Thomas Leiper Kane (January 27, 1822 – December 26, 1883) was an
American attorney, abolitionist, and military officer who was
influential in the western migration of the
Latter-day Saint movement
and served as a
Union Army colonel and general of volunteers in the
American Civil War. He received a brevet promotion to major general
for gallantry at the Battle of Gettysburg.
2 "Friend of the Mormons"
2.1 Mormon Battalion
2.2 Utah territory and statehood
2.3 Utah War
2.4 Friendship with Young
3 Civil War service
5 See also
8 External links
8.1 Archival collections
8.2 Other links
Kane was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to John Kintzing Kane, a
U.S. district judge, and Jane Duval Leiper. Kane was described as
being of small stature, or "jockey-like," and food was always
marginal.:10 In correspondence, he referred to himself as an
invalid. After receiving an American education, he went abroad to both
Great Britain and
France and to build up his
constitution.:10 During several years in Paris, he became
proficient in the language and contributed articles to several French
Upon returning home, the younger Kane decided to study law and was
admitted to the
Pennsylvania bar in 1846. :266 As a young man, he
expressed interest in a political career and made an effort to obtain
an appointment in the government of
California when it came into U.S.
possession. However, he was disappointed. He briefly clerked for his
father, and then obtained a position as a Clerk of the District Court
in eastern Pennsylvania.:11 An abolitionist, Kane was distressed at
the passage of the Compromise of 1850, which increased his legal
responsibility to return fleeing slaves to southern territories under
the Fugitive Slave Act. He almost immediately tendered his resignation
to his father, who had the younger Kane jailed for contempt of
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court overruled this arrest.:11
After his release, Kane became increasingly active in the abolitionist
movement. :272 He maintained a correspondence with Horace Greeley
and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and wrote newspaper articles on abolition and
social issues. After the Civil War, General Kane and his wife moved to
the frontier in western Pennsylvania, eventually owning over 100,000
acres (400 km2) of timberland on which oil and gas were later
discovered. Kane, whose father had been the attorney who incorporated
Pennsylvania Railroad, laid out railroad routes in that area and
located the low summit over which the
Philadelphia and Erie Railroad
crosses the Alleghenies. :204
Kane married his British born cousin Elizabeth Dennistown (or
Dennistoun) Wood on April 21, 1853.:3 :92 Elizabeth Wood Kane
completed a medical degree from the Women's Medical College in
Philadelphia in 1883 and practiced until May 25, 1909. Two of the
Kanes' sons, Evan and William (later known as Thomas L., Jr.), and
their daughter Harriet, became physicians, while their older son
Elisha became a civil engineer. After his death, she built the home
Anoatok at Kane.
After his Civil War service, Kane was involved in founding the
community of Kane, Pennsylvania. Kane acted as a director of the
Sunbury and Erie Railroad.:204 He had served as secretary at the
United States legation in Paris in 1842–1843.:10 He was the first
president of the Board of State Charities, and a member of the
American Philosophical, American Geographical and Pennsylvania
Historical Societies. He was a Freemason. His later years were spent
in charitable work and writing. He died of pneumonia in Philadelphia
and is buried in Kane, Pennsylvania.
"Friend of the Mormons"
Kane came in contact with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints during a
Philadelphia conference in May 1846.
:266 Kane offered them his advice and help in their conflicts with
the U.S. government and in their efforts to emigrate to western
territories. Jesse C. Little, presiding LDS elder in the East, was
soliciting support for the Latter-day Saints' westward migration.
