The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
ĽName: Lorenzo Thomas

back to Who Was Who

Lorenzo Thomas was born in Newcastle, Delaware. In 1823, he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He saw action in the (Second) Seminole War and served as General William O. Butler’s chief of staff in the Mexican War. Thomas then became General Winfield Scott’s chief of staff until the outbreak of the Civil War. In March 1861 he was named adjutant-general and, two months later, given the rank of brigadier-general. In March 1863, as punishment for alleged inadequacy, he lost his status as adjutant (while retaining his rank) and was assigned to organize black troops in the South. After the war he was breveted a major-general in recognition of his military service.

Thomas played a pivotal role in the political battle between President Johnson and the Congressional Radicals for control of Reconstruction. When the President decided to fire Secretary of War Stanton in February 1868, he named Thomas to replace Stanton on an ad interim basis and restored the general’s adjutant status. Thomas was not well respected in the army, but he had a grudge against Stanton and he supported Johnson on Reconstruction. Thomas personally delivered the President’s dismissal notice to Stanton, but the Secretary refused to accept its legitimacy or to vacate the premises. Instead, Stanton had Thomas arrested for violating the Tenure of Office Act. When Stanton realized, however, that the arrest would allow the courts to review the law, which was what Johnson wanted, the Secretary of War had the charges dropped. Thomas retired in 1869 at the end of Johnson’s term. He died in Washington, D. C.

Robert C. Kennedy, HarpWeek

Sources consulted:  Albert Castel, The Presidency of Andrew Johnson; Harper’s Encyclopedia of United States History; and Mark Boatner, The Civil War Dictionary.

Lorenzo Thomas
(26 October 1804 - 2 March 1875)
Source:  Harper's Weekly

Website design © 1998-2005 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2005 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to