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Significant Scots
James Grant Wilson

William WILSON (1801, Crieff - 1860, Poughkeepsie, New York) and his son, James Grant WILSON (April 28, 1832, Edinburgh – February 1, 1914, New York)

A Scotsman of Edinburgh by birth, James Grant WILSON (April 28, 1832 – February 1, 1914) became an American Colonel in the Union Army during the Civil War, and later a distinguished editor, and author.

James was the eldest son of William WILSON (1801-1860), a native of Crieff, Perthshire, a publisher-poet and his wife Jane SIBBALD of Wilton, Roxburhshire. William and Jane emigrated to the USA c. 1835 with their then two children James and Agnes. Siblings George, Margaret, Mary and Walter were later born in the family home in Poughkeepsie City, Dutchess County, New York State.

It is probable that one reason for their emigration was the fact that William was a kinsman of the Hon. James Wilson of Pennsylvania.

It is said of William in the book 'THE SCOT IN AMERICA' by Peter Ross, L.L. D. (1896) .....

"William Wilson, bookbinder and bookseller, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., is still remembered as a pleasing writer, some of whose songs will long keep his memory green and give him a place in American literature. He was born at Crieff in 1801. His father having died in infancy, William began, at the age of seven years, the hard battle of life by being sent to help in herding sheep, and when fourteen years of age was apprenticed to a "cloth lapper" in Glasgow. He afterward removed to Dundee, where he varied the tedium of his trade by contributing to the local papers. Then he went to Edinburgh, where he was enabled to start in business as a dealer in coal. In 1833 he emigrated to the United States, and, a year later, settled in Poughkeepsie, where he conducted a book business successfully until his death, in 1860. His son, James Grant Wilson, has done good literary work as editor of several important publications, as well as by much original writing.

William Wilson's poems have twice been published, and received very considerate treatment at the hands of the critics. One of them wrote: "He was a genuine son of song, and his genius is deserving of even wider recognition than it receives at present. Simplicity and kindness are his greatest characteristics, and are shown in every line he writes. He is earnest and direct in his teaching, and whether singing the praises of his native land or the glories of the land in which he died, whether mourning beside the grave of a loved one, or warbling Stanzas to a Child, the hearty, whole-souled character of the man shines clearly forth."

1850 United States Federal Census
Name: William Wilson [Merchant- Publisher]
Age: 48
Estimated birth year: abt 1802
Birth Place: Scotland
Gender: Male
Home in 1850 (City,County,State): Poughkeepsie, Dutchess, New York
Household Members:
William Wilson 48 Birth Place: Scotland
Jane Wilson 43 Wife Birth Place: Scotland
James Wilson 18 Son Birth Place: Scotland *****
Agnes Wilson 17 Daughter Birth Place: Scotland
George Wilson 12 Birth Place: NY Son
Margaret Wilson 10 Daughter Birth Place: NY
Mary Wilson 8 Daughter Birth Place:NY
Walter Wilson 6 Birth Place:NY Son

Colonel James Grant WILSON was for long a prominent figure in the literary life of the USA. He not only had a distinguished war record and a recognised standing as an author and historian, but he possessed several interesting personal relics of Lincoln, Grant and Washington, and his informal talks and lectures on these great characters, two of whom were his personal friends, will be long remembered.

It is recorded that his early education was chiefly by private tutors and through travel in Europe. From New York City he moved to Illinois where, in 1857, he founded the Chicago Recorded, a journal of art and literature. He then entered the Union Army late in 1862 as a major of the 15th Illinois Cavalry, commanded the 4th U.S.C. Cavalry as colonel, and left the Army in 1865 as a brevet Brigadier General.

After the Civil War, in 1869, he married Jane Emily Searle COGSWELL of East Windsor Hill, Hartford,
Connecticut and they settled with children in due course in New York where James became a well-known speaker, a frequent contributor to periodicals, president of the Society of American Authors, and, after 1885, of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. He edited Fitz-Greene Halleck's Poems (1868); A Memorial History of the City of New York (four volumes, 1892–93); Appleton's Cyclopœdia of American Biography (six volumes, 1887–89, with John Fiske; volume vii, 1900), an excellent book of reference; The Great Commanders Series (eighteen volumes, completed 1913); The Presidents of the United States, 1789-1914 (four volumes, 1914), the work of many distinguished writers.

James died on February 1, 1914 in New York City and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York.

Selected works of James Grant WILSON:

Biographical Sketches of Illinois Officers (1862–63)
Life of Fitz-Greene Halleck (1869)
Sketches of Illustrious Soldiers (1874)

However, not forgetting the country of his birth, James produced in two volumes, totalling c.1000 pages
'The Poets And Poetry Of Scotland: From The Earliest To The Present' (1876)


Centennial History of the Diocese of New York, 1775-1885 (1886)
Bryant and his Friends (1886)
Commodore Isaac Hull and the Frigate Constitution (1889)
Wilson, James Grant (1893). The Memorial History of the City of New York: From Its First Settlement to the Year 1892. New York History Co..
Love in Letters (1896)
Life of General Grant (1897)
Thackeray in the United States (two volumes, 1904)

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