Politically well connected through his father, Kane provided letters
of recommendation and later joined Little in
Washington, D.C. The two
called on the secretary of state, secretary of war, and President
James K. Polk. :52 :13 As a result of their negotiations, the
United States agreed to enlist up to 500 LDS men, in five companies of
75 to 100 men each, as the Mormon Battalion, to serve in the
With the help of his father, Kane obtained U.S. government permission
for the refugee Mormons to occupy Pottawattamie and Omaha Indian lands
along the Missouri.:18:36 After carrying dispatches relating to
the land agreements and battalion criteria to Fort Leavenworth, Kane
sought out Little in the
Latter-day Saint encampments on the Missouri
River. On July 17, 1846, a meeting was held with Kane, LDS leaders and
Army Captain James Allen to create the Mormon Battalion.:237 Kane
met many leaders of the church, and became a popular figure among
Mormon emigrants.:242 Miller's Hollow, the principal Iowa
settlement of the LDS group at the site of present-day Council Bluffs,
was renamed Kanesville in recognition of his service.:20
During this stay, Kane became seriously ill with a fever. Although
good care from both an army physician from
Fort Leavenworth and church
members helped him recover, his health was severely impaired for the
rest of his life.:138
Utah territory and statehood
In March 1850, in the midst of debate over establishing Utah
territory, Kane delivered an important lecture before the Philadelphia
Historical Society.:47 He described the religion of the Latter-day
Saints, their conflicts with other settlers, and the desolation he
witnessed during a visit to the recently abandoned Nauvoo, Illinois.
He also described the Saints' westward trek. One thousand copies of
the lecture, with associated notes and materials, were printed and
distributed, primarily to members of the U.S. Congress and influential
men in the Executive Branch. The lecture was reprinted in several
Mormon publications: the Frontier Guardian (August 7, 1850), and in
Millennial Star (April 15 to July 15, 1851) where it reached an
even larger audience. :47 Six months later, he defended Brigham
Young in the eastern newspapers. Kane was asked to provide
recommendations and information about the Mormons to President Millard
Fillmore. When Utah was granted a territorial government by Congress
on September 9, 1850, Fillmore asked Kane to be the first governor. He
declined and recommended Young.:55 Throughout the 1850s, he
promoted Utah statehood and defended the Church's interests at every
In a work produced in 1902, historian William Alexander Linn,
evidently believing that no non-Mormon would serve as an advocate for
the group, asserted that Kane was a secret member of the LDS church
and dated his baptism to his 1846 stay on the Missouri River.
Kane, his family, and LDS Church leaders all stated that, despite his
interest in Mormons and Mormon doctrine and practices, Kane never
joined the LDS church. His wife's letters and journals indicate that,
to her distress, her husband was unable to state unequivocally that he
was a Christian, but that he remained affiliated with his childhood
In the winter of 1857-1858 Kane made a strenuous 3,000+ mile trip from
the East coast to Salt Lake City Utah. Kane helped prevent bloodshed
by mediating a dispute between the Mormons and the federal government,
known as the Utah War.:596 :103 Mormonism, the practice of
plural marriage and the governance of the Utah territory were issues
in the federal election of 1856. Responding to rumors and reports of
Mormon misrule in Utah shortly after his inauguration in March 1857,
James Buchanan appointed a new Utah Territorial governor
Alfred Cumming of Georgia, replacing Brigham Young.:149 Responding
to rumors (later proved false) that the Mormons were in rebellion
against the U.S. government, Buchanan sent a 2,500 man army escort
with orders to place the Governor in his office by force if necessary.
Unfortunately, Buchanan did not officially notify Young about the
change in appointment, and rumors of planned U.S. army attacks on Utah
communities flew just ahead of the troops. The Mormons, who had
already been driven out of several states, were prepared to burn their
settlements to the ground and resist yet another forced removal. The
Mormons prepared to fight—activating the
Nauvoo Legion (essentially
all able-bodied men aged 15 to 60) and began preparing for a scorched
earth fighting withdrawal to southern Utah. 168 Mormon patrols
located three Army supply trains following the army troops on the
Oregon/California/Mormon trail which were attacked and burned by
Nauvoo Legion members led by Lot Smith.:314 This stalled the U.S.
Army advance at
Fort Bridger in Wyoming for the winter of 1857-1858.
Earlier in the year, hearing of the "misunderstanding", Kane offered
to mediate. As it was a heavy winter, he traveled under an alias to
Utah by way of Panama, crossing the isthmus by the newly completed
Panama Railroad and taking a ship north to southern California.
