A look at some of the key players from the Civil War. This round-up is part of The Washington Post’s ongoing series of stories about the Civil War’s 150th anniversary.

Col. Edward D. Baker

A native of England, Baker was the picture of the elegant Victorian politician. He was a U.S. senator from Oregon and good friend of Abraham Lincoln. The two were so close that the president named his son Eddy for Baker, and Baker introduced Lincoln at his inauguration in March 1861. Seven months later, on Oct. 21, Baker was killed at age 50 during the disastrous Union defeat at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, on the Potomac River near Leesburg. He is the only U.S. senator ever killed in battle. Lincoln is said to have remarked that Baker’s death hit him “like a whirlwind from a desert.”

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant

On Nov. 7, 1861, the then-obscure Union commander led a few thousand men in an attack on Confederate forces at Belmont, Mo., on the Mississippi River. The Yankees overran the rebels but in the delirium of victory were surrounded by Confederate reinforcements. Grant coolly directed his men to safety, recalling, “We had cut our way in and could cut our way out.” He barely escaped, riding his horse aboard a departing riverboat just as the enemy closed in. “The National troops acquired a confidence . . . at Belmont that did not desert them through the war,” the future general in chief wrote.

Edwin M. Stanton

The proud, asthmatic, high-octane lawyer was U.S. attorney general under President James Buchanan before becoming Lincoln’s gruff secretary of war in January 1862. Initially dismissive of Lincoln, Stanton, with his wire-rimmed glasses and salt-and-pepper beard, became one of the president’s most loyal and hardworking allies. He kept the death vigil after Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre in 1865. Lincoln said of him: “He is the rock on the beach of our national ocean against which the breakers dash and roar.” Stanton died after an asthma attack on Christmas Eve 1869. He is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown.

Navy Capt. Charles Wilkes

The irascible former explorer was reportedly raised by a future Roman Catholic saint, his mother’s sister, Elizabeth Ann Seton. But the then-63-year-old almost sparked war with Great Britain during the Trent Affair in fall 1861. Wilkes, whose house on Lafayette Square was used by Union Gen. George B. McClellan, seized two Confederate envoys, James Mason and John Slidell, from a British mail ship in the Caribbean. Although Wilkes was hailed by Congress, Britain was outraged, and Lincoln freed the diplomats, saying, “One war at a time.”

Sally Louisa Tompkins

Known as the Angel of the Confederacy, she got an officer’s commission in the Confederate army on Sept. 9, 1861, the only woman to do so during the war. A member of a wealthy Tidewater family, she established a hospital in Richmond that, because of her obsession with cleanliness, had the lowest rate of fatalities of any military hospital, North or South. Her staff included her slave, “Mammy” Phoebe, who had raised her, and the noted Washington physician A.Y.P. Garnett. An Episcopal church in Richmond has a stained glass window bearing her likeness.

Gen. William T. Sherman
The “war is hell” Union commander, whose 1864 Georgia campaign made him one of the chief architects of the Confederacy’s defeat, had a nervous breakdown in fall 1861. Contemplating suicide, he went home to Ohio to recover. He had performed well at the First Battle of Bull Run in July. But he was overwhelmed by larger responsibilities at a new post in Kentucky and by media reports that he had gone insane. He recuperated quickly, went on to watch his victorious troops march down Pennsylvania Avenue in 1865 and came to detest reporters.

Harry Macarthy

The immigrant entertainer and songwriter sparked a near riot in New Orleans in September 1861 when he and his wife performed his new hit song, “The Bonnie Blue Flag.” Confederate soldiers heading for the front reacted with such wild enthusiasm that they had to be restrained by police. The song and its author became wildly popular across the South. Set to the jaunty music of an older Irish tune, the chorus goes: Hurrah! Hurrah! For Southern rights, hurrah! Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.

Belle Boyd

A budding Confederate espionage agent, the then-17-year-old shot and killed a drunken Union soldier who had menaced her mother in their Martinsburg, W.Va., home in July 1861. Exonerated, she was working as a rebel courier by October and went on to supply Confederate commanders with crucial intelligence she had charmed out of Union officers or picked up eavesdropping behind the lines. The legendary Confederate general Stonewall Jackson once thanked her for “the immense service that you have rendered your country.” Boyd was arrested several times, imprisoned twice and eventually exiled to England. She later penned her memoirs, worked as an actress and lectured about her wartime life as a spy.


Read more Post coverage of the the Civil War’s 150th anniversary.

by  Michael
E. Ruane