This is a complete life story of one of the most controversial yet least well known generals on either side during the Civil War. Graduating first in his class at West Point, William Buel Franklin went on to serve in the Armys Corps of Topographical Engineers and contributed greatly to the building of the nations internal improvements; at one point, he was chief engineer in charge of construction of the U. S.
Capitols dome and extension. During the Civil War, Franklin rose rapidly, commanding a brigade at Bull Run, moving up to leadership of the Sixth Corps of the Army of the Potomac in the Peninsula and Maryland campaigns, and going on to command of the Left Grand Division at Fredericksburg. In the wake of that terrible battle, Franklin was unjustly blamed for the Union defeat - largely for political reasons.
Censured by the notorious joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War, Franklin was banished to the Department of the Gulf, where he participated in the ill-fated Sabine Pass Expedition and the Red River Campaign. Wounded during the latter campaign, Franklin was captured during his convalescent leave. He would escape his Confederate captors, but he could not escape the wrath of the Lincoln administration.
Franklin resigned his commission in 1866 and began a highly successful postwar career as vice president and general manager of Colt Firearms in Hartford, Connecticut. Franklin continued to serve in various public positions, including leadership of a bureau that eventually became the U. S.
Veterans Administration. This study of Franklins life points out the flaws and lapses of judgement - such as at the battle of Cramptons Gap - but illuminates his previously ignored strengths. From First to Last may well change the way historians interpret this important period of American history.