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Collection Overview

Belknap, William W. (William Worth), 1829-1890
William W. Belknap Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1814-1917 (mostly 1849-1890)
6 boxes and 2.4 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-6


Consists primarily of correspondence, documents, and miscellaneous material of William Worth Belknap (Princeton Class of 1848) and his father, William Goldsmith Belknap (1794-1851), of Newburgh, New York.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists primarily of correspondence, documents, and miscellaneous material of William Worth Belknap (Princeton Class of 1848) and his father, William Goldsmith Belknap (1794-1851), of Newburgh, New York. Included are official correspondence of William Goldsmith Belknap, a career soldier, covering his service in the army at the battle of Fort Erie, Canada, during the War of 1812, in Florida (1841-1843) during the Seminole War, and in Texas (1844-1851), where he fought in the Mexican-American War. Correspondents include William Jenkin Worth, J. T. Sprague, and Henry Whitney. There is also a series of letters (1835-1851), to his wife, Anne Clark Belknap, from various military posts in the Southwest, Florida, and Texas.

William Worth Belknap settled in Keokuk, Iowa, in 1851. The papers include his official correspondence and documents relating to his service with the 15th Iowa Infantry in the Civil War and, afterwards, as collector of internal revenue in Iowa (1865-1869), but they mainly concern his trial and impeachment on charges of receiving bribes for appointments of post-traders at Fort Sill, Indian Territory (Oklahoma), while serving as secretary of war (1869-1876). There are letters by Chester Alan Arthur, Ulysses S. Grant, and Philip Sheridan, as well as a large file of family correspondence, including correspondence of Belknap's sister, Clara Belknap Wolcott, and other Wolcott family members. Also present are Civil War ordnance and casualty records, tax reports, War Department reports, a few photographs, printed matter, and genealogical material.


Organized into the following series:

Collection Creator Biography:

Belknap, William W. (William Worth), 1829-1890

William Worth Belknap was a United States Army general, government administrator, and United States Secretary of War in the administration of Ulysses S. Grant. He is the only Cabinet secretary ever to have been impeached by the United States House of Representatives. His father, William Goldsmith Belknap (1794-1851), was a career soldier and a founder of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

William Goldsmith Belknap was born in Newburgh, New York, on September 14, 1794. He enlisted in the army in 1814, during the War of 1812, and fought with distinction at the battle at Fort Erie. In the 1830s, he was attached to the headquarters of the Army of Florida, and fought in the Seminole War. In 1845, Colonel Belknap served under Zachary Taylor and later was promoted to Brigadier-General. After the war, he beacme the commander Fort Gibson in the Cherokee Nation, where he died of a disease contracted in the War on November 10, 1851.

On August 15, 1821, He married Anne Clark (March 15, 1801 - December 7, 1858) in Keokuk, Iowa. They had four children: 1. Anna Mary Belknap (June 6, 1822 - July 21, 1893) 2. Clara Belknapo Wolcott (April 26, 1824 - January 1906) 3. William Worth Belknap (September 22, 1829 - October 13, 1890) 4. Frederick Augustus Belknap (May 31, 1832 - October 23, 1832)

William Worth Belknap was born in Newburgh, New York, on September 22, 1829. He graduated from Princeton University in 1848, and went on to Georgetown Law School. In 1851, he set up a law practice in Keokuk, Iowa. He was elected to the Iowa legislature in 1857. In 1861, he became a major in the 15th Iowa Volunteers, and fought at the battle of Shiloh. Later fighting at Vicksburg and with Sherman's army on its March to the Sea, by the end of the War Belknap had risen to the rank of major-general.

In 1866, he was appointed Collector of Internal Revenue for the 1st district of Iowa. In 1869, after the death of Secretary of War Stanton, Belknap became the new Secretary of War, much to everybody's surprise. After the House impeached him on charges of taking bribes in affairs related to the position of Trader at Fort Sill, Belknap resigned to avoid a trial in the Senate (March 2, 1876). He was tried anyway, but the case was dismissed due to a lack of evidence. One of the main witnesses against him, Colonel Hazen, was later court-martialled.

Following his resignation, General Belknap set up a law practice in Washington, D.C. He died there on October 13, 1890, and is buried at Arlington Cemetry.

General Belknap married three times and had four children:

Firstly, about 1853, to Cora Le Roy (1837-1862) 1. William Goldsmith Belknap (March 4, 1855 - June 8, 1874) 2. Hugh Reid Belknap (ca. 1861 - December 1901)

Secondly, to Carita Tomlinson (1840-1870) 3. Robert Power Belknap (November 1870 - May 1871)

Thirdly, to Amanda Tomlinson Bower (1842-?) 4. Alice Belknap Henry (November 1874 - after 1911)

Collection History


Presented by William L. Talbot in October 1967.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

Folder inventory added by Alicia Corona '2013 in 2011. Rearranged by Hilde Creager '2015 in 2013.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

William W. Belknap Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-6