National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Thomas and Sandra Ammann
Born Newburgh, New York
William W. Belknap is most often associated with the corruption that discredited the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant. At the start of the Civil War, Belknap was a junior officer with the Fifteenth Iowa Volunteers and eventually attained the rank of brigadier general. In 1869, President Grant appointed him secretary of war. Seven years later, in 1876, evidence was reported to Congress indicating that Belknap had received more than $24,000 in connection with the appointment of John S. Evans to the trade post at Fort Sill in the Oklahoma Territory. Belknap was impeached and resigned before the end of the Senate trial, which failed to find him guilty by a necessary two-thirds majority. Later, it was discovered that the free-spending Mrs. Belknap had been the primary perpetrator of the conspiracy to purchase the office.