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Edmund Pendleton Gaines (March 20, 1777 – June 6, 1849) was a career United States Army officer who served for nearly fifty years, and attained the rank of major general. He was one of the Army's senior commanders during its formative years in the early to mid-1800s, and was a veteran of the War of 1812, Seminole Wars, Black Hawk War, and Mexican–American War.

Edmund Pendleton Gaines
EP Gaines.jpg
Born(1777-03-20)March 20, 1777
Culpeper County, Virginia, U.S.
DiedJune 6, 1849(1849-06-06) (aged 72)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Allegiance United States
Service/branchSeal of the United States Board of War and Ordnance.svg U.S. Army
Years of service1799–1800
RankUnion Army major general rank insignia.svg Brevet major general
Commands heldFort Stoddert
25th Infantry Regiment
Fort Erie
Army of the Niagara
Military District Number 6
Western Military Department
Southwest Military District
Western Division
Battles/warsWar of 1812
Seminole Wars
Black Hawk War
Mexican–American War
AwardsAct of Congress Gold Medal
Spouse(s)Frances Toulmin
Barbara Blount
Myra Clark
RelationsGeorge Strother Gaines (brother)
Edmund Pendleton (great-uncle)

A native of Culpeper County, Virginia, he was named for his great-uncle Edmund Pendleton. Gaines was educated in Virginia and joined the Army as an ensign in 1799. He served for a year before being discharged, but returned to service in 1801 and remained in uniform until his death. In the early years of his military career, Gaines carried out important tasks including construction of a federal post road from Nashville, Tennessee to Natchez, Mississippi.

As commander of Fort Stoddert in 1807, he detained Aaron Burr, and Gaines subsequently testified at Burr's trial for treason. During the War of 1812, Gaines advanced through the ranks to colonel as commander of the 25th Infantry Regiment and he fought with distinction at the Battle of Crysler's Farm. Gaines was promoted to brigadier general during the war, and received a brevet promotion to major general.

Gaines' post-war service included diplomacy with and military engagements against various tribes of Native Americans, though Gaines later opposed Andrew Jackson's Indian removal policy.

One of his infamous post war actions, as a General of the Federal Army, was the destruction of Negro Fort just over the state boundary in then Spanish held Florida. Filled with escaped slaves, the enclave was viewed as a challenge to the authority of nearby states and slavery. Residents included more than 270 people, many African Americans who had escaped slavery by running away. When the fort was taken they were captured, killed, or enslaved.

The 1828 death of Jacob Brown, the Army's senior officer, touched off a bitter feud between Gaines and Winfield Scott over which had seniority and the best claim to succeed to command. The quarrel became public and President John Quincy Adams decided to bypass both Gaines and Scott to offer the post to Alexander Macomb. When Macomb died in 1841, President John Tyler quickly headed off a rekindling of the Gaines–Scott dispute by appointing Scott as the Army's commanding general. Gaines continued to serve as a district, department and division commander, but became increasingly marginalized as Scott gained influence.

At the start of the Mexican–American War, Gaines was stationed in Louisiana and issued a public call throughout the southern and southwestern states for volunteers to join Zachary Taylor's army. He faced a court-martial for recruiting without prior authorization, but successfully defended his actions. Gaines died in New Orleans, Louisiana and was buried at Church Street Graveyard in Mobile, Alabama.


Early lifeEdit

Edmund Pendleton Gaines was born in Culpeper County, Virginia on March 20, 1777, the seventh of fourteen children born to James and Elizabeth (Strother) Gaines.[1] He was named after his great-uncle Edmund Pendleton, who was a political leader of Virginia during the Revolution. James Gaines had been a captain during the Revolutionary War and afterwards moved his family to North Carolina, where he was a delegate to the state convention that ratified the United States Constitution and became a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives. The James Gaines family later moved to Kingsport, Tennessee; Edmund Gaines joined the army in 1799, and was commissioned as an ensign. He was discharged in 1800, but returned to service as a second lieutenant in 1801. He was promoted to first lieutenant in 1802, and captain in 1807.

Mississippi TerritoryEdit

In the early 19th century, Gaines surveyed routes and boundaries in the Mississippi Territory including parts of the Natchez Trace. In 1800, he commanded ten companies of the 2nd Infantry Regiment in the construction of the federal post road from Nashville to Natchez. His experience led him to become a strong advocate of using the military to construct a national railroad system.[2]

In 1807, Gaines was the commandant of Fort Stoddert. During this time, he arrested former Vice President Aaron Burr in Wakefield, Alabama after Burr was alleged to be involved in a conspiracy to separate the western states from the rest of the country. Burr was detained by a military guard under Gaines's command and later turned over to federal authorities, who transported him to Richmond, Virginia. Burr was tried later that year, and Gaines testified at his trial, describing the circumstances that led to Burr's identification and arrest. Burr was acquitted on September 1, 1807.

From 1807 to 1808, Gaines surveyed the route that the Gaines Trace road between the Tennessee River near the mouth of the Elk River and the town of Cotton Gin Port, Mississippi. Afterwards, he took a leave of absence from the army to practice law.