He then went overland through San Bernardino to Salt Lake City over
the strenuous southern branch of the
California Trail (now Interstate
15), arriving in Salt Lake City in February 1858.:107 Kane
persuaded Young to accept Buchanan's appointment of Cumming as
Territorial governor, and to present no opposition to the federal
troops, called Johnston's Army, acting as escort. Kane then traveled
to the army's winter base at Fort Bridger, Wyoming, and persuaded
Governor Cumming to travel to Salt Lake City without his military
escort. Cumming was courteously received by Young and Utah residents
and was shortly installed in his new office. The army came into Utah
some weeks later and was bivouacked on the then vacant land that
became Camp Floyd, over 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Salt Lake
City.:646 The army left the territory in 1860 as the American Civil
War pulled in nearly all frontier troops.
While in Salt Lake City, Kane received news that his father had died
on April 24, 1858. He remained in Utah until May 13, when he and an
LDS escort returned east across the continent to make his report to
Friendship with Young
Kane became a personal friend of Brigham Young, and stayed in contact
with the church leader for many years.:30 Kane later visited Utah
several times, advising Young and the Latter-day Saints in
interactions with the federal government. In 1871, after the
completion of railway lines to Utah, Young urged Kane and his family
General, now that the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad are completed and
the facilities for traveling have made the trip across the plains
comparatively a pleasure, may we hope to see you here soon? Let me
assure you there is not one among the thousands who will cross the
plains this season to whom the Latter-day Saints would more cordially
extend the hand of warm welcome. Those who know you cherish for you
the fondest recollection, while with all, your name is held in
— Brigham Young, April 16, 1871
Kane, his wife, Elizabeth, and their two younger sons spent the winter
of 1872 in Utah. They traveled throughout the territory and stayed as
guests of Young at his winter home in St. George, partially in an
effort to recoup Kane's failing health. During the winter, Kane
and Young laid out plans for the Mormon settlement of sections of
Arizona and the Sonora Valley in Mexico.:9 :372 Kane also
interviewed Young, gathering information for a planned biography which
he never completed. In turn, Young consulted Kane as an attorney on
dealing with federal charges pending against him.
Statue of Thomas L. Kane, Kane Memorial Chapel, Kane, Pennsylvania
Elizabeth Kane corresponded with her family during her visit to Utah.
Her father, William Wood, later published selected letters as a book
titled Twelve Mormon Homes, since issued in several editions. The
Elizabeth Kane kept during her winter in St. George was edited
and published in 1992 as Elizabeth Kane's St. George Journal. Kane
returned to Utah upon Young's death in 1877, attending his funeral and
offering condolences to Young's family and church leaders. He also
oversaw the execution of Young's will, which he had prepared, ensuring
an appropriate separation of church and personal property. Young had
held a number of church properties in his own name due to the Morrill
Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862 which made it illegal for the LDS church to
own property valued at more than $50,000. Ownership of these
properties was transferred to his successor in the presidency, John
Kane County, Utah
Kane County, Utah was named for Thomas L. Kane, as was the
Kanesville Tabernacle in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints maintains as a historic site the Thomas L.
Kane Memorial Chapel, in Kane, Pennsylvania, in recognition of Kane's
friendship and assistance. Kane was a founder of the Borough and is
buried in the chapel. In addition, a bronze statue of Thomas L. Kane
is displayed in Utah's Capitol Building, identified as a "Friend of
the Mormons". :xx
Civil War service
As the Civil War began, Kane raised a mounted rifle regiment, the 42nd
Pennsylvania Infantry, also referred to as the 13th Pennsylvania
Reserves. He recruited woodsmen and lumbermen from western
Pennsylvania, men who were experienced in the woods, could forage for
themselves, and could shoot rifles.:28 As the regiment was forming,
one of his recruits ornamented his hat with a tail from a deer's
carcass that he found in a butcher shop. Other men in the regiment
liked this decoration and copied him, causing the regiment to be known
as the "Bucktails.":191:160 The men in the regiment built three
large log rafts and one smaller one and floated down the Susquehanna
River to Harrisburg, where they were mustered in.:28 On June 21,
1861, veteran Charles J. Biddle was named the Union regiment's colonel
with Kane as lieutenant colonel.
