Born in the village of Erskine on the River Clyde on November 17th 1826. He learnt his fathers trade as a blacksmith . He emigrated to America at the age of twenty-three and settled in Chicago. There he became a manager in a Chicago Iron Works and at the start of the Civil War, became a Captain of a militia company (Chicago Highland Guards), and would rise to the rank of Brevet Major General during the war.
His assignments throughout the war were as follows:- Colonel, 12th Illinois (May 1861), named the Colonel of a three month regiment, he managed to re-enlist it for a three year full term on August 1st 1861. He commanded 1st Brigade, 2nd Division in Missouri and Tennessee during 1862 and was promoted to Brigadier General USV, on March21 1862 and led various units until July 1865. He led a Brigade at Fort Donelson and was wounded in the foot at Shiloh He briefly commanded a division but was again in brigade command during the Corinth, Mississippi operations. Not present at Iuka or Corinth, he took part in the Vicksburg Campaign. Brevetted Major General for Nashville, he participated in operations against Mobile before being mustered out on 24th August 1865.
"When the orator of the occasion Mr Robert Harvey, mounted the stand the flags were for the first time unfurled since leaving Chicago and consisted of a National flag of the finest silk, a regimental flag and a complimentary flag to the Colonel and a majority of the officers of the regiment who are of Scotland's noble sons. The regimental colors are composed of blue silk, regulation size, finest texture, fringed with yellow in the centre of which was a gilt spread-eagle from the beak of which floated a ribbon upon which were inscribed the words "E Pluribus Unum"; the eagle was encircled with thirteen stars over which in a half circle were the words 12th Reg. Ill. Volunteers.