War of 1812Edit

The War of 1812 brought Gaines back to military duty and he was appointed major of the 8th Infantry Regiment. In July 1812, became lieutenant colonel in the 24th Infantry Regiment. In 1813, he was promoted to colonel and commanded the 25th Infantry Regiment with distinction at the Battle of Crysler's Farm. He became adjutant of the Army of the Northwest, commanded by General William Henry Harrison, and was with Harrison at the Battle of the Thames. He was promoted to brigadier general on March 9, 1814 and commanded the post at Fort Erie after the U.S. capture. General Jacob Brown was wounded at the Battle of Lundy's Lane and when the Army of the Niagara returned to the fort, command was passed to Gaines. At the Siege of Fort Erie Gaines was in command on the fortifications on 15 August 1814, when a British assault was bloodily repulsed.[3] For this victory – the First Battle of Fort Erie – Gaines was awarded the Thanks of Congress, a Congressional Gold Medal, and a brevet promotion to major general. General Gaines was seriously wounded by artillery fire and General Brown, having recovered, returned to command. Gaines' wound ended his active field for the rest of the war, and he was given command of Military District Number 6.

Indian affairsEdit

At the end of the War of 1812, Gaines was sent as commissioner to deal with the Creek Indians.

When the U.S. Army's commanding general, Major General Jacob Brown, died in 1828, Gaines was one of two ranking generals who could have been considered for the post. However, since he and General Winfield Scott had both publicly quarreled with each other over seniority, an annoyed President John Quincy Adams appointed Alexander Macomb; Macomb had also been a brigadier general during the War of 1812, but agreed after the war to accept reduction in rank to colonel so that he could serve as chief of the Army Corps of Engineers.

In 1830, Gaines opposed President Andrew Jackson's policy of Indian removal.[4]

Gaines commanded the Western Military Department during the Black Hawk War. He was still in command of the department during the Second Seminole War in which he personally led an expedition. At the Battle of Ouithlacoochie in 1835, at the beginning of the Second Seminole War, he was wounded in the mouth. On February 20, 1836, Gaines and his men were the first U.S. soldiers to visit the scene of the Dade Massacre in Florida, where they identified and interred the bodies.

Southwest FrontierEdit

In 1836, he was placed in command of the Southwest Military District. He was given instructions to fortify the border of the Louisiana Territory and Texas in the case that the Mexican army might threaten U.S. territory. He was also given orders to post guards preventing any U.S. soldiers from crossing into Texas and fighting in the rebellion. When Alexander Macomb died in June 1841, he was still serving as the Army's commanding general. John Bell, the Secretary of War recalled the previous Scott-Gaines dispute over seniority; he quickly recommended Scott for the position in order to prevent the dispute from restarting. President John Tyler concurred, and Scott was appointed in July.

Gaines was in command of the Army's Western Division at the outbreak of the Mexican–American War. He was reprimanded by the U.S. government for overstepping his authority by calling up Louisiana volunteers for Zachary Taylor's army. He nevertheless called up volunteers from other southwestern states and received a court-martial but was able to successfully defend himself.

Later lifeEdit

In the years during and following the Mexican-American War, Gaines was in command of a series of military districts. Though Gaines was the Army's senior brigadier general, several individuals were promoted to major general over him during the war, including Zachary Taylor, Gideon Johnson Pillow, and John A. Quitman.[5] He was in command of the Western Division when he died at New Orleans, Louisiana on June 6, 1849. He was interred in the Church Street Graveyard in Mobile, Alabama. He was a Freemason, having been raised in Phoenix Lodge, No. 8, A. F. & A. M, in Fayetteville, North Carolina.


A number of places in the United States were named in his honor, including Gainesvilles in Florida, Texas, Georgia, and New York; Gaines Township in Michigan; and Gainesboro in Tennessee. He was also the namesake of Gaines Streets in Tallahassee, Florida, and Davenport, Iowa; and Fort Gaines, a historic fort on Dauphin Island, Alabama.


Gaines was married 3 times. His first marriage was to the daughter of Harry Toulmin, Frances Toulmin (1788–1811), who died giving birth to their only child. His second marriage was to Barbara Blount (1792–1836), daughter of Tennessee statesman William Blount.[6] His last marriage was to Myra Clark (1806–1885), daughter of Louisiana politician Daniel Clark.

Dates of rankEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Edmund Pendleton Gaines". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  2. ^ Angevine, Robert (2004). The Railroad and the State: War, Politics, and Technology in Nineteenth-Century America. California: Stanford University Press. p. 5. ISBN 0-8047-4239-1.
  3. ^ Drez, Ronald J. (2015). The War of 1812, Conflict and Deception: The British Attempt to Seize New Orleans and Nullify the Louisiana Purchase. Baton Rouge: LSU Press. p. 163. ISBN 9780807159330. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  4. ^ Meacham, Jon (2008). American Lion. New York: Random House. p. 148. ISBN 978-1-4000-6325-3.
  5. ^ US Army Adjutant General (1848). U. S. Army Register. Washington, DC: C. Alexander. p. 3.
  6. ^ John Hill Wheeler, Reminiscences and Memoris of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians (1885), p. lx.


  • Wyatt, Thomas. "Gen. E. P. Gaines." Memoirs of the Generals, Commodores, and Other Commanders Who Distinguished Themselves in the U.S. Army and Navy During the Wars of the Revolution and 1813, and Who Were Presented with Medals by Congress the second, for Their Gallant Services. Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1848. (pp. 101–112) Retrieved October 3, 2008
  • Elliott, Jack D. and Wells, Mary Ann. (2003). Cotton Gin Port : a frontier settlement on the Upper Tombigbee. Jackson, Mississippi: Quail Ridge Press for the Mississippi Historical Society. ISBN 0-938896-88-1
  • Meacham, Jon. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House (Kindle Location 10). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. ISBN 978-1-58836-822-5.

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