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Vilas, William Freeman


Age: 0, credited to Chelsea, VT
Unit(s): 23rd WI INF
Service: CAPT, Co. A, 23rd WI INF, pr LTCOL [College: UW 58/61, ALS 60]

See Legend for expansion of abbreviations


Birth: 07/09/1840, Chelsea, VT
Death: 08/27/1908

Burial: Forest Hill Cemetery, Madison, WI
Marker/Plot: Not recorded
Gravestone researcher/photographer: Thomas Fisher
Findagrave Memorial #: 6795666


Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Unknown
Portrait?: Findagrave
College?: UW 58/61, ALS 60
Veterans Home?: Not Found
(If there are state digraphs above, this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldiers' home in that state after the war)

Remarks: None


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Forest Hill Cemetery, Madison, WI

Check the cemetery for location/directions and other veterans who may be buried there.


Vilas, William F., of Madison, Wis., was born at Chelsea July 9, 1840; removed with his father's family to Wisconsin and settled at Madison June 4, 1851; was graduated at the State University in 1858, and from the law department of the University of Albany, N. Y., in 1860; was admitted to the bar by the Supreme Court of New York and by the Supreme Court of Wisconsin in the same year, and began the practice of law July 9, 1860; was captain of Co. A, 23d Regt. Wis. Inf. Vols., and afterwards major and lieutenant-colonel of the regiment; has been one of the professors of law of the law department of the State University since 1868, omitting four years, 1885 to 1889; was one of the regents of the university from 1880 to 1885; was one of the three revisers appointed by the Supreme Court of Wisconsin in 1875 who prepared the existing revised body of the statute law adopted in 1878; was a member of Assembly in the Wisconsin Legislature in 1885; was a delegate to the Democratic national conventions of 1876-'80-'84, and permanent chairman of the latter; was postmaster-general from March 7, 1885, to Jan. 16, 1888, and Secretary of the Interior from the latter date to March 6, 1889; received the unanimous nomination of the Democratic legislative caucus and was elected Jan. 28, 1891, United States Senator to succeed John C. Spooner, Republican.

Source: Jacob G. Ullery, compiler, Men of Vermont: An Illustrated Biographical History of Vermonters and Sons of Vermont, (Transcript Publishing Company, Brattleboro, VT, 1894), Part III, p. 162.

William Freeman was born in Chelsea, Orange county, Vermont, July 9, 1840.

With his father, he went to his present residence in June, 1851. Graduated at the University of Wisconsin in 1858, (A. M. 1861), and at the Albany Law School, (LL. B.), in 1860. Was admitted to the supreme courts of New York and Wisconsin the same year, and began practice at Madison, July 9, 1860.

He served in the war for the suppression of the southern rebellion, being mustered in the twenty-third regiment Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, Aug. 25, 1862, as captain of company "A," which he raised. He was mustered out as lieutenant-colonel of the same regiment, a detailed account of which, largely under his command, will be found in Quiner's Military History of Wisconsin.

Jan. 3, 1866, he married Anna Matilda Fox, daughter of Dr. William H. Fox and Cornelia Averill; bor n Oct. 15, 1845.

He is now engaged in the practice of his profession at Madison, Wisconsin. Is one of the professors of law in the Law Department of the University of Wisconsin: one of the trustees of the State Soldiers' Orphan Asylum, and secretary of the board: and one of the three counselors appointed by the Supreme Court to revise the Statutes of Wisconsin, under the act of 1875 for that purpose.

C. H. Vilas, editor, A Genealogy of the Descendants of Peter Vilas, (By the Editor, Madison, WI, 1875), pp. 155-156

Monument To. W. F. Vilas

Shows Him as He was in the Siege of Vicksburg.

A bronze heroic status of Colonel William F. Vilas, postmaster-general and secretary of interior in President Cleveland's cabinet, was presented to Mrs. Vilas and her daughter, Mrs. L. M. Hanks of Madison, Wis., in the Vicksburg National Military Park on November 30. The statue shows Mr. Vilas as he was in the siege of Vicksburg and the uniform of a lieutenant colonel. A large granite base, approached by a flight of stairs, is the foundation for the granite pedestal upon which the statue stands. It is placed at the junction of Union avenue and Baldwin's Ferry road, near the camp occupied during the siege by the 23rd Wisconsin infantry, of which Colonel Vilas was commander.

Undated newspaper clipping courtesy of Deanna French. Vilas portrait courtesy of Biographical Directory of the Unites States Congress (, statue photographs courtesy of the National Park Service, Vicksburg National Battlefield Park.

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