- Collection Overview
- Collection Description & Creator Information
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- Collection History
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- Belknap, William W. (William Worth), 1829-1890
- Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
- William W. Belknap Papers
- Manuscripts Division
- Permanent URL:
- 1814-1917 (mostly 1849-1890)
- 6 boxes and 2.4 linear feet
- Storage Note:
- Firestone Library (mss): 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
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:
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)
Presented by William L. Talbot in October 1967.
- Archival Appraisal Information:
No appraisal information is available.
- Processing Information:
Folder inventory added by Alicia Corona '2013 in 2011. Rearranged by Jameson Creager '2015 in 2013.
Access & Use
- Access Restrictions:
The collection is open for research.
- Conditions for Reproduction and Use:
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.
- Credit this material:
William W. Belknap Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library
- Permanent URL:
- Firestone LibraryOne Washington RoadPrinceton, NJ 08544, USA(609) 258-3184
- Subject Terms:
- Frontier and pioneer life -- Iowa -- 19th century.
Frontier and pioneer life -- Oklahoma -- 19th century.
Frontier and pioneer life -- Texas -- 19th century.
Husband and wife -- United States -- 19th century -- Correspondence.
Impeachments -- United States -- 19th century.
Indians of North America -- Wars -- 1815-1842.
Internal revenue -- Iowa -- 19th century.
Lake Erie, Battle of, 1813.
Mexican War, 1846-1848.
Seminole War, 2d, 1835-1842.
- Genre Terms:
- United States. Army
United States. Army. Iowa Infantry Regiment, 15th (1861-1865)
United States. War Department
Belknap, William Goldsmith, 1794-1851
Wolcott, Clara Belknap, 1824-1906
- Florida -- History -- 1821-1865 -- Sources.
Fort Sill (Okla.)
Iowa -- History -- Civil War, 1851-1865 -- Sources.
Oklahoma -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
Texas -- History -- 1846-1950 -- Sources.
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Casualties (Statistics, etc.)
United States -- History -- War of 1812.