Civil War Union Brigadier General, Presidential Cabinet Secretary. A native of Newburg, New York, he graduated from Princeton University in 1852. He studied law at Georgetown University and following his graduation, practiced law in the capital city until he moved to Keokuk, Iowa, where he entered private practice. While there, he served as a Democratic representative in the Iowa State legislature. Later, he would support Republican Abraham Lincoln. When the Civil War began in 1861, he volunteered for military service and was commissioned a Major in the 15th Iowa Volunteer Infantry. Most of his combat experience was in the West at Shiloh, at Corinth, where he served as a Lieutenant Colonel with valor, earning himself a promotion to Colonel in June 1863. It was with this rank that he led the 15th Iowa Infantry at Vicksburg, Mississippi. By 1864 his exemplary service had earned him promotion to Brigadier General of Volunteers. He served under Major General William T. Sherman, leading the 3rd Brigade, 4th Division, XVII Corps during the famous March through Georgia, and the Carolinas Campaign, which he led the XVII Corps as a Brevet Major General. After the war, he resigned from the Army in 1865 to accept appointment from President Andrew Johnson as revenue collector for the State of Iowa. By 1869 General Ulysses S. Grant had been elected President of the United States. Grant was aware of his outstanding service during the Civil War, and requested that he serve as his Secretary of War. Agreeing to the President's request, he took the oath of office on October 13, 1869. By 1875 allegations of impropriety surrounding his appointment of post traders (civilians authorized to sell merchandise on military installations) were being raised. Evidence surfaced showing that he had accepted payments from one John Rawlins, (not to be confused with Grant's close friend of the same name), in exchange for Rawlins' appointment as post trader at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. A Bill of Impeachment was introduced in the House of Representatives and quickly passed. However, before a trial could take place in the Senate, he tendered his resignation to President Grant on March 7, 1876. But the scandal demanded resolution and in spite of his resignation, the Senate trial continued. The vote was 35 "guilty," 25 "not guilty" thus falling short of the two thirds necessary to convict. Of the 25, 22 declared that they voted "not guilty" on the grounds that the Senate lacked jurisdiction after Belknap’s accepted resignation. He later lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and once again practiced law in Washington D.C., where he would later die suddenly in his home.
Bio by: Ugaalltheway