Kane has been described as a "visionary" of infantry tactics. :160
He taught his men what would become known as "skirmisher tactics."
They learned to scatter under fire and to make use of whatever cover
the ground offered, and to fire only when they could see their
targets. He stressed individual responsibility in his soldiers, a
contradiction to the military thinking of the time. He held target
practice, which was also an innovative idea, and drilled them in
long-range firing, developing his men into fine sharpshooters.
The Bucktails were assigned to the
Pennsylvania Reserves division of
the V Corps of the Army of the Potomac. When Colonel Biddle resigned
to enter United States Congress, Lt. Col. Kane took command. On
December 20, 1861, Kane was wounded while leading a patrol at the
Battle of Dranesville. A bullet struck the right side at his face,
knocking out some teeth and producing long-term difficulties with his
By the spring of 1862, Kane had partially recovered from his wound and
returned to the Bucktails. They served as part of Brig. Gen. George
Dashiell Bayard's cavalry in the Shenandoah Valley, fighting against
Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign. At Harrisonburg, he and 104
picked riflemen were sent to the rescue of a regiment that had fallen
into an ambush. Kane encountered three Confederate regiments on June
6, 1862. He was struck by a bullet that split the bone below his right
knee and his men left him on the field. When he tried to rise after
the fighting was over, a Confederate soldier broke his breastbone with
a blow from the butt of his rifle and Kane, unconscious, was
captured.:160 He was exchanged, for Williams C. Wickham, in
mid-August. He returned to duty in time for the Northern Virginia
Campaign, but was so weakened that another officer led his regiment.
He had to be helped onto his horse and was forced to walk using
crutches; his Harrisonburg wound would reopen repeatedly for the next
Kane was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on September 7,
1862, and given command of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, XII Corps of
the Army of the Potomac.:199 This brigade was mustered out in March
1863 before Kane could lead it in combat. Kane was assigned a new
brigade (now in the 2nd Division of the XII Corps) and saw action at
Chancellorsville.:327 After his horse stumbled in the Rapidan
River and dumped him into the water on April 28, 1863, Kane developed
a case of pneumonia. He was sent to a Baltimore, Maryland, hospital,
where he remained through June. Upon hearing of General Robert E.
Lee's second invasion of the North, the Gettysburg Campaign, Kane
volunteered to convey intelligence to the commander of the Army of the
George Gordon Meade
George Gordon Meade and rose from his sickbed to join his
men. On a long and difficult ride by railroad and buggy, he avoided
capture by Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry by disguising himself as
a civilian. He arrived at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on the morning of
July 2, 1863.
Kane resumed command of his brigade, occupying a position on Culp's
Hill, the right of the Union line. His men did not participate in the
bloody fighting of July 2 because his division, commanded by Maj. Gen.
John W. Geary, was pulled out of the line and sent to defend against
Confederate attacks on the Union left. (Due to bad navigation by
Geary, the column took a wrong turn and never did reach the fighting
that day.) However, when his men returned to their hastily constructed
Culp's Hill that night, they found Confederate soldiers
occupying them and Kane's corps commander ordered an assault for early
the next morning to regain the position. :158 Before the Union
attack could be launched on July 3, the Confederates struck first, and
Kane and his men met and repulsed them. During the action Kane fell
ill and the brigade's second-in-command, Colonel George A. Cobham,
Jr., actively assisted in command.:157 Although his brigade was
victorious, Kane was a broken man and never recovered his health. He
suffered from his festering facial wound, lingering chest problems,
and impaired vision.:160 He formally relinquished command the next
day. He was then posted to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he
supervised the draft depot. As he failed to recover his health, Kane
resigned his commission in November 1863. For his service at
Gettysburg, he was named Brevet major general on March 13,
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Historical Society of Pennsylvania, March 26, 1850. Philadelphia: King
& Baird. OCLC 367799887.
—— (1868). Alaska and the Polar Regions: Lecture Before the
American Geographical Society, in New York City, Thursday Evening, May
7, 1868. New York: Journeymen Printers' Co-operative Association.
