WILLIAM EUSTIS was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 10 June 1753; studied at the Boston Latin School in preparation for college; graduated from Harvard College in 1772; studied medicine under Dr. Joseph Warren; helped care for the wounded at Bunker Hill, where Warren was killed; served in the Revolutionary Army as surgeon of the artillery regiment at Cambridge and then as a hospital surgeon; entered practice in Boston after the war; served as surgeon with the Shays’s Rebellion expedition, 1786–1787; became vice president of the Society of the Cincinnati, serving from 1786 to 1810 and again in 1820; served in the Massachusetts legislature (General Court), 1788–1794; was a member of the Governor’s Council for two years; served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1801–1804, having won close races over Josiah Quincy and John Quincy Adams; married Caroline Langdon, 1810; served as Secretary of War, 7 March 1809–13 January 1813; attempted to prepare the Army before the outbreak of the War of 1812, and resigned in the face of criticism following American reverses on the battlefield; was appointed minister to Holland by President Madison, serving from 1814 to 1818; returned home because of ill health; purchased and resided in the historic Shirley Mansion in Roxbury, Massachusetts; was again elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, 1820–1823; ran unsuccessfully for governor of Massachusetts in 1820, 1821, and 1822; was elected governor of Massachusetts and served two terms, 1823–1825; died in Boston while governor, on 6 February 1825.
Walter M. Brackett (1823–1919), a Boston artist, painted four Secretaries of War whose stewardship over the department occurred before he was born; indeed, all had died before Brackett reached age seven, which was well before the age of photography and even before Louis Daguerre had perfected his daguerreotype process. Thus Brackett had to rely upon the products of earlier artists and engravers for his image research; he was undoubtedly fortunate that his four subjects were men of both national and regional prominence who were inevitably subjects of pen or brush.
By Walter M. Brackett
Oil on canvas, 29˝" x 24˝", 1873
page created 1 March 2001
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