Charles Whittlesey (lawyer)

Charles Whittlesey (October 1, 1819 – December 9, 1874) was an American lawyer and newspaper publisher who briefly served as the Attorney General of Virginia at the end of Congressional Reconstruction.

Charles Whittlesey
Unionist Attorney General of Virginia
In office
September 10, 1869 – January 19, 1870
GovernorGilbert Carlton Walker
Preceded byThomas Russell Bowden
Succeeded byJames Craig Taylor
Personal details
Born(1819-10-01)October 1, 1819
Litchfield, Connecticut
DiedDecember 9, 1874(1874-12-09) (aged 55)
Alexandria, Virginia
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Ann Whittlesey

Early and family lifeEdit

Born in Litchfield, Connecticut to Eliphalet Whittlesey and his wife Martha Strond, Charles had two brothers (Philander and George) who had died by the time their father wrote his will in 1856 and named his son Walter to serve as executor along with his brother in law, Lot Norton.[1] After education, Charles Whittlesey became a lawyer and practiced in Connecticut for several years, even serving as a judge. He married Ann Whittlesey, and had adopted a son, also named Charles, who survived him.[2]

Military, publishing and Virginia careerEdit

During the American Civil War, Whittlesey recruited infantry Company I, of the 22nd Connecticut volunteers, and served as its captain.[3] After being mustered out of the army, Whittlesey remained in Alexandria, Virginia, where he practiced law. He also edited the Alexandria Virginia State Journal, then moved to Richmond, Virginia (which had once again become the state capital) and renamed it the Richmond State Journal. Whittlesey also participated in the April 17, 1867 meeting of Republicans at Richmond's First African Baptist Church.[4]

As Congressional Reconstruction was ending, General Edward Richard Sprigg Canby (who had succeeded Gen. John Schofield as governor of Military District No. 1 upon Schofield's promotion to Secretary of War) appointed Whittlesey Attorney General. Whittlesey held that position for about three months (September 10, 1869 until January 19, 1870, a week before Congress officially restored Virginia to the Union and seated her Senators and Congressmen). During the 1869 election, Whittlesey was the Republican candidate for U.S. Congress from Virginia's 7th District, but lost to Conservative Lewis McKenzie. After Gen. Canby removed Whittlesey from office, he continued to practice law in Richmond. Gen. Canby appointed James Craig Taylor to succeed him as appointed attorney general, since he was elected to that position in November and thus started his term early.

Death and legacyEdit

Whittlesey died at his Alexandria home of Bright's disease.[5] His widow applied for and received a pension in Washington D.C. in 1893.[6] His body was returned for burial in Spring Grove Cemetery in Hartford, Connecticut.


  1. ^ Will of Eliphalet Whittlesey dated April 19, 1856 and admitted to probate in Connecticut April 19, 1859, available online through
  2. ^ Alexandria Gazette obituary December 9, 1874
  3. ^ His draft registration records show his occupation as "druggist" not "lawyer". U.S. Civil War Draft Registration Records 1863-1865, for Connecticut, Vol3 of 4
  4. ^ Richard G. Lowe, Republicans and Reconstruction in Virginia 1856-70 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia 1991) pp. 77-78, 162
  5. ^ Alexandria Gazette obituary
  6. ^ U.S. Civil War Pension index for Charles Whittlesey, application made on January 28, 1893 no. 569,365, certificate no. 373,399 filed in D.C. indicates his widow's name as "Helen" although the contemporary obituary lists her name as "Ann"