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  • Oliver Wendel Holmes, Jr.

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    Oliver Wendel Holmes, Jr. - Inventory Number: ALB 025

    20th Massachusettes Infantry - “Harvard Regiment”

    Original albumen photograph with artist watercolor enhancements.  A striking original image of the Colonel who would become the most famous Supreme Court Justice in history.  Beautifully framed and matted.  Frame measures 20" x 21".  

    Oliver Wendel Holmes Jr.:

     During his senior year of Harvard, at the outset of the American Civil War, Holmes enlisted in the fourth battalion, Massachusetts militia, then received a commission as first lieutenant in the Twentieth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He saw much action, He was wounded in battle three times and suffered numerous illnesses.  He had taken part in the Peninsula Campaign, the Battle of Fredericksburg and the Wilderness, suffering wounds at the Battle of Ball's Bluff, Antietam, and Chancellorsville, and suffered from a near-fatal case of dysentery. Holmes rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, but eschewed promotion in his regiment and served on the staff of the VI Corps during the Wilderness Campaign. He declined to renew his term of service when it expired. Holmes apparently, and justifiably, felt that he had done more than his duty, and had survived one battle too many to continue tempting fate. Holmes received a brevet (honorary) promotion to colonel in recognition of his services during the war. He retired to his home in Boston after his three-year enlistment ended in 1864, weary and ill, his regiment disbanded.

    Holmes returned to Boston, decided to study law, and entered Harvard Law School in 1864. Though at first uncertain that law would be his profession, he soon became immersed in study and decided that the law would be his life's work. He committed himself to the law, but not necessarily to the private practice.

    Holmes served on the Supreme Judicial Court for twenty years, becoming chief justice. He loved the work-the legal research and the "writing up" of cases. Holmes found the work easy, at least for him. He could see immediately to the heart of an issue, and his intellectual powers were far superior to his colleagues. Holmes was never accused of modesty, especially concerning his superiority to his fellow judges. Though he was happy on the Supreme Judicial Court, he desired greater fame and challenge.

    The opportunity for ultimate professional advancement came in 1902, when Holmes was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to the United States Supreme Court. His appointment might never have happened, except that the "New England seat" on the court became vacant during Roosevelt's term, and Roosevelt and Holmes were both friends with Massachusetts Senator, Henry Cabot Lodge. Lodge persuaded Roosevelt that Holmes was "safe," meaning favorable towards Roosevelt's progressive policies. Roosevelt would later regret the appointment, after Holmes participated in striking down some of Roosevelt's initiatives.

    Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. would serve on the Supreme Court longer than any other person-thirty years. He was called "The Great Dissenter" because he was often at odds with his fellow justices and was capable of eloquently expressing his dissents. Louis Brandeis often joined him in dissents, and their views often became the majority opinion in a few years' time. Holmes resigned due to ill health in 1932, at age ninety. He died in 1935 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery next to his wife.

    Inventory Number: ALB 025