A Soldier's Story: Brigadier General Franklin Augustus Denison

Brigadier General Franklin Augustus Denison was born in about 1862 in San Antonio, Texas. He and his family relocated to the Chicago, Illinois, area while he was young. He graduated from Lincoln University in 1888 and, in 1890, graduated from Northwestern University with a law degree.  

Brigadier General Franklin Denison worked as the Assistant Attorney General of Illinois in 1891. He assisted in creating the 8th Infantry Regiment of the Illinois National Guard, a unique unit at the time, as it was one of the only African American units to be commanded by other African Americans. Brigadier General Denison deployed to Cuba with the 8th Illinois during the Spanish American War, where he was, because of his fluency in Spanish, President of General of Court Martial.

After the war, Brigadier General Franklin Denison was assigned Chief Quartermaster of the 4th Brigade before taking an assignment commanding the 3rd Battalion. He was then sent to Fort Sam Houston to guard the Mexican-American Border during the Mexican Expedition.  

At the outset of World War I, the 8th Illinois was renumbered to the 370th Infantry. Brigadier General Franklin Denison deployed to France, laying the groundwork for the Argonne Offensive and returning stateside before the battle. In 1918, he would become the first African American to rise above the rank of Colonel.

Brigadier General Franklin Augustus Denison retired from the US Army in 1922 and died on April 14, 1932. He rests at the Oakwoods Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois.


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

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