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John Eaton (general)

For other people named John Eaton, see John Eaton (disambiguation).

John Eaton
Rev. John Eaton.png
United States Commissioner of Education
In office
March 16, 1870 – August 5, 1886
PresidentUlysses Grant
Rutherford Hayes
James Garfield
Chester Arthur
Grover Cleveland
Preceded byHenry Barnard
Succeeded byNathaniel Dawson
Personal details
Born(1829-12-05)December 5, 1829
Sutton, New Hampshire, U.S.
DiedFebruary 9, 1906(1906-02-09) (aged 76)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Alma materDartmouth College
Andover Theological Seminary
Rutgers University, New Brunswick
Military service
Allegiance United States
 • Union
Branch/serviceUnion Army
RankUnion Army colonel rank insignia.png Colonel
Union Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Bvt. Brigadier General
Unit27th Ohio Infantry
Commands63rd U.S. Colored Infantry
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

John Eaton, Jr. (December 5, 1829 – February 9, 1906) was a U.S. Commissioner of Education and a Union Army colonel during the American Civil War. On March 12, 1866, the United States Senate confirmed his January 13, 1866 nomination for appointment to the grade of brevet brigadier general of volunteers to rank from March 13, 1865.

Early lifeEdit

Eaton was born in Sutton, New Hampshire,[1] and attended Thetford Academy in Vermont. He was the eldest of nine children and his father was a farmer. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1854, studied at Andover Theological Seminary, and was ordained in 1862 to the Presbyterian ministry. He had to teach all four years he was in college in order to pay his board and tuition. He received degrees of A.M. and later an L.L.D. from Rutgers.[2][3]

He then taught school in Cleveland, OH and was the acting superintendent of schools in Toledo from 1856-1859.

Civil WarEdit

Eaton entered the American Civil War as a chaplain of the 27th Ohio Volunteer Infantry on August 15, 1861.[4] In November 1862, after Lincoln's preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, Major General Ulysses S. Grant appointed him superintendent of freedmen and was later given supervision of all military posts from Cairo to Natchez and Fort Smith. In November 1863, Grant appointed him as the Superintendent of Negro Affairs for the Department of the Tennessee; there Eaton supervised the establishment of 74 schools. On October 10, 1863, Eaton was made colonel of the 63rd United States Colored Infantry.[4] On January 13, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Eaton for appointment to the grade of brevet brigadier general of volunteers, to rank from March 13, 1865, and the United States Senate confirmed the appointment on March 12, 1866.[5]

Postbellum careerEdit

General Eaton left the military and eventually returned to his career in education. He remained with the freedman bureau until he was discharged on December 18, 1865[4] and then became editor of the Memphis Daily Post in 1866. From 1867-1869 he was the state superintendent of schools of Tennessee.[3] He was then appointed United States Commissioner of Education in 1870 and served with efficiency in the Bureau of Education where he, among other things, organized Washington, D.C.'s Board of Education and reorganized the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.

In 1886–1891, Eaton was president of Marietta College, and, in 1895, he was appointed president of Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka, Alaska. In 1898, he became inspector of education in Puerto Rico and played a role in the centralization of its educational system. At the same time, he was the president of Westminster College in Salt Lake City. He also served as Councillor of the American Public Health Association, Vice President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and president of the Association of Social Science. He was a representative of the Interior Department at the centennial exposition and the organizer of the educational exhibit at New Orleans. He was president of the national congress of education and of the American Society of Religious Education.[3]

Eaton wrote a history of Thetford Academy, "Mormons of Today", "The Freedmen in the War", "Schools of Tennessee" and several reports, addresses and magazine articles.[3]

After several years of failing health, he took ill on February 8, 1906 and died one day later in his apartment in the Concord Flats in Washington, D.C..[4] He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[4] Four years later, John Eaton Elementary School was named for him.[2][3]

Eaton's daughter, Elsie Eaton Newton (1871-1941), was an educator associated with the United States Indian Service, and later served as the first Dean of Women at Marietta College.[6]

See alsoEdit


  • Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.


  1. ^ Eicher, p. 222.
  2. ^ a b "In Speech and Song: Celebrating the Opening of John Eaton School" (PDF). The Evening Star. 23 November 1910. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Death of Gen. Eaton" (PDF). The Evening Star. 9 February 1906. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0-8047-3641-1. p. 222.
  5. ^ Eicher, 2001, p. 744.
  6. ^ "Mrs. Elsie Eaton Newton" Chicago Tribune (January 13, 1941): 10. Retrieved September 18, 2019, via

External linksEdit