Another year, another #CottageMadness come and gone. This year we asked you to vote on the best Civil War Facial Hair. After four rounds of voting we have our clear winner…
Final Results: 1. Ambrose Burnside 72.50 vs. 11. Ulysses S. Grant 27.50. Click here for the full bracket: Civil War Facial Hair Bracket — Winner
Perhaps in the end, this was just a competition for second place. When you have someone in a “Best Civil War Facial Hair” bracket whose facial hair was so distinctive a type of facial hair was named after him, it is pretty obvious who is going to win. (If only there was a General Van Dyke in the Civil War.) So yes Burnside won handily, an outcome many would have guessed from the start.
As to our runner up, Ulysses S. Grant did a great job in this tournament. He defeated three higher seeds before losing to Burnside, in the closest match the winner had. In many ways the two finalists of this tournament represented two different ways of approaching the competition. Burnside was the champion of those voting for the strange, outlandish, and gaudy displays of facial hair. Grant, despite his low seed at start, looked quite stylish and handsome in his full beard and Union General garb. Perhaps he was the person our voters cherished in their hearts, if not in their votes.
So one last Huzzah for our champion Ambrose Burnside! Here’s his profile from the start of the tournament (written by MPA Johnny DiLascio):
Ambrose Burnside – What Civil War facial hair list is complete without Union General Ambrose Burnside? This Rhode Island industrialist made a name for himself at the First Battle of Bull Run, and with such a distinctive hairstyle, it’s easy to see how Burnside had no problem getting noticed. In fact, when Lincoln first fired General McClellan, he turned to Burnside to help take the Union army to victory. After the disaster at The Crater, Burnside was relieved of command by Lt. General Grant. His war legacy may have been tarnished, but his facial hair was so distinctive that the term sideburns was coined in his honor.
Here is a recap of the 15 contenders who failed to shave Burnside off:
When Gideon Welles became Secretary of the Navy, he found the department in a state much like an uncared for beard: total disarray. Before long, Welles trimmed the excess, creating a Naval force that was the envy of the world, much as his beard must have been the envy of Lincoln’s cabinet. Welles’ distinctive white fluff along with his brilliant management of United States sea power earned him the affectionate nickname “Father Neptune.”
Gideon Welles made the semifinal, defeating William Hammond and Peter Cooper, before falling to upstart Ulysses S. Grant.
It’s hard to imagine Confederate General Rosewell Ripley going anywhere without soldiers asking him, “Where did you get your beard wax?” With two thick tufts of hair on both sides coalescing into pointy spires on each end, General Ripley’s whiskers are sure to make anyone do a double take. Born in Ohio, Ripley served on General Zachary Taylor’s staff during the Mexican War, later settling in South Carolina. A proponent of “states’ rights,” Ripley joined the South Carolina secession movement and was eventually assigned to Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Even as his star waned, Ripley continued to wax those whiskers til his final days.
Ripley defeated William Harvey Carney in the first round, but couldn’t match 11 Seed Grant.
Brandishing a long, lush beard with a powerful white streak down the middle, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton’s beard is straight up Gandalfesque. He served in the cabinets of to three U.S. presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, who relied heavily on Stanton’s organizational wizardry during the Civil War. Early photos of Stanton suggest a more conservative beard, perhaps a centimeter in length, which blossomed into its full bushiness as Stanton’s star rose in the American political world. Stanton eventually came to blows with President Andrew Johnson, who fired the Secretary, triggering a long and bitter battle to impeach Johnson. As facial hair goes, though, Edwin is unimpeachable!
Stanton made an admirable run to the semifinal, dispatching lower seeds Horace Greeley and James Presley Ball, before losing to eventual champion Ambrose Burnside.
Born a free man in the slave society of Virginia, James Ball was a wunderkind right from the start. Getting his start as a daguerreotypist and photographer, Ball made his mark travelling the west and capturing many iconic images. When the camera was turned at Ball, however, his true beardness shines for all to see. As a successful businessman, Ball soon became active in the cause of abolition, and his photographs often depicted the struggles of African Americans during and after the Civil War.
With his long, Rasputinesque beard, Ball hoped for a clear path to victory. But a first round defeat of Jubal Early did not give him enough momentum to defeat Edwin Stanton in round two.
A great purveyor of mustache wax, General Alpheus Starkey Williams boasts both a distinguished military career and a unique facial hair style. He fought in most of the major engagements of the Civil War, often riding his industrious horse “Plug Ugly.” His unique goatee certainly attracted a lot of attention, and after the war, the folks of Michigan’s 1st District couldn’t get enough of his unmistakable ‘stache. They elevated the General to the U.S. Congress, where he served until his death inside the U.S Capitol in 1878.
With a bizarre name and a bizarre look, we thought Williams had a real chance at dominating this year’s bracket. Unfortunately he was the first of three victims for the lower-seed Ulysses S. Grant.
Wow! Just… wow! You may never have heard of New York industrialist and Antislavery politician Peter Cooper, but after you see his beard, you won’t soon forget him. With such an inviting fluff draped around his neck, Cooper’s wise face looks as though it rests on a fluffy white cloud. Considering that Cooper is credited with inventing the steam engine, it’s hard to accuse him of having his head in the clouds. Cooper eventually founded New York’s famous progressive institution The Cooper Union, which set the stage for Abraham Lincoln’s most famous campaign speech. Cooper ran for president in 1876 on the Greenback Party ticket and though he was denied the nation’s highest honor, with your votes, he hoped to taste the sweet nectar (or neckhair) of victory.
Unfortunately for him, after dispatching George Pickett’s charge, he couldn’t beat fellow white haired Gideon Welles.
