Robert Green Ingersoll – Colonel, United States Army

From various published sources


Robert Green Ingersoll was born at Dresden, New York, on August 11, 1833 and died on July 21, 1899.

He was an American orator known as the Great Agnostic. Being self- educated, he was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1854. After serving in the Union army during the Civil War, he was Attorney General of Illinois (1867-69) and became a vigorous campaigner for Republican candidates. His most famous political address was the speech in which he nominated James G. Blaine, whom he called a “plumed knight,” for President.

At the 1876 Republican convention, Ingersoll’s own political ambitions were thwarted by public disapproval of his attacks on religion, which he delivered from lecterns all over the country. Ingersoll symbolized the intellectual ferment that buffeted orthodox religion in late 19th-century America. His writings were published in 12 volumes in 1902.

He began study of law when he was 18 years old, and three years later was admitted to the bar. His gift of oratory soon made him a distinguished man, both in the courts and in Democratic politics.

In 1857 moved from Shawneetown, Illinois, to Peoria and in 1860 was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress. In 1862, he organized the 11th Illinois Regiment and went to the front as its Colonel. He spent most of military career in raiding and scouting. On November 28, 1862, while endeavoring to intercept a Confederate raiding party with 600 men, he was attacked by force of 10,000 and captured. He was almost immediately paroled and placed in command of camp at St Louis. After a few months in this capacity, fearing that would not be returned to active service, he resigned his commission.

Returning home, he became a strong Republican and in 1866 was appointed Attorney General of Illinois. At the 1876 at Republican National Convention, he nominated James G. Blaine for Presidency in speech which contained following memorable sentence: “Like an armed warrior, like a plumed knight, James G. Blaine marched down the halls of the American Congress and threw his shining lances full and fair against the brazen forehead of every defamer of his country and malinger of its honor.”

He was conspicuously active in the Presidential campaigns of 1876 and 1880, and had it not been for pronounced agnostic views would have been honored with high official preferment.  He lived in Washington, D.C. from 1878 until 1885 when he moved to New York City.

He was a man of rare personal attractions: an orator of exceptional brilliancy. His generosity was unbounded. Among his lectures, which gained him wide popularity, most characteristic were: Some Mistakes of Moses; The Family; The Liberty of Man, Woman and Child; The Gods and Ghosts. His publications included: Lectures Complete; and Great Speeches.

He spent his childhood in Wisconsin and, after 1843 in Illinois. Defeated as a Democratic candidate for Congress, 1860; Colonel, 11th Illinois Cavalry, 1862. Joined the Republican party, 1864. Appointed Attorney General of Illinois, 1866; attained national fame as orator in a nominating speech for James G. Blaine at National Republican Convention, 1876; refused the post of minister to Germany, 1877; defended the Star Route defendants, securing their acquittal, 1883; practiced law; lectured and wrote again the Christian religion. Author: The Gods; Ghosts; Some Mistakes of Moses; Complete Lectures; Prose, Poems, etc. Address: New York City. Orator, agnostic philosopher and writer. Became one of best known men of his time by criticizing religion and a policy of both civil and sexual rights; served in Civil War as a cavalry Colonel and was captured near Corinth, Mississippi; became a staunch Republican after war but never appointed to any high office because of politicians fear of his unorthodox views on life; he defended Susan B. Anthony at a rally in Peoria, Illinois. He died at: Dobbs Ferry, New York, July 21, 1899.


His public writings filled 12 volumes.


“These heroes are dead
They died for liberty – they died for us
They are at rest
They sleep in the land they made free
Under the flag they rendered stainless
Under the solemn pines
The sad hemlocks
The tearful willows
The embracing vines
They sleep beneath the shadow of the clouds
Careless alike of sunshine or storm
Each in the windowless palace of rest
Earth may run red with other wars – they are at peace
In the midst of battles, in the roar of conflicts
They found the serenity of death.”

rg-ingersoll1 rg-ingersoll2


  • DATE OF DEATH: 07/21/1899

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