He worked as a dockhand before training as a lawyer, and eventually becoming a judge. When the American Civil War began in 1861 he joined the Union Army as a Captain in the 69th New York Infantry Regiment before he recruited the 37th New York Infantry which he commanded as colonel. At war"s end he was brevetted Brigadier General.
On one day alone, he naturalised over 2,000 new voters.
However, when the scandal was uncovered, he was impeached and removed from office.