He was briefly a sailor, and spent time in Quebec, before settling in Kaskaskia, Illinois, where he studied and practiced law. In 1836, he was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, and later as State Auditor. His work as auditor was criticized by a young Abraham Lincoln, who (with his then fiancée, Mary Todd) published a series of inflammatory pseudonymous letters in a local paper. Shields challenged Lincoln to a duel, and the two nearly fought on September 22, 1842, before making peace, and eventually becoming friends. In 1845, Shields was appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court, from which he resigned to become Commissioner of the U.
At the outbreak of the Mexican-American War, he left the Land Office to take an appointment as brigadier general of volunteers. He served with distinction and was twice wounded. In 1848, Shields was appointed to and confirmed by the Senate as the first governor of the Oregon Territory, which he declined.
After serving as Senator from Illinois, he moved to Minnesota and founded the town of Shieldsville there. He was then elected as Senator from Minnesota. He served in the American Civil War, and at the Battle of Kernstown, his troops inflicted the only tactical defeat of Stonewall Jackson in the war. Shields resigned his commission shortly thereafter. After moving multiple times, Shields settled in Missouri and served again for three months in the Senate.He died in 1879 and represents Illinois in the National Statuary Hall. Shields was born in Altmore, County Tyrone, Ireland, to parents, Charles Shields and Anne McDonnell, the first of three children. As his father died when Shields was six, his uncle, also named James Shields and also born in Ireland, played a large role in his life. The elder Shields was a professor of Greek and Latin, and served as a Congressman from Ohio. The younger Shields obtained early schooling at a hedge school near his home, later at a school run by a clergyman from Maynooth College, and subsequently his uncle. He was educated in military science, fencing, and the French language by a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, of which there were many in Ireland at the time. [c] He successfully made it to America around 1826, although his uncle whom he had sailed to meet had died. However, after a time, an accident left Shields disabled, and in the hospital with both legs broken for three months. After the accident, he volunteered and fought in the Second Seminole War, reaching the rank of lieutenant. He spent some time in Quebec, founding a fencing school. Eventually, Shields settled in Kaskaskia, Randolph County, Illinois where he studied and began practicing law in 1832, supplementing his income by teaching French.  He served as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, beginning in 1836, and in 1839 was elected as State Auditor. As auditor, Shields was involved in correcting the state's finances following the Panic of 1837. This was done, at times, through practices that proved unpopular. Shields almost fought a duel on September 22, 1842 with Abraham Lincoln, then a young lawyer in Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln had published an inflammatory letter in a local newspaper, the Sangamo Journal, that attacked Shields, impersonating a local farmer, and taking the pseudonym of Aunt Becca, or simply Rebecca. The Illinois State Bank had been forced to close, and Shields as state auditor had become the target of resentment among members of the Whig Party, and more so given the upcoming 1842 elections. Lincoln's future wife and then fiancée, Mary Todd, helped to revise the letter, and she and a close friend Julia Jayne, [g] continued writing to the paper without Lincoln's knowledge. "Rebecca" as she was, denounced Shields in the paper as a "fool as well as a liar, " and scandalously described him at a party among a group of women. If I was deaf and blind I could tell him by the smell... All the galls about town were there, and all the handsome widows, and married women, finickin about, trying to look like galls, tied as tight in the middle, and puffed out at both ends like bundles of fodder that hadn't been stacked yet, wanted stackin pretty bad... [quoting Shields] Dear girls, it is distressing, but I cannot marry you all. The publications caused "intense excitement" in Springfield, and Shields, taking great offense at being publicly ridiculed, demanded satisfaction, as well as the true identity of the author, then known only to the editor of the paper. Lincoln took responsibility for the articles and accepted the challenge.
Shields confronted Lincoln, demanded a full retraction, and the incident escalated to the two men picking seconds, :? And meeting on an island located between Missouri and Illinois called Bloody Island to participate in a duel. [j] Lincoln, as the one challenged, chose the weapons for the duel, and selected the cavalry broadsword, as Shields was an excellent marksman, and because Lincoln stood 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m) to Shields' 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m). At least two accounts have John J.
English intervening and convincing the two to cease hostilities.  Others have them resolving their differences without incident, whether through threats on the part of Lincoln, or through apology and explanation from him. However, all accounts agree that they left the island without following through with the duel. Thereafter, Shields and Lincoln became and remained good friends.Shields was appointed as an Illinois Supreme Court justice on February 18, 1845, to take the seat vacated by Stephen A. [l] His term was relatively unremarkable, and he soon resigned to become Commissioner of the U.
While at the Land Office, Shields spent much effort boring, testing, surveying and examining land in Iowa, as he planned to establish a colony for Irish immigrants there. He resigned from the position to assume command as a brigadier general following the outbreak of the Mexican-American War. James Shields, photograph by Mathew Brady, c. On July 1, 1846, Shields was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers to fight in the Mexican-American War.
He served under Zachary Taylor, then also a brigadier general, and later under Brigadier General John E. Wool and Major General Winfield Scott. In 1846, Shields left for war with two brigades under his command.
In February 1847, when Tampico was abandoned, his men assumed control of the city. He commanded the 3rd Brigade, Volunteer Division, at the battles of Vera Cruz and Cerro Gordo, where he was severely wounded by grapeshot, and spent nine weeks recuperating. His command that day was criticized as clumsy by some, :?
