Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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DEYENS, Charles, jurist, born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, 4 April 1820. He was graduated at Harvard in 1838, studied in the Law School at Cambridge, and practiced from 1841 till 1849 in Franklin County, Massachusetts. He was a member of the state senate from that County in 1848 and 1849. From 1849 till 1853 he held the office of U. S. marshal for the district of Massachusetts. During this period Thomas Sims was remanded as a fugitive slave, and Mr. Devens, in obedience to what he considered the exigencies of his office, caused the process to be executed. After the rendition he endeavored, through the Rev. L. A. Grimes, in 1855, to obtain the freedom of Sims, offering to pay whatever sum was necessary for the purpose, but the effort was fruitless. At a later period, hearing that Mrs. Lydia Maria Child was making applications for money to purchase the freedom of Sims, Mr. Devens addressed her a letter requesting the return of the sums she had collected for this purpose, and that she allow him the privilege of paying the whole sum. To this Mrs. Child assented; but, before the affair could be arranged, the war rendered negotiation impossible. Sims was eventually liberated by the progress of the National armies, was pecuniarily aided by Mr. Devens in establishing himself in civil life, and at a later period appointed by him, while attorney general of the United States, to an appropriate place in the department of justice. In 1854 Mr. Devens resumed the practice of law in Worcester. On 19 April 1861, he accepted the office of major, commanding an independent battalion of rifles, with which he served three months, and in July was appointed colonel of the 15th Massachusetts volunteers. With this regiment he • served until April 1862, and was wounded in the battle of Ball's Bluff. He was made brigadier general in 1862, commanded a brigade during the Peninsular campaign, was disabled by a wound at Fair Oaks, and was in the battles of Antietam and Fredericksburg. In 1863 he commanded a division in the llth corps at the battle of Chancellorsville, where he was severely wounded. Returning to the field in the spring of 1864, he was appointed to the command of a division in the 18th army corps, reorganized as the 3d division of the 24th corps, and his troops were the first to occupy Richmond when the Confederates evacuated it. General Devens was brevetted major general for gallantry and good conduct at the capture of Richmond, and remained in the service for a year after the termination of hostilities, his principal duty being as commander of the district of Charleston. which comprised the eastern portion of South Carolina. In June 1866, at his own request, he was mustered out of service, and immediately resumed the practice of his profession in Worcester. In April 1867, he was appointed one of the justices of the superior court of Massachusetts, and in 1878 was made one of the justices of the Supreme Court of the state. In 1877 he became attorney general in the cabinet of President Hayes. On his return to Massachusetts in 1881 he was reappointed one of the justices of the Supreme Court of the state, which office he now holds (1887). His only publications are his legal opinions and addresses on public occasions. Of his addresses the most important are those at the centennial celebration of the battle of Bunker Hill, at the dedication of the soldiers' monuments in Boston and Worcester, on the deaths of General Meade and General Grant, and as presiding officer at the 250th anniversary of Harvard.
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