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About Brig. General John P. Slough (USA)
John Potts Slough (February 1, 1829 – December 17, 1867; name rhymes with "cow") was an American politician, lawyer, Union general during the American Civil War, and Chief Justice of New Mexico. He commanded the Union forces at the Battle of Glorieta Pass.
Early life and career
Slough was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He became a lawyer and practiced law in Cincinnati before being elected to the Ohio General Assembly. While serving there, he struck a fellow assemblyman and was expelled. He moved to Denver, Colorado, in 1860 and continued to practice law, becoming one of the city's more distinguished lawyers.
Civil War service
In 1861 the Civil War began and Slough joined the Union forces as a captain in the 1st Colorado "Pike's Peakers" Volunteer Regiment. Members of his regiment were initially skeptical of his loyalty to the Union due to his association with the Democratic Party. In August 1861, Slough was commissioned colonel of the regiment. In 1862 a Confederate army was invading the New Mexico Territory. Coming to the aid of the Union forces in New Mexico, Slough marched his regiment to Fort Union and, as the senior ranking officer, assumed command of the post.
Slough received orders from Col. Edward R. S. Canby, commanding the Department of New Mexico, to remain at Fort Union. A Confederate force under William Read Scurry was moving to capture Fort Union. Disobeying orders, Slough took the garrison and marched toward Glorieta Pass to intercept Scurry. Slough and Scurry fought an initially indecisive action at the Battle of Glorieta Pass, but the battle was turned to a complete victory for the Union after Slough had sent Major John M. Chivington on a flank attack, which destroyed the Confederate's supply train.
Following the battle, Canby sent orders to Slough to return to Fort Union immediately. Worried that he had already disobeyed orders by leaving Fort Union in the first place, he resigned his commission. Slough went to Washington, D.C., where he was given command of a brigade in the Shenandoah Valley during Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign of 1862. His forces were stationed at Harpers Ferry and saw little action. He was appointed brigadier general of volunteers of August 25, 1862, and became the military governor of Alexandria, Virginia. For the rest of the war, he commanded the District of Alexandria. In December 1862, he sat on the court-martial that convicted Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter of cowardice and disobedience.
When the Civil War ended in 1865, Slough was appointed Chief Justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court by President Andrew Johnson. Sharp-tongued with a fiery temper, he was appointed to fight corruption, but observers thought he was too heavy-handed about it. He was trying to break down the system of patronage that was characteristic of the New Mexico courts. Many sought his removal, especially after a decision in February 1867 attacking the system of peonage in New Mexico, which he thought was akin to the slavery he had fought in the Civil War to defeat.
In 1867 William Logan Rynerson, a member of the Territorial Legislative Council, took part in a campaign to remove the judge, leading Slough to slander Rynerson publicly. The next day, Rynerson drew a gun on the judge in Santa Fe and said, "Take it back." Slough exclaimed, "Shoot and be damned!" and Rynerson fired. Mortally wounded, Slough drew a derringer but was unable to fire. He died a day later.
At his trial, Rynerson was found not guilty (by reason of self defense), but many thought the court proceedings were corrupt. No federal officials tried to intervene in the trial, however. The historian Richard Henry Brown says that the murder of Slough "helped affirm the position of New Mexico as 'apparently the only place where assassination became an integral part of the political system.'"
Civil War Union Brevet Brigadier General, Judge. He studied law, was admitted to the Ohio Bar Association, and practiced as an attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was elected as a Democrat to the Ohio General Assembly where he struck a fellow assemblyman and was expelled, prompting him to move to Denver, Colorado in 1860. When the Civil War began, he entered the service as the Captain of the 1st Colorado "Pike's Peakers" Volunteer Regiment, and soon became a Colonel. Colorado was a federal territory that bordered the Confederate territory of New Mexico. When Confederate invaders under the command of General William R. Scurry threatened Colorado, Slough was ordered to remain at Fort Union. He disobeyed his orders and led a detachment from his regiment to pursue the Confederates hoping to intercept them at Glorietta Pass.
He won total victory when he sent Major John M. Chivington on a flank attack, which successfully destroyed a Confederate supply train. Slough was ordered by his superior, Colonel Edward Canby, to return to the fort at once. Fearing reprimand, he sent announcement of his resignation ahead of him, departed Colorado, and returned to the East. He reported to Washington and was assigned to command a brigade in the Shenandoah Valley. He received a brevet promotion from Colonel to Brigadier General of U.S. Volunteers on August 25, 1862, was reassigned to Alexandria, Virginia as a military Governor, and remained there for the rest of the war.
When the conflict was finally over, he was appointed by President Andrew Johnson as Chief Justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court. He became very unpopular as a judge and many officials sought his removal. He was shot from a pistol wielded by William D. Rynerson during a quarrel on December 15, 1867 which left him mortally wounded. He died two days later.