Moved to Decatur, Illinois, after death of parents, 1833. Admitted to Illinois bar, 1845, started practice of law, Sullivan, Illinois. Served as First lieutenant 4th Illinois Volunteers in Mexican War, 1846.
Went to prospect for gold, California, 1849-1851. Member Illinois Senate, 1860. Served as colonel 8th Illinois Volunteers, 1861-1864, served under Ulysses S. Grant at forts Henry and Donelson, promoted major general, 1863.
Governor Illinois, 1865-1869, 73, 85-89, supported Lincoln’s war policies, later denounced Andrew Johnson and sent formal demand that action be taken against him to Washington, D. C. Member United States Senate from Illinois, 1873-1879, chairman coms. on public lands and Indian affairs.