Simon Cameron | Pennsylvania Civil War 150
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Pennsylvania Civil War 150

Pennsylvania Civil War 150

Politicians

Simon Cameron

Simon Cameron's political career had all the necessary elements: ambition, connections, and of course, scandal.

Simon Cameron was born on March 8, 1799, in Maytown, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Orphaned by the age of 10, he became a printer's apprentice, which later led to a career in journalism. After honing his skills as the editor of the Bucks County Messenger, Cameron spent time in Washington, D.C., before returning to Pennsylvania in 1824. He relocated to Harrisburg, where he ran a local newspaper, the Republican. In addition to his journalistic career, Cameron also served as the Adjutant General of Pennsylvania and played key roles in railway and banking businesses.

In 1844, Cameron was elected to the U.S. Senate on a Democratic platform, replacing outgoing Senator James Buchanan. By the Election of 1860, he had switched loyalties to the Republican Party, and backed Abraham Lincoln for the Presidency. Following Lincoln's victory, Cameron was named Lincoln's Secretary of War.

In January of 1862, however, severe allegations of corruption resulted in Cameron being ousted from the position of Secretary of War, a decision that was hotly contested by President Lincoln. Rumors of financial corruption plagued Cameron throughout his career. Following his departure from the White House, Cameron would go on to serve as the U.S. Minister to Russia for much of that year. He was succeeded as Secretary of War by Edwin M. Stanton.

After the Civil War, Simon Cameron was re-elected to the U.S. Senate in 1866, where he stayed for the next 11 years, only resigning upon confirmation that his son would succeed him.  After leaving the Senate, he retired to a farm near his hometown of Maytown, where he died on June 26, 1899.

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Information for this section was contributed by the National Civil War Museum.

Image Courtesy of Library of Congress

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