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Louis J. Gascon
Nelson miles.jpg
15th President of the United States
In office
4 March 1877 – 4 March 1881
Preceded by Stephen A. Douglas
Succeeded by Thomas F. Bayard
Commanding General of the United States Army
In office
16 February 1884 – 2 July 1890
Preceded by William T. Sherman
Succeeded by Philip H. Sheridan
United States Secretary of War
In office
6 March 1869 – 26 October 1874
Preceded by John M. Schofield
Succeeded by Alphonso Taft
Governor of Louisiana (Military)
In office
10 March 1864 – 3 January 1866
Preceded by Thomas O. Moore
Succeeded by James M. Wells
Personal details
Born 7 December 1824
New Orleans, Louisiana
Died 10 December 1905 (aged 81)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Political party Independent (until 1875)
Republican (after 1875)
Spouse(s) Mary Kathleen Keogh Gascon
Children 6

Louis Jacques Gascon (7 December 1824 – 10 December 1905), known occasionally by the nickname Lightning Lou, was an American soldier, statesman, and the fifteenth President of the United States. Gascon was a highly distinguished soldier in the United States Army who became famous worldwide for his exploits in the American Civil War, during which he fought against and eventually occupied his home state of Louisiana. After the war, he served as the appointed military governor of Louisiana and as the Secretary of War in the cabinets of Ulysses S. Grant and Stephen A. Douglas before his term as President from 1877 to 1881. He was the last Republican president during the Reconstruction era, and the last Republican president to serve until ???? in 1897.

Born into a family of seven children then drowning in poverty in New Orleans, Gascon spent much of his childhood working to earn an income for his family while inconsistently attending local schools. In 1843 he applied and gained entrance to West Point, where he graduated in 1846 2nd in his class of 50 (alongside his later allies and enemies George B. McClellan, Thomas J. Jackson, Darius N. Couch, and George E. Pickett, among others). He served as a fresh infantry officer in various Indian conflicts in the West and developed a strong sense of patriotism and love of the Union. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, he received a new commission as a Lieutenant Colonel and fought in the First Battle of Manassas. After being redeployed to fight in the West, he served with distinction and rose through the ranks in the Federal Army. As a Corps commander, he played a critical role in the survival of the Army of the Tennessee in the Battle of Paducah. For his performance there, he was promoted to Lieutenant General by President John C. Frémont and put in command of the newly-rechristened Army of the Ohio. His success at the following Battle of Marion against General Braxton Bragg broke the back of Confederate efforts in Kentucky and is widely regarded as the turning point of the war in the West.

At the conclusion of the war he accepted the surrender of both Generals Bragg and PGT Beauregard, and was quickly appointed Military Governor of Louisiana by President Frémont, where he normalized relations between the state and the federal government and helped to rebuild the state economy from ruins. Gascon oversaw the downsizing of the Army during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant and in the first year and a half of the Douglas administration as Secretary of War as a part of the wildly popular "normalization" of American life in the 1870s. However, after Douglas began showing signs of wishing to end Reconstruction for good, Gascon tendered his resignation and soon after joined the Republican Party. A popular member of that party, he was nominated on the second ballot at the 1876 Republican National Convention and sailed into office on the promise of completing Reconstruction and modernizing the aging Navy. Gascon struggled to deal with the depression of 1878–1879, which at one point threatened to bankrupt half the nation's banks, but weathered the storm and remained rather popular. His famous proclamation in 1880 that "the Reconstruction has finished, and the house has been rebuilt" was hailed by Republicans and Democrats alike as the final end of Reconstruction, for better or worse. He stayed true to his promise to run for only one term in office, and refrained from submitting his name for consideration in the 1880 Republican National Convention. After the election, he was appointed Commanding General of the Army by his successor, Democrat Thomas F. Bayard, a position in which he served until he retired the post in 1890. Afterward, he wrote nearly a dozen books, several of which dealt with his presidency and military career, and died in 1905 at the age of 81, three days after his birthday. He has been repeatedly praised for his military acumen and his efforts at remaining non-partisan during his presidency. He normally ranks above average in lists of presidents composed by historians and academics.

Biography

Early life and childhood

Military service

Civil War

Governor and Secretary of War

Presidency

Appointed Commanding General of the Army

Retirement and death

Personality and traits

Legacy


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