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John Adams Dix

John Adams Dix
24th Governor of New York
In office
January 1, 1873 – December 31, 1874
Lieutenant John C. Robinson
Preceded by John T. Hoffman
Succeeded by Samuel J. Tilden
24th United States Secretary of the Treasury
In office
January 15, 1861 – March 6, 1861
President James Buchanan
Preceded by Philip Thomas
Succeeded by Salmon P. Chase
United States Senator
from New York
In office
January 27, 1845 – March 3, 1849
Preceded by Henry A. Foster
Succeeded by William H. Seward
Personal details
Born (1798-07-24)July 24, 1798
Boscawen, New Hampshire
Died April 21, 1879(1879-04-21) (aged 80)
New York City, New York
Political party Democratic, Republican
Spouse(s) Catherine Morgan Dix
Profession Politician, Lawyer, Railroad President
Religion Episcopalian
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1813 - 1828; 1861 - 1865
Rank Major General
Commands Department of Virginia

John Adams Dix (July 24, 1798 – April 21, 1879) was Secretary of the Treasury, Governor of New York and Union major general during the Civil War. He was notable for arresting the pro-Southern Maryland legislature, preventing that divided border state from seceding, and for arranging a system for prisoner exchange via the Dix-Hill cartel, concluded in partnership with Confederate Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill.

Early life and career

Dix was born in Boscawen, New Hampshire, the son of Timothy Dix and Abigail Wilkins, and brother of composer Marion Dix Sullivan.[1] He joined the US Army as an ensign in May 1813, serving under his father. He attained the rank of captain in August 1825, and resigned from the Army in December 1828.[2]

In 1826, Dix married Catherine Morgan, the adopted daughter of Congressman Cooperstown. Dix and his wife moved to Cooperstown in 1828, and he practiced law in addition to overseeing the land holdings. In 1830, he was appointed by Governor Enos T. Throop as Adjutant General of the New York State Militia, and moved to Albany, New York. He was Secretary of State of New York from 1833 to 1839, and a member of the New York State Assembly (Albany Co.) in 1842.

U.S. Senator

Dix was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Silas Wright, Jr., and held office from 1845 to 1849. In November 1848, he was the Barnburner/Free-Soil candidate for Governor of New York, but was defeated by Whig Hamilton Fish. In February 1849, he ran for re-election to the U.S. Senate as the Barnburner's candidate, but the Whig majority of the State Legislature elected William H. Seward.

Railroad president and postmaster

In 1853 Dix was president of the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad. He was appointed postmaster of the City of New York and served from 1860 to 1861.

In addition to his military and public duties, Dix was the president of the Union Pacific from 1863 to 1868 during construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad. He was the figurehead for rail baron Thomas C. Durant, in both of his railroad presidencies. He was also briefly President of the Erie Railroad in 1872.

Civil War service

Dix was appointed United States Secretary of the Treasury by President James Buchanan in January 1861. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he sent a telegram to the Treasury agents in New Orleans ordering that: "If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot." Although the telegram was intercepted by Confederates, and was never delivered to the Treasury agents, the text found its way to the press, and Dix became one of the first heroes of the North during the Civil War. The saying is found on many Civil War tokens minted during the war, although the wording is slightly modified.

Major General John Adams Dix.
Carte de visite, c. 1861

Major General

At the start of the American Civil War, Dix was appointed a Department of the Potomac.[4] Dix commanded the Department of Virginia from June 1862 until July 1863, and the Department of the East from July 1863 until April 1865.

On July 22, 1862, Dix and Confederate Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill concluded an agreement for the general exchange of prisoners between the Union and Confederate armies.[5] This agreement became known as the Dix-Hill Cartel. It established a scale of equivalents, where an officer would be exchanged for a fixed number of enlisted men, and also allowed for the parole of prisoners, who would undertake not to serve in a military capacity until officially exchanged. (The cartel worked well for a few months, but broke down when Confederates insisted on treating black prisoners as fugitive slaves and returning them to their previous owners.)

