assassination header

Henry Burnett's Law Career

Education,   Judge Advocate Corps,   Civil Career
District Attorney for the Southern District of NY,   Supreme Court Cases

Running away from home at the age of 15, Henry obtained his legal education, and read law with Judge Benjamin Hoffman, the law partner of ex-Governor David Cox. Henry married Hoffman's 16 year old daughter in 1858, before graduating law school in 1859 and being admitted to the Ohio bar in 1860. But he only practiced law in Warren OH for two years, before enlisting in the 2nd Ohio Cavalry in August of 1862.

An injury from being rolled on by a horse happened at just the time the Judge Advocate Corps was looking for a lawyer who could prosecute a judge advocate. Henry was back in the field of law. Successful with that prosecution, as well as with trials of southern sympathizers, Henry was called to Washington a few days after Lincoln was assassinated.

When mustered out of the army, now a Brevet Brigadier General, Henry joined forces with a number of prominent politicians, and moved his practice from Ohio to New York, where he served as District Attorney for the Southern District of New York for two four-year terms.

Law Education
Thadius The determination of the father that his son should follow his own homely business, and abandon his dreams of education and distinction, at length aroused the resolution of Henry, who seemed to have been born with his full share of the hereditary willpower. Accordingly, one night, he stole out of the loft where he slept, and with a bundle of clothes, forty-six dollars in his pocket -- which he had carefully saved -- and two books -- "Thaddeus of Warsaw" and the "Lady of Lyons" -- he left his home, and set about the realization of his own dreams.

He was fifteen years of age at that time. He traveled one hundred miles on foot to Chester Academy, where James A. Garfield was then a student. His expenses while studying there were about $1.25 each week, which he partly met with his earnings by ringing bells, building fires, and turning his hand to whatever odd jobs offered a chance to make a penny. Young Burnett continued his studies, later on, at Hiram Institute, where, for a time, Garfield was his tutor. Afterward he entered the Ohio State and National Law School, and was graduated in 1859.
[Biographical Cyclopaedia and Portrait Gallery]

Judge Advocate Corps
Henry Burnett In July, 1863, Captain J.M. Cutts was relieved from duty by General Burnside as judge advocate of the Department of the Ohio, and ordered to be himself tried by court-martial. General Burnside sent to the front for an officer to act as judge-advocate in Captain Cutts's case, and Major Burnett was selected. July 20th, 1863, General Burnett's conduct of the case of Captain Cutts resulted in his conviction; and gained General Burnett no little reputation, and he was confirmed in the position of judge-advocate of the Department of the Ohio by appointment from Washington.

His jurisdiction was eventually extended to the Northern Department, that department and the Department of the Ohio being merged into one. The duties of this position were onerous, and entailed great responsibility. Among many important cases tried by him, the conviction of F.W. Hurtt was almost as notable as that of Captain Cutts. Upon the application of Governor Morton, of Indiana, he was detailed to try the famous cases of the Indiana conspirators, and he acted in these cases at Indianapolis by day, and traveled to Cincinnati each night to direct the work of the clerks in his department, instruct the special judge-advocates under him, and examine and correct all papers before proceedings were begun in the various cases to be tried.

The Department of the Ohio included the States of Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia, while the Northern Department embraced the great Northwestern States, where were situated nearly all the Government military prisons. Cases were constantly arising for trial in connection with these prisons. The burden of work thus thrust upon General Burnett's shoulders might easily have occupied the entire attention of a half-dozen men.

Scarcely had he finished the Indiana case when the trial of the still more notorious Chicago conspiracy was forced upon him. This proved to be a widespread and cunningly-planned scheme to liberate and arm the large force of Confederate prisoners at Camp Douglas. In order to secure the services of General Burnett's abilities and experience, the defendants and witnesses in this case were brought from Chicago to Cincinnati.

The strain upon him had become almost unendurable, yet while he was in the very act of delivering his closing address in the Chciago conspiracy case, a telegram was handed him from Secretary of War Stanton, summoning him to Washington to take part in the trial of the Lincoln assassins.

The part he performed in this capacity is a matter of national history. With Judge Holt and Hon. John A. Bingham, he shares the distinction of convicting the conspirators, and of exposing the connivance of famous Confederate officials in the attempt upon the lives of the chiefs of the Federal Government. General Burnett was appointed to prepare the official account of this trial, and the large volume published by the War Department -- "The Assassination of President Lincoln, and Trial of the Conspirators" -- was compiled under his supervision, with the assistance of a stenographer.
[Biographical Cyclopaedia and Portrait Gallery]


Civil Career
Henry Burnett Henry L. Burnett [on left] then moved to New York, where at various times he was in partnership with E.W. Stoughton, with B.H. Bristow, William Peet, and W.S. Opdyke, and with Judge James Emott. He was for a time counsel for the Erie railroad, and was engaged in many noted cases, including the litigation over the Emma mine, in which he acted as attorney for the English bondholders.

Probably his greatest case was that of the Rutland Railroad Company against John B. Page: in the closing argument he spoke for sixteen hours (Great American Jury Speeches) with a "consummate ability" that stamped him "the peer of the greatest advocate of the age" (D. McAdam and others, Bench and Bar of New York, 1899, II, 64).
Divorce Case


Thomas Welles Bartley (until 1869):
Judge Thomas Welles Bartley (1812 1885) [on right] was an Ohio legislator who, as Speaker of the Senate, filled out the eight remaining months of the term of Ohio Governor Shannon when Shannon took a diplomatic post. During his time as Governor, Bartley continued in the Senate. From 1852-1859, Barley served on the Ohio State Supreme Court.

