December 23: Edwin McMasters Stanton (1869)

Edwin Stanton was a lawyer, politician, U.S. Attorney General in 1860-61 and Secretary of War through most of the Civil War and Reconstruction era. Stanton was born in Steubenville, Ohio, the eldest of four children of David and Lucy (Norman) Stanton. He began his political life as a lawyer in Ohio. He moved to Washington in 1856 where he had a large practice before the Supreme Court. He was appointed Attorney General by President Buchanan. Most historians credit Stanton with changing Buchanan’s position away from tolerating secession to denouncing it. When Lincoln was elected president, Stanton agreed to act as a legal adviser to the inefficient Secretary of War Simon Cameron, whom Stanton eventually replaced in January 1862. Stanton was very effective in administering the huge War Department, but devoted considerable energy to persecuting those whom he suspected of traitorous sympathies to the south.

When Epiphany rector Charles Hall, a southerner, received word that he was accused of being a southern sympathizer, Hall marched to the office of Secretary Stanton and assured him of his loyalty to the union. So impressed was Stanton that he became an Epiphany parishioner for the rest of his life. The first record of Stanton in the parish register is the baptism of his five-month old son Jamie in March 1862. The baptism was administered at home due to the illness of the child, who died four months later. Stanton’s last child, Bessie, was baptized in 1864. After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Edwin Stanton pretty much took control. He organized the response to the assassination, the pursuit of the assassins, and the prosecution of the conspirators. At Lincoln’s death, it was reportedly Stanton who uttered the words, “Now he belongs to the ages.” Stanton died four years after Lincoln. His funeral was at Epiphany. The last known member of the Stanton family to be connected with Epiphany was Stanton’s daughter, Eleanor Stanton Bush, who was buried from the church in 1910.

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