On October 10, 1862, Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles wrote that “a scheme for permits, special favors, Treasury agents, and improper management” existed and was arranged by Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase for General John A. Dix. The motive of Chase appeared to be for political influence and not for financial gain.[6]

Dix was considered too old for field command. Some believe that his most distinguished contribution to the war was the suppression of the New York Draft Riots in July 1863, although the rioting had already subsided by the time he replaced General John E. Wool.[7] He was also active in the defense of Suffolk, which was part of his department. He served as the temporary chairman of the 1866 National Union Convention.

Later career

Minister to France

He was United States Minister to France from 1866 to 1869.

Governor of New York

Gubernatorial portrait of New York Governor John Adams Dix.

He was Governor of New York from 1873 to 1874, elected on the Republican ticket in November 1872, but defeated for re-election by Samuel J. Tilden in November 1874. He suffered another defeat when he ran for the Mayor of New York City in 1876.

Death and legacy

The John Adams Dix memorial at the Cathedral of All Saints (Albany, New York).

Dix died in New York City and was buried at the Trinity Church Cemetery.

His memoirs, contained in two volumes, were compiled by his son.[8]

Fort Dix, New Jersey, a United States Army post, is named for Dix, as is Dix, Illinois, and also Dix Township, Ford County, Illinois, and several revenue cutters, John A. Dix.

Dix Mountain, one of the Adirondack High Peaks, was named for him. The name was later extended to its entire range, and unofficially applied to neighboring High Peaks South Dix (soon to be renamed Carson Peak) and East Dix. The Forest Preserve management unit in which those peaks are located is the Dix Mountain Wilderness Area.

There is a memorial to Dix at the Cathedral of All Saints (Albany, New York).

See also


  1. ^ McCaskey,John Piersol, Franklin Square Song Collection: Two Hundred Favorite Songs, Volume 5, retrieved 27 June 2014 
  2. ^ Historical Register & Dictionary of the US Army
  3. ^ Eicher, p.773.
  4. ^ Eicher, pp. 210-11.
  5. ^ From Dix's report to Union Secretary of War E. Stanton, July 23, 1862, Official Records, Series II, Vol. 4, pp. 265-68.
  6. ^ pp. 166, 175, 177, 227, 318, Welles, Gideon. Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. I, 1861 – March 30, 1864. (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1911.
  7. ^ Warner, p. 126.
  8. ^ Dix, Morgan. "Memoirs of John Adams Dix," Volumes 1 and 2 (1883, Harper & Brothers).


John Adams Dix, portrait by Imogene Robinson Morrell. Oil on canvas, 1883

Secondary sources

  • Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Union Pacific Railroad, UP - History of the UP logo. Retrieved June 8, 2005. Timeline that also includes UP presidency successions.
  • Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders, Louisiana State University Press, 1964, ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.

Primary sources

  • Dix, Morgan (compiler). Memoirs of John Adams Dix, (1883). Vol. I Vol. II
  • Dix, John Adams. Speeches and Occasional Addresses. Volume II (1864) online edition
  • U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880–1901.


External links

  • John Adams Dix at Find a Grave
  • Likenesses of New Hampshire War Heroes & Personages
  • Spartacus Educational: John A. Dix
  • Mr. Lincoln and New York: John A. Dix
  • John A. Dix at NNDB
Political offices
Preceded by
Azariah C. Flagg
Secretary of State of New York
Succeeded by
John C. Spencer
Preceded by
Philip Thomas
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
Served under: James Buchanan

Succeeded by
Salmon P. Chase
Preceded by
John T. Hoffman
Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Samuel J. Tilden
United States Senate
Preceded by
Henry A. Foster
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from New York
Served alongside: Daniel S. Dickinson
Succeeded by
William H. Seward
Business positions
Preceded by
William Butler Ogden
President of Union Pacific Railroad
Succeeded by
Oliver Ames, Jr.
Preceded by
Jay Gould
President of Erie Railroad
Succeeded by
Peter H. Watson
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
John Bigelow
U.S. Minister to France
Succeeded by
Elihu B. Washburne
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