Civil War Wiki

Template:Infobox Senator Willis Benson Machen (April 10, 1810 – September 29, 1893) was a Democratic U.S. Senator from Kentucky.

Early life[]

Willis B. Machen was born the son of Henry and Nancy (Tarrant) Machen on April 10, 1810 in Caldwell County, Kentucky (now Lyon County, Kentucky).[1] He attended the common schools of the area and became a farmer.[1] Machen attended Cumberland College in Princeton, and then engaged in agricultural pursuits near Eddyville.

In addition to farming, Machen worked at the Livingston iron forge.[2] Soon, he and a partner opened their own business, but it failed and nearly led Machen to financial ruin.[3] Eventually, he was able to repay his debts, and he began building turnpikes.[3] An injury forced him to abandon that course as well, so he turned to the practice of law.[3] He was admitted to the bar in 1844 and quickly built up a large clientele.[2][3]

Machen married Margaret A. Lyon, daughter of U.S. Representative Chittenden Lyon and granddaughter of U.S. Representative Colonel Matthew Lyon.[4]

Political career[]

Machen was delegate to the State constitutional convention in 1849, was a member of the Kentucky Senate in 1854, and was a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1856 and 1860.

When a group of secessionist Kentuckians formed a Confederate government for the state, the Kentucky Confederate legislative council elected Machen as its president.[5] Machen represented Kentucky's 1st congressional district in the First Confederate Congress, serving on the Accounts and Ways and Means Committees.[2] He was re-elected to the Second Confederate Congress and worked in the quartermaster and commissary departments.[2] In total, he served in the Confederate Congress from February 22, 1862 until its dissolution in April 1865.[2]

After the close of the war, Machen, fearing reprisals for his alignment with the Confederacy, fled to Canada; his third wife and daughters Minnie and Marjorie joined him there. In 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant issued a pardon for Machen, and he returned to Kentucky.[6]

Friends encouraged Machen to run for governor, but there were questions about his eligibility, and he declined.[7] On July 9, 1872, Kentucky's delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore, Maryland nominated Machen for the office of Vice-President of the United States; he received one electoral vote.[4]

On September 22, 1872, Governor Preston H. Leslie appointed Machen to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Garrett Davis.[4] When the Kentucky Senate re-convened, he was formally elected to the seat on January 21, 1873, defeating Republican Tarvin Baker by a vote of 104–18.[1][2] He served from September 27, 1872, to March 3, 1873.

Later life[]

Following his congressional tenure, he resumed agricultural interests. He also jointly owned several iron furnaces in Lyon County; it was at one of these furnaces that William Kelly invented his process for making steel rails.[4] In 1880, Machen was appointed to the Kentucky Railroad Commission, serving one full term.[4]

Following his term on the railroad commission, Machen retired to Mineral Mount, his 1,000-acre (4 km2) estate on the Cumberland River near Eddyville, where he raised tobacco.[7] He died September 29, 1893 at the Western Asylum in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and was interred in Riverview Cemetery in Eddyville.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 National Cyclopedia, p. 395
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Kleber, p. 598
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Milford, p. 3
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Johnson
  5. Kent Masterson Brown, ed (2000). "The Government of Confederate Kentucky". The Civil War in Kentucky: Battle for the Bluegrass. Mason City, Iowa: Savas Publishing Company. pp. 69–98. ISBN 1882810473. 
  6. Cline, p. 17
  7. 7.0 7.1 Milford, p. 4

Further reading[]

Template:Start box |- ! colspan="3" style="background: #cccccc" | United States Senate Template:U.S. Senator box |}


sv:Willis Benson Machen