Maj. Gen. Richard James Oglesby served three times as governor of Illinois in the 19th Century but none of the terms were consecutive and one term lasted for only ten days. He also served one term as a U.S. Senator from Illinois.
Oglesby was born in Floydsburg, Kentucky on July 25, 1824. He was orphaned as a young child and was raised by his uncle and aunt in Decatur, Illinois. According to his congressional biography, he received a limited schooling; worked as a farmer, a rope-maker, and carpenter. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1845 and started a practice in Sullivan, Illinois.
During the Mexican War in 1846-1847 he served as first lieutenant of Company C, Fourth Illinois Regiment. He studied at Louisville Law School in 1848 before seeking his fortunue by hunting gold with other "forty-niners" in California in 1849. He travelled in Europe for two years and returned to Decatur in 1851 to resume his law practice.
Richard joined the new Republican Party in 1858 and ran for Congress but was defeated in his first campaign. He was elected to the Illinois State senate in 1860 and served during just one session when he resigned to enter the Union Army during the Civil War. He served as colonel, brigadier general, and major general of the Eighth Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry until the end of the war. Much the service of his command was under the Union armies in the west led by Gen. U. S. Grant from Galena, Illinois.
Oglesby was first elected governor of Illinois in the fall of 1864 and served four years from 1865 to 1869. After four years out of office, he was again elected to a second term as governor in 1872 and served from January 13, 1873, until his resignation just ten days later on January 23, 1873. The reason for his resignation is that the Illinois General Assembly elected him as U.S. Senator. He served one term as a Republican to the United States Senate from March 4, 1873, to March 3, 1879. He was Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Lands for four years.
He declined to be a candidate for reelection in 1878. After another absense from office for six years, he was again elected to his third term as governor of Illinois from 1885 to 1889. He retired to his farm called “Oglehurst” near Elkhart, Ill., where he died on April 24, 1899 and was buried in Elkhart Cemetery. His widow was an honored guest at many state ceremonies in the early 20th Century including the inauguration of Gov. Frank O. Lowden in 1917. His son, John Oglesby, served two non-consecutive terms as lieutenant governor of Illinois from 1909 to 1913 with Gov. Charles Deneen and from 1917 to 1921 with Gov. Lowden.