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Dix, John A., major-general, was born in Boscawen, N. H., July 24, 1798, and received his early education at the academy at Salisbury, at the Phillips Exeter academy, and the College of Montreal. As a boy of fourteen he entered the war of 1812 as a cadet in his father's regiment the 14th U. S. infantry, stationed at Baltimore, Md., where he also studied at St. Mary's college. He was made ensign in 1813, took part in the operations on the Canadian frontier, served subsequently as adjutant to Col. Walback, and in 1819 was appointed aide-de- camp to Gen. Jacob Brown, then in command of the northern military department of the United States and stationed at Brownsville, where he studied law. He was later prepared for the bar in Washington, under William West, but did not practice there, and in 1826 was sent as special messenger to the court of Denmark. On his return he was stationed at Fort Monroe, but ill health led him to practice law in Cooperstown, N. Y., and he subsequently held various important positions in that state. He was adjutant-general of the State of New York, secretary of state and superintendent of public schools, a prominent member of the "Albany Regency," and then, going out of office in 1840 by the defeat of the Democratic party, devoted himself to literary pursuits, being editor-in-chief from 1841 to 1843 of "The Northern Light." He was elected member of the state assembly in 1841, spent two years abroad, was United States senator from New York from 1845 to 1849, and in 1848, was the candidate on the Free-Soil Democratic ticket for governor of New York, but was overwhelmingly defeated by Hamilton Fish. He was appointed assistant treasurer at New York by President Pierce, and was the choice of the president as minister to France, but was never nominated, owing to political opposition. He earnestly supported Buchanan and Breckenridge in the canvass of 1856, and opposed the election of Lincoln in 1860, voting for Breckenridge and Lane. He was appointed by President Buchanan postmaster of New York to succeed Isaac V. Fowler, defaulter, declined the portfolio of war in that president's cabinet, and on Jan. 9, 1861, accepted the place of secretary of the treasury. It was while in this office that he sent the historic message to Lieut. Caldwell at New Orleans, to arrest the commander of the revenue cutter, adding to the message: "If anyone attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot." At the opening of the Civil war he rendered effective service as president of the Union defense committee in New York, from its formation in 1861, and on April 24 of that year presided over the great meeting in Union Square which determined the attitude of the metropolis and of the entire North in reference to supporting the new administration. On the president's call for troops he organized and sent to the front seventeen regiments, and was appointed by Gov. Morgan one of the four major-generals of state troops. In the following June he was commissioned by President Lincoln major-general of volunteers, and was ordered to Washington by Gen. Scott to take command of the Arlington and Alexandria department. He was ousted from this post by political intrigue and given command of the Department of Maryland, which was then considered of comparatively minor importance, but which became later the center and key of the national position, and it was through Gen. Dix's energetic and judicious measures that the city and state were prevented from espousing the Confederate cause. He was sent from Baltimore to Fortress Monroe in May, 1862, and in June, 1863, was in command of a force of 10,000 men, in the movement up the York river to the White House, where he succeeded in cutting off Lee's line of communication with the Confederate capital, and in destroying bridges capturing Confederate troops, including Gen. W. H. F. Lee, and obtaining control of the whole country between the Pamunkey and Rappahannock rivers. Then, when the city of Richmond was almost within his grasp, he was ordered to fall back and send all his available troops to the defense of Washington and the Pennsylvania border, then threatened by the combined Confederate forces. After the trouble connected with the draft riots in New York, he was transferred to New York, in command of the Department of the East, superseding Gen. Wool, and he held this post until the close of the war, his energetic action preventing further trouble in the metropolis and restoring business confidence. He was the first president of the Union Pacific railroad company, and in 1866 was appointed U. S. naval officer of New York, and in the same year, minister to France. He returned to America on the accession of President Grant in 1869, was elected governor of New York in 1872, but in 1874, owing to political intrigue in the Republican party, was defeated of reelection. He became president of the Erie railroad company in 1872. Gen. Dix died in New York city, April 21, 1879.
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