying days, there being times when he was scarcely able to walk. He refused to go on sick report so long as the danger was pressing and he was able to command his company, but when the danger had passed he was compelled to give up and came home on sick leave, and as many of his comrades believed, to die. Under the watchful care of his devoted wife he convalesced, but the military spirit was too strong in him to permit of the inaction that was necessary to a full return to health, and he insisted so earnestly on doing some duty that the war department sent him to New York as mustering officer where he remained several months, when, being still unfit for field service, he was assigned as assistant to the Provost Marshal of New Jersey.

It was while at Trenton, New Jersey, that his physical disability proved to be of so serious a nature as permanently to unfit him for active duty in the field, and he was accordingly placed on the retired list of the army, in October, 1863. But the routine duties of the Provost's office were not sufficient to fill his idea of labor for his country, and he assumed, in addition to them, the work of mustering and disbursing, which he performed faithfully during a period of five years.

Of his work on this exacting duty, his superior officer, Colonel Ely, says: "He has been most faithful and diligent in the performance of all that was required of him. He has disbursed over a million of dollars, in United States bounties, to recruits mustered into the service in this State, and in the large majority of cases, to expedite the forwarding of recruits to the field, he has made the disbursements at the Rendezvous Camps and at other places."

The abandonment of New Jersey office transferred him to a similar duty at St. Louis, to which was added that of Superintendent of the Volunteer Recruiting service: here he remained four years until the office and its vast accumulation of records was transferred to Washington, when he was ordered to his home. During his service as mustering and disbursing officer, he disbursed millions of dollars of the public money without an error,  p18 and the accuracy and complete order of his treasury and mustering records, was the subject of flattering comment by the department officials to whom they were transferred.

In 1871 he was appointed instructor in military science and mathematics at the Pennsylvania Military Academy, and held that position during two years, returning to his home with testimonials of affectionate regard from his pupils, and of respect and esteem from his colleagues.

In 1883 he became instructor to the Military Cadets at the Washington High School, where his administrative ability laid the foundation for the present efficient organization of that admirable battalion. His failing health compelled him to relinquish this congenial service, and during the remainder of his life he devoted himself to military studies, giving also largely of his time to his duties as a christian man. He was a welcome visitor in the library of the war department, and his opinions on military administration were held in high esteem. For many years he was a companion of the Loyal Legion. As a member and officer of the Sons of the American Revolution he was conspicuous, holding the office of Secretary of the District of Columbia Society at the time of his death. He was a vestry man, and Secretary and Treasurer of St. John's church, Georgetown, and was known as one of its most active workers and consistent members.

Of his characteristics as an officer and a gentleman, a life-long friend and comrade says:

"He was always found where duty called him, cheerful, bright and energetic, ready for any emergency, and prepared to lead or follow as occasion required."


During all the stirring and trying times of the War of the Rebellion, he bore himself like the gallant soldier that he was, ever anxious in regard to the safety and comfort of those under his command, regretting the losses from his ranks almost as much as if the men were his own immediate relatives.

At the siege of Yorktown Captain Bates was conspicuous for his gallantry and engineer, encouraging and instructing his men while working in the trenches under an almost continuous fire of  p19 shot and shell from the works of the enemy, lasting from dark until near daylight on each occasion.

Being just, amiable, modest and unassuming, he was true to every obligation in life; a consistent christian gentleman, a pure patriot, a devoted and affectionate husband and father, and a staunch and reliable friend. A credit alike to his Alma Mater and to his country, and an honor to the service where he passed his life. His pure spirit returned to the Creator who lent him to earth for the benefit of his fellow men, while his remains appropriately lie sleeping in the sacred spot prepared for and assigned as the resting place of heroes. His memory will ever find a deep seated resting place in the hearts of his friends and comrades."

Major Bates was twice married; his first wife was the sister of Colonel Swain of the army; she died while with him on the frontier in Washington Territory, leaving a son and daughter; his son died just after graduating in medicine in New York; his daughter died recently in Washington. His second wife was Miss de la Roche, of Georgetown, D. C. They had two children, both of whom died in infancy. Mrs. Bates survives her husband and resides in Washington.

The epitaph on his tomb stone in Arlington, is a fitting epitome of his life.

"Mark the perfect man and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace."

C. R. G.

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Page updated: 18 Nov 13