About Thomas Moonlight
Thomas Moonlight (September 30, 1833 – February 7, 1899) was a United States politician and general. Moonlight served as Governor of Wyoming Territory from 1887 to 1889.
Moonlight was born in Forfarshire, Scotland. He was baptised on 30 September 1833 in St Vigeans, Angus, Scotland with birth record number 319/0040 0169. His family can be traced in Scotland back to the 1600s, and to Archibald Moonlight and his wife Margaret Elspet Andersone. Moonlight was one of 10 children.
Moonlight's birth date is frequently quoted as 10 November 1833 (including on his grave marker), but this cannot be the case as his baptism records exist for 30 September 1833, and he cannot have been baptised before he was born. Early Scottish and English record keeping relied on the church where more commonly the baptism date and not birth date was recorded. It was not until government record keeping began that formal birth dates were recorded.
When he was seven, records show he lived in Galladen, Angus, Arbroath on a farm with about ninety acres. Moonlight lived with his family and a maid. By 1851, Moonlight no longer lived with his family, which supports evidence he left Scotland at an early age. Some think that he left Scotland alone, but family stories say he possibly left with his two cousins, George and Thomas.
Moonlight is thought to have worked farms in the East until he enlisted in the army at the age of twenty.
Just as Thomas achieved fame in the US, his cousin George eventually left America and achieved fame as a Pioneer and Prospector in New Zealand where the township of Moonlight is named after him. George was said to have retained his American accent all his life and took the name Captain George Fairweather Moonlight. As he had no right to the title Captain, speculation is he adopted Thomas's military achievements in the US. Several places in New Zealand were named by George (Shenandoah River, Rappahannock, Minnehaha) taking America to New Zealand. Both of his cousins are buried in Nelson, New Zealand.
Life in the United States
In 1833, at the age of twenty, Moonlight enlisted in the Fourth Artillery C.D. He served in Texas from 1833 to 1856, and was promoted to the rank of orderly sergeant. Moonlight settled in Leavenworth County, Kansas in 1860.
When the American Civil War began in 1861, Moonlight raised a company of artillery for the 4th Kansas Infantry, but the regiment never completed organization. The recruits to the company (and another regiment) were reassigned to the 1st Kansas Battery; Moonlight briefly served as its captain. Moonlight later joined the 11th Kansas Infantry as its lieutenant colonel. The regiment became the 11th Kansas Cavalry and Moonlight its colonel. Moonlight briefly commanded the 14th Kansas Cavalry as lieutenant colonel but was later ordered to return to the 11th Kansas Cavalry.
His service during the war was primarily in Kansas against bushwhackers and border guerrillas. He also pursued William C. Quantrill's raiders following the Lawrence Massacre. In 1864, he commanded the 3rd Sub-district in the District of South Kansas. During Sterling Price's Missouri Raid in 1864, Colonel Moonlight commanded the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division in the Army of the Border and was conspicuous at the Battle of Westport.
Toward the end of the war, he was in command of the District of Colorado and campaigned against Indians on the plains. He was given a brevet promotion to brigadier general in 1865.
After the war, Moonlight returned to his farm and became involved in politics in the state of Kansas. He served as the Kansas Secretary of State, and also as State Senator. From January 8, 1883 to January 22, 1885 he served as the Adjutant General of Kansas.
Moonlight was appointed Governor of the Wyoming Territory by President Grover Cleveland on January 5, 1887. Moonlight served as Governor until April 9, 1989. After his term as Governor, he served as United States Minister to Bolivia from 1893 to 1897. He was unsuccessful in his run for Governor of Kansas in 1886.
Moonlight married Ellen Elizabeth Murray (born in Ireland) and they had seven children.
Moonlight died on February 7, 1899, and is buried in Mount Muncie Cemetery in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Moonlight's wife is buried in the same cemetery.