—— (1877). Coahuila: Read Before the American Philosophical
Society, January 19, 1877. Philadelphia. OCLC 1538332.
—— (1937). Oscar Osburn Winther, ed. The Private Papers and Diary
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Gelber-Lilienthal, Inc. OCLC 13850314.
——; Young, Brigham (2015). Grow, Matthew J.; Walker, Ronald W.,
eds. The Prophet and the Reformer: The Letters of
Brigham Young and
Thomas L. Kane. New York: Oxford University Press USA.
United States Army
United States Army portal
American Civil War
American Civil War portal
American Civil War
American Civil War generals (Union)
^ a b c d e Grow, Matthew J. (2009). Liberty to the downtrodden. New
Haven: Yale University Press.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Zobell, Albert L. (1965).
Sentinel in the East: A biography of Thomas L. Kane. Salt Lake City,
Utah: N.G. Morgan.
^ a b c d e f Church History: Selections from the Encyclopedia of
Mormonism. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, Co. 1995.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Tagg, Larry (1998). The General of
Gettysburg. Campbell, California: Savas Publishing Company.
^ Horton, Loren N. (2008). The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. Iowa
City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press.
^ Kane, Elizabeth Wood (1974). Twelve Mormon homes visited in
succession on a journey through Utah to Arizona. Salt Lake City, Utah:
Tanner Trust Fund.
^ a b c d e f g Allen, James B. (1992). The story of the Latter-day
Saints. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company.
^ a b Kane, Thomas L. (1937). The private papers and diary of Thomas
Leiper Kane: A friend of the Mormons. San Francisco, California:
^ Tyler, Daniel (1881). A concise history of the
Mormon Battalion in
the Mexican War, 1846-1847. ISBN 978-1432617660.
^ Linn, William Alexander (1901). The Story of the Mormons: From the
Date of their Origin to the Year 1901. p. 374.
^ Kane, Elizabeth (1995). A Gentile Account of Life in Utah's Dixie,
18872-73. Salt Lake City, Utah: Tanner Trust Fund.
^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the
United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 172.
^ a b Eicher, John H. (1995). Civil War High Commands. Stanford
Allen, James B.; Glen M. Leonard. The Story of the Latter-day Saints.
Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, UT, 1976. ISBN 0-87747-594-6.
Bowen, Norman R., editor. A Gentile Account of Life in Utah's Dixie,
1872–73, Elizabeth Kane's St. George Journal. Tanner Trust Fund,
University of Utah
University of Utah Library, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1995.
Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands,
Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
Grow, Matthew J. "Liberty to the Downtrodden": Thomas L. Kane,
Romantic Reformer. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut,
Holmes, Gail. "Kane, Thomas Leiper" The Biographical Dictionary of
Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009.
Kane, Elizabeth Wood, with Everett L. Cooley, editor, Twelve Mormon
Homes: Visited in Succession on a Journey through Utah to Arizona.
Tanner Trust Fund,
University of Utah
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Ludlow, Daniel H., editor. Church History, Selections from the
Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, UT,
1995. ISBN 0-87579-924-8.
Thomas L. Kane
Thomas L. Kane Papers. Held by the American Philosophical Society,
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Facsimile copies held by the Special
Collections Department, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt
Lake City, Utah.
Tagg, Larry, The Generals of Gettysburg, Savas Publishing, 1998,
Tyler, Daniel. A Concise History of the
Mormon Battalion in the
Mexican War, 1846-1847. Salt Lake City, 1881.
Whittaker, David J., editor. Colonel
Thomas L. Kane
Thomas L. Kane and the Mormons,
1846-1883. Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, 2010.
Winther, Oscar Osburn. The Private Papers and Diary of Thomas Leiper
Kane, A Friend of the Mormons. San Francisco: Gelber-Lilienthal, 1937.
Zobell, Albert L. Sentinel in the East: A Biography of Thomas L. Kane.
Salt Lake City, Utah: Nicholas G. Morgan, 1965.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Thomas L. Kane.
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ISNI: 0000 0001 2119 9045