Ambrose Burnside Biography

(United States Senator from Rhode Island (1875-81))

Birthday: May 23, 1824 (Gemini)

Born In: Liberty, Indiana, United States

Ambrose Burnside was an American soldier, politician and inventor from Rhode Island. He served as a United States senator and governor of Rhode Island. Born in a family of Scottish origin in Indiana, he attended the United States Military Academy from 1843 to 1847. Over the course of his military career, he served as the major general of the Rhode Island militia regiment. In 1861, he participated in the American Civil War and conducted successful campaigns in East Tennessee and North Carolina. Burnside then joined forces at the Virginia theatre of war. He later served at the Battle of Antietam where he was criticized for his ineffectiveness. Following the war, he became the governor of Rhode Island in 1866 and served until 1869. Burnside was the first individual to serve as the president of the gun rights advocacy group, National Rifle Association. His last years were spent serving as a US senator. He was also popular for his distinct style of facial hair called “sideburns.” Burnside died in 1881 at the age of 57.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Ambrose Everett Burnside

Died At Age: 57


Spouse/Ex-: Mary Richmond Bishop (m. 1852–1876)

father: Edghill Burnside

mother: Pamela Brown Burnside

siblings: Benjamin Franklin Burnside, Cynthia Ann Burnside, Ellen W. Burnside, Harris E. Burnside, Henrietta Burnside Ross, Henry Middleton Burnside, Thomas Brown Burnside, Thomas C. Burnside, William Brown Burnside

Born Country: United States

Inventors Business People

Died on: September 13, 1881

place of death: Bristol, Rhode Island, United States

Cause of Death: Angina

U.S. State: Indiana

More Facts

education: United States Military Academy

Childhood & Early Life
Ambrose Burnside was born on May 23, 1824, in Liberty, Indiana, to Pamela and Edghill Burnside.
He attended Liberty Seminary until his mother’s death in 1841. He later joined a local tailor in his business.
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Early Military Career
In 1843, Ambrose Burnside entered the United States Military Academy. Following his graduation in 1847, he served the 2nd US Artillery as a brevet second lieutenant.
He then performed garrison duty during the Mexican–American War. Following the war, he joined the 3rd US Artillery where he served on the western frontier for two years.
Burnside was promoted to the rank of 1st lieutenant in 1851. Two years later, he resigned from the United States Army and joined the Rhode Island state militia where he served as a commander for two years.
After leaving the regular army, Ambrose Burnside manufactured the famous firearm that came to be known as the Burnside carbine.
In 1858, he suffered defeat as a Democrat while running for one of Rhode Island’s congressional seats. He was financially ruined after this and was compelled to give his firearm patents to others.
Role during Civil War
Ambrose Burnside served as a colonel in the Rhode Island State Guard Militia during the Civil War after being appointed in 1861. In July that year, he commanded the brigade in the department of northeast Virginia at the First Battle of Bull Run. Later, he trained the Army of the Potomac.
From September 1861 to July 1862, he commanded the North Carolina Expeditionary Force and conducted a successful campaign during the Battle of Elizabeth City.
Burnside earned the title of major general of volunteers in March 1862 for succeeding at the battles of Roanoke Island and New Bern.
In July 1862, his forces became the IX Corps that he later commanded at the Battle of Antietam. After he failed to perform well at Antietam, Burnside reluctantly commanded the Army of the Potomac under the order of his superiors.
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This was followed by Burnside’s offensive battle with Lee’s Confederate capital. He, however, suffered a costly defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December.
In early 1863, Burnside launched another campaign called the Mud March against Lee, but it wasn’t accomplished successfully.
Ambrose Burnside then resumed his position as the head of the IX Corps and was sent to command the Ohio department. He sent his agents to collect evidence against Ohio Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham who criticized then-American President Abraham Lincoln.
Burnside then participated in the Knoxville Campaign and defeated Confederate commander Brig. Gen. John W. Frazer. This was followed by the defeat of Union Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans at the Battle of Chickamauga.
In November 1863, his army defeated the Confederates at the Battle of Fort Sanders. The following year, his IX Corps participated in the Overland Campaign.
Burnside then fought at the battles of Spotsylvania Court House and Wilderness where he did not perform well. He then went on to participate in the Richmond–Petersburg Campaign that started in June 1864.
In July 1864, Ambrose Burnside participated in the Battle of the Crater, following which he released himself from his duty. The blame for the Union’s defeat in this battle was eventually put on a lower-ranked officer.
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Post War Career
After his resignation, Ambrose Burnside worked with the Indianapolis and Vincennes Railroad, the Rhode Island Locomotive Works, and the Cincinnati and Martinsville Railroad.
From May 1866 to May 1869, he served as the governor of Rhode Island. He later served in the Loyal Legion.
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From 1871 to 1872, Burnside served in the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) veterans' association as the commander-in-chief. Also in 1871, he became the president of the National Rifle Association and held the position until 1872.
During the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Burnside served as a mediator between the Germans and the French.
In 1874, he was elected as a US senator from Rhode Island. He was re-elected in 1880 and went on to serve until his death in 1881.
Family & Personal Life
As a young soldier, Ambrose Burnside was engaged to be married to Charlotte "Lottie" Moon who alongside her sister Virginia acted as a Confederate spy during the Civil War. Moon was later arrested by Burnside and kept under house arrest alongside her family.
In 1852, Burnside married Mary Richmond Bishop. The marriage lasted until Bishop’s death in 1876. They had no children.
Death & Legacy
On September 13, 1881, Ambrose Burnside died of angina pectoris in Bristol, Rhode Island. He was 57.
He was noted for his distinct facial hair that joined strips of hair from his ears to his mustache. This unique look was later given the name “sideburns.”
In 1883, Governor Augustus O. Bourn and President Chester A. Arthur dedicated Rhode Island’s Burnside Memorial Hall to the legendary soldier.
In 1887, an equestrian statue by American sculptor Launt Thompson was unveiled at Exchange Place, Providence. The statue was moved to City Hall Park in 1906. The park was then renamed as Burnside Park.
In 1966, the Burnside Residence Hall was opened in Kingston’s University of Rhode Island.

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