Biography of General Joseph Lane

GENERAL JOSEPH LANE. – Joseph Lane first saw the light of day in North Carolina, December 14, 1801. He was reared in Henderson county, Kentucky. At the early age of twenty he was married to Miss Polly Hart, soon afterwards settling in Vanderburg county, Indiana, where he followed the humble life of a farmer for twenty-five years. While in the pursuit of this occupation, he was prominent as a leader in all matter of enterprise in the county. He soon drifted into politics, and was chosen to represent the county in the state legislature. He was continued in the same trust as long as he resided in the county.

When the Mexican war began, the state senator resigned his seat, and prepared to enter the hostilities, when he was elected colonel of the Second Regiment of Indian Volunteers, and was ordered to report for duty at General Taylor’s headquarters at Brazos, Texas, which was then the seat of war. It was just prior to the battle of Buena Vista that General Lane was actively employed; and he took an active part in the glorious victory achieved by the American troops, commanding the left wing of Taylor’s army. During this engagement he was severely wounded by a bullet in the left shoulder; but, nothing daunted, he remained upon the field at his post of duty, suffering great pain, until the victory was assured. This act distinguished him for his unfaltering bravery. He was lauded by his commander; and he immediately attained a position in public estimation second to no other officer in the service.

At the expiration of the time of enlistment of his brigade, he accompanied it to New Orleans, where the men were mustered out. General Lane then returned to General Taylor’s army, but was at once ordered to join General Scott in his celebrated march from Vera Cruz, Mexico. In this march General Lane led a brigade composed of the Fourth Ohio and Fourth Indiana Volunteers, with several independents, altogether numbering about three thousand men. They set out to reinforce the American army then valiantly fighting its way, step by step, from Pueblo to the City of Mexico. His duties were arduous in the extreme; for the route was lined with guerillas and beset by organized bodies of Mexican troops, who resisted every advance; and it was only by hard fighting and determined effort that the road was covered. At Haumantla, on October 9, 1847, a decided victory was gained over the enemy. At Atlixco, on the nineteenth of the same month and at Tlascala on the twenty-ninth, grand victories were scored. On the 22d of November, Matamoras, fifty-four miles from Pueblo, was taken by assault; and on the 14th of December the headquarters of General Scott were reached. Afterwards General Lane and his soldiers were engaged in the closing battles of the war, and in wiping out guerrillas.

This “Marion of the Mexican war” remained active in the field until its final close, when he returned to his peaceful home in Indiana, there to enjoy the comforts of his fireside; for, having won military honors enough, he longed for the quiet, inactive life of the obscure civilian. But no sooner had his sun set in the military horizon than it appeared in the first gray streaks of morn in a political life. He was surprised on learning that he had been appointed to the governorship of the then newly organized territory of Oregon. Equal to the emergency to which duty called him, he set out for the Pacific slope by way of New Mexico and Arizona, accompanied by a military escort.

Arriving in San Francisco in February, 1849, he took passage to the Columbia on a sailing vessel, and arrived at Oregon City, on the Willamette, March 2, 1849, and issued his proclamation the following day as governor of the territory of Oregon. General Lane was her first and by far her most distinguished executive. He faithfully and assiduously discharged the duties of his new office until the following August, when a new political party was formed in the territory, which appointed his successor. He then commenced mining in Northern California, and afterwards participated in Kearney’s campaign against the Rogue river Indians in 1851. In the latter part of that year he was chosen as a delegate from the territory to Congress.

In the year 1853 he again distinguished himself in the military line during the Rogue river war, and received a severe wound in the battle of Evans creek. The treaty which followed with those Indians was largely due to his exertions. From that time on until the territory was admitted as a state the General continued to serve the people in Congress. In 1857 he was elected by the people of Oregon as United States senator, which position he held until 1861. In 1860 the Democratic convention then in session at Baltimore nominated the general and United States senator for vice-president of the United States, on the ticket with John C. Breckenridge. The details of that campaign are still fresh in the popular mind, although over a quarter of a century has elapsed.

The General’s natural inclination, sympathy and belief, guided by the highest sense of justice and right, led him to favor the South in the great impending war between the two sections; and he quit the field of politics and returned to his home at Roseburg, never again entering public life. His remaining years were spent on his farm and in the solace of home comforts in the family circle. He waived all thought of further public life, and studiously bent his energies n the experiments of agriculture, in which he was as equally successful in after years as he had previously been in politics and war. His early education having been somewhat neglected, and possessing naturally an inquiring turn of mind, in after years the General set about at self-study, and in the course of a few years had procured a store of knowledge in all of the branches of literature, art and the sciences. The remaining years of his life were gradually brought to a well-rounded close in the heart of his family, surrounded by his children, grand-children and the next near of kin, each and all holding him most dear, and revering him both for what he actually had been and was, and for his mature age. After a life well spent, with no regrets to recall, this good and noble man slowly but surely felt the ebbing tide of life going out; and in April, 1881, he forever closed his eyes to all things earthly. Among the very few who so grandly distinguished themselves during the Mexican war, General Lane was favored with the longest lease upon life, and was the last of the surviving heroes to depart.

There is much in the life of General Lane to the close student. He was a man of unswerving integrity. The truth to him was always foremost; and it has been said by those with whom he was intimate in life that there was no condition, circumstance nor occasion which would induce him to depart therefrom. On the field of battle he knew no fear. In political life and official capacity he was clean-handed and clear-skirted, with the most good to the largest number. At home he was the idol of his family and the honored neighbor of life. In business matters he was always prompt, decisive and reliable. In his demise the country lost a valuable defender, the state a noble representative, and the people a beloved and honored and revered fellow-citizen; and it may well be said that the world was made better for his having lived in it.


History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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