And praised as skillful by others. He required reinforcements to overcome strong enemy resistance, but his brigade took over 800 prisoners. Shields was again wounded, receiving a fractured arm in the Battle of Chapultepec, after his horse was shot out from underneath him, and he continued fighting on foot, and leading his troops with sword.He remained on the field until the conclusion of the battle, :? But was then forced to spend several months recuperating, where he remained until after the final battles of the war. He was brevetted to major general, and received two honorary swords from the states South Carolina and Illinois. Following the war, on August 14, 1848, he was nominated by President Polk, and confirmed by the United States Senate to serve as governor of Oregon Territory, which had been created that same day.  However, he declined the position and Joseph Lane was nominated and became the first governor of the new territory. Shields declined the governorship to run for the Senate from Illinois. He won, but the election was voided by on the grounds that he had not been a U. Citizen for the nine years required by the United States Constitution; having been naturalized October 21, 1840, and elected on January 13, 1849. As senator, he opposed slavery, and supported land grants to agricultural colleges, to railroads, to soldiers, and to settlers under a homestead act. Shields published the 1854 book, A History of Illinois, from its Commencement as a State in 1818 to 1847, originally written by Illinois Governor Thomas Ford. According to the foreword by Shields, Ford gave him the manuscript on his death bed, so that Shields might publish it, and use the proceeds to benefit Ford's then orphaned children.  In 1854, a military company in Chicago was named "The Shields Guards" in his honor. The Guards would come to make up companies I and K in the 23rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
In 1855, Shields was defeated for re-election in Illinois in a three way runoff between himself, Lincoln, and Lyman Trumbull, with Trumbull eventually winning the seat after several ballots. Shields then moved to Minnesota, to inspect lands he had been awarded there in return for his military service. He arranged for Irish immigrants to move from the East Coast to Minnesota, settling in Rice and Le Sueur counties.
Shields himself founded Shieldsville, Minnesota, and was also involved in the early settlement of Faribault, Minnesota. In 1857, Native Americans massacred settlers in Spirit Lake, Iowa. Shields led a group of about 100 people from Minnesota to fight the tribes; however, by the time he arrived, the tribes had been beaten by troops under the control of Judson Bishop. When Minnesota achieved statehood in 1858, and the legislature convened in December, Shields was put forward as a compromise candidate for U. Senator along with Henry Mower Rice.The two drew straws to determine who would serve out the longer and shorter terms. Shields then moved to California, and married Mary Carr in 1861. He was engaged in a mining venture in Mexico, and it was there that Shields was when he was appointed as brigadier general of volunteers from that state following the outbreak of the American Civil War, succeeding the late Frederick W.
He commanded the 2nd Division of the V Corps, Army of the Potomac (subsequently part of the Army of the Shenandoah), during the Valley Campaign of 1862. Shields was wounded at the Battle of Kernstown on March 22, 1862, but his troops inflicted the only tactical defeat of General Thomas J.
"Stonewall" Jackson during the campaign (or the war).  The day after Kernstown, he was promoted to major general, but the promotion was withdrawn, reconsidered, and then finally rejected. Largely a result of his promotion being rejected, Shields resigned from the army.
 Shields was informally offered command of the Army of the Potomac by Abraham Lincoln. Shields declined owing to a poor relationship with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Statue of Shields at the Minnesota State Capitol. Statue of Shields in the Minnesota State Capitol, 2008.Statue of Shields in the United States Capitol. Statue of Shields in the United States Capitol, 2011. In 1863, Shields moved to San Francisco, where he would serve as the state railroad commissioner,  and then to the Mississippi Valley, and to Wisconsin. In 1866 he settled in Carrollton, Missouri, which remained his home, and where he tended to his farm, lectured, and continued public involvement until his death 13 years later.
He ran for Congress unwillingly in 1868, and, in a contested election, lost. The result was disputed, and Congress awarded a year's salary to Shields.A member of Congress, Benjamin Butler, proposed him as Doorkeeper of the United States House of Representatives in 1876, but Shields, viewing it as an indignity, declined. Shields was involved in fundraising to provide aid to the yellow fever stricken Southern US. He served as member of the Missouri State House of Representatives, and as railroad commissioner was involved in establishing the State Railroad Commission. In 1879, he was elected to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Senator Lewis V.
He served only three months and declined to run for re-election, but this made Shields the only person to have ever served as senator from three different states. Shields died unexpectedly in Ottumwa, Iowa on June 1, 1879, while on a lecture tour, after reportedly complaining of chest pains. His body was transferred to Carrollton, Missouri by train, :?
Where a funeral was held at the Catholic church, and his body escorted to St. Mary's Cemetery by two companies of the Nineteenth Infantry, the Craig Rifles, and a twenty-piece brass band. His grave remained unmarked for 30 years, until the local government and the U. Congress funded a granite and bronze monument there in his honor. Shields was not a wealthy man in later life, :?
And upon his death the most valuable possessions he had to leave his family were his ceremonial swords, given to him following the end of the Mexican-American War. After his death, Mary Shields remained in Carrollton, with their daughter and two sons, until eventually moving to New York to live with their son Daniel. A bronze statue of Shields was given by the State of Illinois in 1893, to the U. Capitol, and represents the state in the National Statuary Hall.
The statue was sculpted by Leonard Volk, and dedicated in December 1893.  A statue of Shields stands in front of the Carroll County Courthouse in Carrollton, Missouri.  Dedicated on November 12, 1910, newspapers reported "hundreds of visitors from several states" that were present at the unveiling.  A third statue stands on the grounds of the state capitol in Saint Paul, Minnesota, dedicated in 1914. This item is in the category "Collectibles\Militaria\Civil War (1861-65)\Original Period Items\Photographs".
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