When Charles’s famous father Frederick called for the raising of black troops to join the Union War effort, he made no exception for his own children. In fact, Charles became the first African American to enlist in New York and was sent along with his brother Lewis to the elite Massachusetts 54th Regiment. While Frederick may have settled into his iconic thick, white beard in later life, Charles brandished fantastic mutton chops from an early age. Long after he was wounded at the Assault on Fort Wagner, Charles continued to be a trendsetter both in Civil Rights and in style.
In the closest match of the tournament, Douglass lost the first round to Abraham Lincoln by a single vote.
As a rising star in Illinois politics, Lincoln’s main distinguishing characteristic was his incredible height. At 6’4” it was no task for Lincoln to stick out in a crowd. When he was running for President in 1860, however, one little girl named Grace Bedell didn’t think height was enough to give Lincoln that special X factor. In a letter to then candidate Lincoln, she told Lincoln she would get her family and friends to vote for him on the condition he “let [his] whiskers grow.” Whether Lincoln’s decision to grow whiskers was prompted by this letter or not, one thing’s for sure: once Abe embraced the chin strap, he never looked back.
Abe won his first round matchup with Charles Redmond Douglass by a whisker, before falling to General Burnside.
When Robert Lee sent three divisions up Cemetery Ridge at the Battle of Gettysburg. he’d actually put General Longstreet in charge of the ill-fated attack. Somehow, in the aftermath of this bloody moment in one of the war’s bloodiest battles, this heroic but doomed assault became known as Pickett’s Charge. Perhaps when the Confederate press reported on this tragic battle scene, they found Pickett’s long, wavy chin flap and hipster mustache made him imminently more photogenic than Longstreet. Pickett may not have been able to reach the summit of Cemetery Ridge, but with your votes, he could make it to the top of our list.
Pickett couldn’t muster the strength to overcome Peter Cooper in the first round.
Since Lincoln’s facial hair is technically classified as a chin strap, Grant has the distinction of being the first American president with a full beard. Long before he became the Savior of the Union, Grant was a clean shaven first lieutenant fighting in the Mexican War. Far from his happy new home, the recently married Grant exchanged passionate love letters with his bride Julia. In one such letter, Julia told her husband of a dream she had in which her fresh faced Ulysses appeared with a beautiful beard. Five months later, Grant wrote to a friend, “you would never recognize me… I have a beard more than four inches long and it is red,” proving once and for all that dreams really do come true!
Grant was the Cinderella of the tournament, defeating higher seeds 6. Alpheus Starkey Williams, 3. Rosewell Sabine Ripley, and 2. Gideon Welles, before valiantly losing to Burnside.
Perhaps the most notorious person who ever tried to visit the cottage, Confederate General Jubal Early is no slouch when it comes to facial hair. It seems those long nights raiding Maryland towns didn’t leave a lot of time for shaving! In the summer of 1864, he launched an assault on Fort Stevens that brought him within a mile of Lincoln’s country residence. When Lincoln came to visit the fort the next day, Early’s forces were still attacking, exposing Lincoln to enemy fire. Early’s army never made it to Lincoln’s Cottage, which is happy news for those of us who work here today!
General Jubal had an early start from the tournament, losing quickly to James Presley Ball.
It’s a beard? It’s plane? No! It’s New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley! While Greeley is more commonly known for his fiery rhetorical journalism, his true gift to the world is arguably his iconic neck hair. Protruding from under Greeley’s collar like a feathery shirt collar, one wonders where exactly this amazing fluff is growing from. Greeley was one of the Civil War’s most vocal journalists, and later he tried to unseat President Ulysses Grant in the 1872 election. But Americans stuck with Grant’s more traditional beard style, rather than take a chance on Greeley’s wily neck beard.
In the neck of time, Horace Greeley was gone, losing to Edwin Stanton in the first round.
Sgt. William Harvey Carney boasts a neat mustache with lengthened chin strap, creating a sleek design that stands out in a time of rampant Santa beards. Born a slave in Norfolk, VA, Carney defiantly cast his chains aside and raced up the Underground Railroad to the Free North. As with many young African American men in the aftermath of the Emancipation Proclamation, William Carney joined the Union Army in 1863, enlisting in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. Wounded three times at the Assault on Fort Wagner, Carney carried the American flag back and forth across enemy lines, never letting it touch the ground. A man simply doing his duty. A goatee simply making him look good.
Sgt. Carney’s subtle chin strap was no match for Rosewell Sabine Ripley’s intense whiskers.
Is there a doctor in the house? Meet U.S. Surgeon General and facial hair aficionado William Hammond. Joining the Union war effort as a infantryman in 1861, Hammond gained recognition helping invent a new kind of ambulance wagon. By 1862, he was promoted to Brigadier General, and soon found himself America’s 11th Surgeon General. As his career flowered, so did his thick, grizzly beard, but he soon came to blows with the administration and was removed in 1863. Hammond went on to found the American Neurological Association, but it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see why Hammond’s beard made our list.
Though Hammond has a similarly stylish beard like Grant’s he couldn’t make any moves, losing to Gideon Welles in the first round.
Beard ye! Beard ye! All rise for the only Supreme Court Justice to make our list. David Davis served as Abraham Lincoln’s campaign manager in 1860, for which he was rewarded with an appointment to the United States Supreme Court. Davis remained on the bench until 1881, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate, representing Illinois. As Davis aged, his once thick brown neck beard settled into the neat white chin strap we see here. How does his facial hair measure up to the others on this list? You be the judge!
Poor David Davis, just the first of four victims that cowered before Ambrose Burnside’s impressive sideburns.