J.D. Cox and John F. Follett (until 1872):
JD Coxe Jacob Dolson Cox (1828 1900) [on left] was an Ohio state senator in 1860, forming an alliance with future president James Garfield. While still in the Ohio senate, he studied military tactics while a Brigadier General of the Ohio Militia. He entered the Civil War in the Department of the Ohio, and was named a Major General under Burnside. He stayed in active military service, only mustering out in January of 1866, after he was elected Governor of Ohio. Cox served under grant as Secretary of the Interior until November 1870. Follett

There was very little space between Cox's bouts of public service, and by 1872 he was running unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate. In later years he was Dean of the Cincinnati Law School.

John Fassett Follett (1831 - 1902) [on right], a member of the Ohio Assembly from 1866-1868, was Speaker in 1868. Following that term, he returned to Cincinnati to practice law. In 1883 he was elected for a single term to the US House of Representatives from Ohio.

Edwin Wallace Stoughton (1872-1873):
Stoughton Edwin Wallace Stoughton (1818-1882) was admitted to the bar of New York in 1840. As a lawyer, he was involved in several celebrated cases, including the Tweed case and the Emma mine case, a suit on which General Burnett was also active. An author of multiple articles, Stoughton wrote on political law, including one supporting President Grant's use of the army in New Orleans. When Rutherford B. Hayes' claim to the presidency was challenged, Stoughton was one of the counsels supporting Hayes to the Electoral Commission. Hayes won the presidency, and he appointed Stoughton as Ambassador to Russia, but Stoughton became ill in Russia, an illness which led eventually to his death, and resigned as Ambassador after only a year.
  Popular Fallacies about Russia
  The Third Term: Reasons for it

Erie Railway Company (1873-1874):
In 1873 he was appointed associate attorney and counsel of the Erie Railway Company. He gave his entire time and services in this capacity throughout the administration of President Peter H. Watson, but resigned his position in 1875, when the Hon. Hugh J. Jewett succeeded Mr. Watson.
[Biographical Cyclopaedia and Portrait Gallery]

Benjamin Helm Bristow, William Peet, and William S. Opdyke (1874-1875):
Bristow Benjamin Helm Bristow (1832-1896) [on left] was in the Cavalry of Kentucky during the Civil War. During the summer of 1863, he assisted in the capture of John Hunt Morgan, whom Burnett's 2nd Ohio Cavalry had also been after. After serving as a Kentucky state senator from 1863 to 1865, he was appointed a US District Attorney and, finally, Secretary of the Treasury under President Grant. He was active in prosecuting the 'Whiskey Rebellion', leading to tension with Grant that led Bristow to eventually resign as Secretary.

On 16 Oct 1878 he formed the partnership of Bristow, Peet, Burnett, & Opdyke, and the following year he was elected the second president of the American Bar Association.

William Peet (1822-1895) took his undergraduate and law education at Yale, and was admitted to the New York bar in 1848. He practiced law in New York City from 1849 until his death in 1895, when he died suddenly of angina. He was joined by William S. Opdyke in 1866, and by Benjamin H. Bristow in 1878.

William S. Opdyke
    Genealogy Book on Opdykes
    Supreme Court Cases
        Central Trust Co. v. Grant Locomotive Works, 135 U.S. 207 (1890)
        Fourth Nat Bank Of City Of New York v. American Mills Co., 137 U.S. 234 (1890)
        Louisville, E. & St. L. R. Co. v. Wilson, 138 U.S. 501 (1891)
        New York State v. Barker, 179 U.S. 279 (1900)
        Delaware & H CO. v. Albany & S R Co, 213 U.S. 435 (1909)

James Emott

James Emott and Henry B. Hammond (1875-1883):
James Emott (1823-1884) was the first mayor of Poughkeepsie after its charter in 1854, then resigned to accept the office of justice of the New York Supreme Court for the second judicial district. He removed to New York City in 1870, and active in the overthrow of the Tweed ring in 1870. From 1862 till his death he was president of the Merchant's bank of Poughkeepsie.

Henry B. Hammond was President of New York & Long Island Railroad Co., which proposed to build a tunnel from Long Island City to Manhattan, and was Director of the New York & Boston Air Line. He was active in pleading cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
    Supreme Court Cases
         U S Fidelity & Guaranty Co. v. U S For Benefit Of Bartlett, 231 U.S. 237 (1913)
        Fosdick v. Schall, 99 U.S. 235 (1878)

Edward Baldwin Whitney (1883-1893):
Edward Baldwin Whitney (1857-1911) was educated at Yale and Columbia Law School, and was admitted to the bar of New York City in 1880. In 1883, then managing clerk of Bristow, Peet & Opdyke, he and General Burnett left the firm to form Burnett & Whitney (67 Wall Street). From 1893 to 1897, he was named Assistant District Attorney General of the United States by President Cleveland. From 1909 to 1911, he was a New York Supreme Court Justice.

District Attorney of the Southern District of New York
  Might Not Be Appointed DA
      for Southern District of NY
  Probably Will Be Appointed
  Lazar Smuggling Case
  Lasar smuggling trial ends
  Girl in Lasar trial has not eloped
  Presented the General Slocum disaster
       to a federal grand jury
  War Office Prosecution
  Naturalization fraud investigation being extended

Supreme Court Cases
    Murdock v. Ward, 178 U.S. 139 (1900)
    Li Sing v. U S, 180 U.S. 486 (1901)
General Burnett
General Burnett

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