Redfield Proctor

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Redfield Proctor
Redfield Proctor, bw photo portrait, 1904.jpg
37th United States Secretary of War
In office
March 5, 1889 – November 5, 1891
President Benjamin Harrison
Preceded by William C. Endicott
Succeeded by Stephen B. Elkins
United States Senator
from Vermont
In office
November 2, 1891 – March 4, 1908
Preceded by George F. Edmunds
Succeeded by John W. Stewart
37th Governor of Vermont
In office
October 3, 1878 – October 7, 1880
Lieutenant Eben P. Colton
Preceded by Horace Fairbanks
Succeeded by Roswell Farnham
30th Lieutenant Governor of Vermont
In office
October 5, 1876 – October 3, 1878
Governor Horace Fairbanks
Preceded by Lyman G. Hinckley
Succeeded by Eben Pomeroy Colton
Personal details
Born (1831-06-01)June 1, 1831
Proctorsville, Vermont, U.S.
Died March 4, 1908(1908-03-04) (aged 76)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Emily Jane Dutton
Alma mater Dartmouth College
Profession Lawyer, Politician
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1861-1863
Rank Union Army colonel rank insignia.png Colonel
Commands 15th Vermont Infantry
Battles/wars American Civil War

Redfield Proctor (June 1, 1831 – March 4, 1908) was a U.S. politician of the Republican Party. He served as the 37th Governor of Vermont from 1878 to 1880, as Secretary of War from 1889 to 1891, and as a United States Senator for Vermont from 1891 to 1908.


Proctor was a native of Proctorsville, a village named after his family in the town of Cavendish in Windsor County, Vermont. His father, Jabez Proctor, was a farmer, merchant, and prominent local Whig politician. He was raised by his mother, Betsy Parker Proctor (1792-1871), from age 8 after the sudden death of his father. Proctor's first cousins on his mother's side included Isaac F. Redfield and Timothy F. Redfield, both justices of the Vermont Supreme Court.

After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1851, Proctor returned to Proctorsville, where he became first a businessman, and later a lawyer. He earned his master's degree from Dartmouth College in 1854[1] and from Albany Law School in 1859.[2] He married Emily Jane Dutton in 1858, and moved to Boston, Massachusetts two years later. They had five children; Arabella G. Proctor Holden (1859 - 1905), Fletcher Dutton (1860 - 1911), Fanny Proctor (1863 - 1883) Redfield Jr. (1879 - 1957), and Emily Dutton Proctor (1869 - 1948). He was initiated into Delta Upsilon Fraternity as an honorary member by the Middlebury Chapter.

Civil War

Upon the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 Proctor returned to Vermont and enlisted in the 3rd Vermont Infantry, was commissioned as lieutenant and quartermaster, and repaired to the front. In July of the same year he was appointed on the staff of General William F. ("Baldy") Smith, and in October was promoted and transferred to the 5th Vermont Infantry, of which he was commissioned major. With this regiment he served nearly a year in the neighborhood of Washington and on the Peninsula. In October 1862, Major Proctor was promoted to colonel of the 15th Vermont Infantry,[3] and participated in the Gettysburg Campaign, but was stationed in the rear and did not participate in the battle.


After being mustered out of military service in 1863, Proctor initially returned to practicing law, this time in Rutland, Vermont. He entered into law partnership with Wheelock G. Veazey. In 1869, he entered business again, taking a job as a manager in the Sutherland Falls Marble Company. In 1880, this company merged with another to become the Vermont Marble Company, over which Proctor served as president. Six years later, the area containing the company's marble quarries, locally known as Sutherland Falls, was split into a separate town, called Proctor.

During these years, Proctor began his political career. In 1866 he became a selectman of the town of Rutland. In 1867 he represented his town in the state Legislature, serving as chairman of the committee on elections of the lower House. Again a member of the House in 1868, he served as a member of the committee on ways and means. Elected to the state Senate in 1874, he was chosen president pro tempore of that body.

In 1876 Proctor was elected the 29th Lieutenant Governor of the state, and in 1878 was nominated by the Republicans and elected Governor of Vermont. He remained active in state politics after stepping down as governor. He was delegate-at-large to the Republican National Convention in 1884, and also in 1888. In the latter year he was chairman of the Vermont delegation, and seconded the presidential nomination of Benjamin Harrison.

In 1888 the Vermont legislature unanimously recommended him for a cabinet position, and in March 1889, President Benjamin Harrison chose Proctor to be his Secretary of War.[4] At the War Department, Proctor made a mark with his managerial skill and reforming zeal, with which he modernized the Army and improved the living conditions of enlisted soldiers.

From President Harrison State of the Union Address, Dec 1892:

 The report of the Secretary of War exhibits the results of an intelligent,
 progressive, and businesslike administration of a Department which has been
 too much regarded as one of mere routine. The separation of Secretary
 Proctor from the Department by reason of his appointment as a Senator from
 the State of Vermont is a source of great regret to me and to his
 colleagues in the Cabinet, as I am sure it will be to all those who have
 had business with the Department while under his charge.
 In the administration of army affairs some especially good work has been
 accomplished. The efforts of the Secretary to reduce the percentage of
 desertions by removing the causes that promoted it have been so successful
 as to enable him to report for the last year a lower percentage of
 desertion than has been before reached in the history of the Army. The
 resulting money saving is considerable, but the improvement in the morale
 of the enlisted men is the most valuable incident of the reforms which have
 brought about this result.[5]

Proctor left the War Department in November 1891 to become a United States Senator, filling a vacancy caused by resignation. As a Senator he served as chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee to Establish a University of the United States from 1891 to 1893. He remained a Senator for the rest of his life,[6] and was an effective advocate in the Senate for high tariffs and the gold standard, as well as an influence on the military policies of the McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt administrations.


Proctor died in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 1908. He is interred at South Street Cemetery, Proctor, Rutland County, Vermont.[7] Two of Proctor's children, Fletcher D. Proctor and Redfield Proctor, Jr., served as Governors of Vermont.


  1. "Redfield Proctor". Find A Grave. Retrieved 23 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Redfield Proctor". United States Congress. Retrieved 26 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Redfield Proctor". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved 23 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Redfield Proctor". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 23 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Redfield Proctor". Govtrack US Congress. Retrieved 23 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Redfield Proctor". Find A Grave. Retrieved 23 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Lyman G. Hinckley
Lieutenant Governor of Vermont
1876 –1878
Succeeded by
Eben Pomeroy Colton
Preceded by
Horace Fairbanks
Governor of Vermont
1878 –1880
Succeeded by
Roswell Farnham
Preceded by
William C. Endicott
U.S. Secretary of War
Served under: Benjamin Harrison

Succeeded by
Stephen B. Elkins
United States Senate
Preceded by
George F. Edmunds
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Vermont
Served alongside: Justin S. Morrill, Jonathan Ross and William P. Dillingham
Succeeded by
John W. Stewart