COVID-19 Updates: For the most up-to-date information on accessing our services learn more here.

Allen, Col. Thomas S. (1825-1905) | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Allen, Col. Thomas S. (1825-1905)

Wisconsin Civil War Officer, 9th Wisconsin Secretary of State, Newspaper Publisher

Allen, Col. Thomas S. (1825-1905) | Wisconsin Historical Society
b. Andover, New York, July 26, 1825
d. Winnebago, Wisconsin, December 12, 1905

Thomas S. Allen is best remembered for his leadership of the 5th Wisconsin Infantry during the Civil War. He also served as Wisconsin's ninth secretary of state and published the Oshkosh Northwestern newspaper after the war.


Allen was born in Andover, New York, in 1825. He attended common schools, learned the printer's trade, and attended Oberlin College. In 1847 he arrived in Iowa County, Wisconsin, where for the next 13 years he was engaged in mining, surveying, and teaching school in and around Dodgeville. He served in minor public offices, and was chosen by his neighbors to represent them in the state Assembly in 1857. In 1860 he moved to Madison.

Civil War Service

When the Civil War broke out in April 1861, Allen enlisted as a private in the Governor's Guards local militia (Co. K, 1st Wisconsin Infantry). But Gov. Alexander Randall asked him to form a company from southwestern Wisconsin. At the end of June, Allen headed south as captain of Co. I, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry. A month later he led his troops at the Battle of Bull Run, and over the next 18 months was promoted up through the ranks to lieutenant colonel. As a major, Allen led his troops into the Battle of Gainesville, where he was wounded in the neck and the wrist, but refused to leave the field. At the Battle of South Mountain he was again wounded.

In January 1863 Allen was promoted to colonel of the 5th Infantry. On May 3, he commanded the regiment at the bloody attack on Marye's Heights, during the Second Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia. On November 7 he was wounded again, during the Battle of Rappahannock Station. When the 5th Infantry's term of service was up in the summer of 1864, Allen volunteered to reorganize it with new recruits, and served through the end of the war. In 1865 he was brevetted brigadier general, U.S. Volunteers.

Postwar Career

Allen was elected secretary of state of Wisconsin in 1865 and served two terms, from 1866-1870. He helped organize the Grand Army of the Republic in Wisconsin, and served as its commander, 1869-1870.

After moving to Oshkosh in 1870, Allen took over as publisher of the Oshkosh Northwestern newspaper. He ran the paper from 1870-1884 in partnership with John Hicks. With Julius Weidner, he ran a German newspaper, the Wisconsin Telegraph, from 1885-1902. Allen died at home of heart failure on December 12, 1905.

Links to Learn More

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin Biography (Madison, 1965); E. B. Quiner, Military History of Wisconsin (Chicago, 1866); Oshkosh Northwestern, Dec. 13, 1905 and March 24, 1906.]