Of the 14 Union officers who received the Thanks of Congress during
the Civil War, Nathaniel P. Banks was the least entitled. Serving
under five different party labels during his political career, he
rose from a childhood job in a cotton mill in his native
Massachusetts-which earned him the nickname "Bobbin Boy"-to become
speaker of the state legislature's lower house, U.S. congressman and
just before the war, governor. As a political appointee, he was
named a major general of volunteers. His field career was rather
dismal but his appointment served its purpose in rallying support
for the war effort.
His assignments included: major general, usv (May 16, 1861);
commanding division, Department of Annapolis (ca. May - June 11,
1861); commanding the department (June 11 - July 19,1861);
commanding Department of the Shenandoah (July 25 - August 17, 1861);
commanding division, Military District of the Potomac (August 17 -
October 3, 1861); commanding division, Army of the Potomac (October
3,1861 - March 13, 1862); commanding 5th Corps, Army of the Potomac
(March 13 - April 4, 1862); again commanding Department of the
Shenandoah (April 4 - June 26, 1862); commanding 2nd Corps, Army of
Virginia (June 26 - September 4, 1862); commanding Military District
of Washington, Army of the Potomac (September 7 - October 27, 1862);
commanding 19th Corps, Department of the Gulf (December 16, 1862 -
August 20, 1863); commanding the department (December 17,
1862-September 23, 1864 and April 22 - June 3, 1865).
With no prior military experience, he was in
divisional and departmental command near Washington early in the
war. In the Shenandoah Valley he was routed by Stonewall Jackson and
due to his tremendous loss of supplies was dubbed "Commissary Banks"
by the Confederates.
As part of Pope's army, he was again defeated at Cedar
Mountain by Jackson and was at 2nd Bull Run. After a brief stint in
the capital's defenses he went to New Orleans to replace Benjamin F.
Butler. His operations against Port Hudson met with several bloody
repulses but the place eventually fell after the surrender of
Vicksburg made it untenable.
For obvious political reasons, Congress awarded a resolution
of thanks to one of its former members. Remaining in the Gulf area,
he led the dismal Red River Campaign of 1864 and was then for a time
without a command. With hostilities virtually over, be was returned
to command but was mustered out on August 24, 1865.
Continuing his political career, until 1890, he served in
Congress, the state senate, and as a U.S. Marshal. Congress awarded
him a $1,200 annual pension. (Harrington, Fred Harvey,
Fighting Politician: Major
General N. P. Banks)
Source: "Who Was Who In The Civil War" by Stewart Sifakis