Transcribed by Mary Ann Kaylor
GENERAL ERASTUS N. BATES An enumeration of the men who have conferred honor and dignity upon the state which has honored them would be incomplete without prominent reference to him whose name initiates this review. His life record deserves the highest commendation, for he was a statesman whose patriotism was above question, and official whose interest was the general good and a soldier whose loyalty was above suspicion. He was born in Plainfield, Massachusetts, February 29, 1828, and traced his ancestry back to the Pilgrims who sailed from the old world upon the Mayflower, making the first settlement upon the New England coast. When eight years of age he accompanied his father from Massachusetts to Ohio and soon afterward the father died. The son then spent several years in the home of an uncle, and desirous of securing an advanced education he earned the money for a college course through manual labor and school teaching. His strength of character and resolution enable him to see the fulfillment of his cherished hope and entering Williams College of Massachusetts, he was graduated in that institution with the class of 1853. In New York city he began the study of law and later removed to Minnesota, where his fitness for leadership was soon recognized, and he became on the molders of public thought and action in that new state. He served as a member of the constitutional convention of 1856 and the following year was elected to represent his district in the state senate.
Erastus N. Bates became a resident of Illinois in 1859, taking up his abode in Centralia, where he began the practice of law, soon securing a large and lucrative practice. When the war came on he studied closely the situation of the country and the attitude of the south and the demands of the north and feeling the justice of the president's policy he offered his services to government in defense of the Union and was commissioned major of the Eightieth Illinois Volunteers in August, 1862. His meritorious conduct on the field of battle and his soldierly qualities won him promotion and he was made lieutenant colonel and afterward colonel, while eventually he was brevetted brigadier general in recognition of the helpful aid which he rendered to his county. For fifteen months he was a prisoner of war and escaped from Libby prison only to be recaptured and later exposed to the fire of the Union batteries at Morris island in Charleston harbor.
When the war was ended General Bates returned to this home in Illinois and a grateful and appreciative public elected him to the office of state legislator in 1866. His prominence steadily grew and he was recognized as one of the foremost representatives of the Republic party in his state. In 1868 he was chosen treasurer of Illinois by popular ballot and filled that position so acceptably that he was re-elected under the new constitution in 1870, continuing in the office until January, 1873. He died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 19, 1898 and was laid to rest in Springfield. Over the record of his public career as well as his private life there falls no shadow of wrong. He wrote his name upon the keystone of the legal arch and gained prestige as one of the representative men of this great commonwealth. Among statesmen and soldiers who figured prominently in Illinois during and following the period of the Civil war General Erastus Newton Bates deserved honorable mention.