Oliver Holmes Jr.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841 - 1935)

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
Born in Boston, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United Statesmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married in Massachusettsmap
[children unknown]
Died in Washington, District of Columbia, United Statesmap
Profile last modified | Created 21 May 2012 | Last significant change: 26 Dec 2018
02:06: Zachary Smith added Zachary Smith as manager for profile of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841-1935). [Thank Zachary for this]
This page has been accessed 1,386 times.

Categories: 20th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry, United States Civil War | American Notables.

Oliver Holmes Jr. is notable.
Join: Notables Project
Discuss: notables

Justice Oliver Holmes Jr. served in the United States Civil War.
Enlisted: 1861
Mustered out: July 18, 1864
Side: Union
Regiment(s): 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry""



Holmes was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of the prominent writer and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. and abolitionist Amelia Lee Jackson. Dr. Holmes was a leading figure in Boston intellectual and literary circles, Mrs. Holmes was connected to the leading families; Henry James Sr., Ralph Waldo Emerson and other Transcendentalists were family friends. Known as "Wendell" in his youth, Holmes, Henry James Jr. and William James became lifelong friends. Holmes accordingly grew up in an atmosphere of intellectual achievement, and early formed the ambition to be a man of letters like Emerson.

Holmes's early life was described in detail by Mark DeWolfe Howe, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes--The Shaping Years, 1841-1870 (1957).[1]


On June 17th 1872, he married a childhood friend, Fanny Bowditch Dixwell. [2] Their marriage lasted until her death on April 30, 1929. They never had children together. They did adopt and raise an orphaned cousin, Dorothy Upham. Fanny Holmes disliked Beacon Hill society, and devoted herself to embroidery. She was described as devoted, witty, wise, tactful, and perceptive.


Holmes was just twenty years old, and a student at Harvard when the war broke out. He signed up for duty in the Boston unit of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, the New England Guards or Fourth Battalion. Assigned to garrison duty, the Fourth Battalion was mainly involved in drilling at Fort Independence in Boston Harbor.

Holmes also joined the 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, known as the Harvard Regiment since so many of its officers had come from the college. Recruitment to these new regiments was an important part of the early Union war effort, and especially so after the Union’s defeat at First Bull Run (Manassas) in July. So Holmes and Bartlett spent the summer of 1861 in Pittsfield, seeking suitable recruits. By the early Fall, having signed up some eleven men, they headed back to Boston, to Camp Massasoit, and then moved south, first to Camp Kalorama in Washington, then Camp Burnside close to the Capitol, and finally to Camp Benton in Maryland, located between Poolesville and Edwards Ferry on the banks of the Potomac.ESSENTIAL CIVIL WAR CURRICULUM

Toward the end of October, the 20th Massachusetts was mustered into action for the first time under the overall command of Colonel Edward Baker, senator for Oregon, who had some limited military experience gained during the Mexican War (1846-48). Holmes’ regiment was detailed, together with the 15th Massachusetts, the 42nd New York (Tammany) and the 71st Pennsylvania infantry regiments, to cross to the western bank of the Potomac, navigate the narrow strip of land—Harrisons Island—mid-river, scale the bluff—Ball’s Bluff—and engage the enemy in what was expected to be only a minor skirmish. ECWC

Injured in battle, Holmes had believed that he would die. He thought about taking the laudanum that his father, Dr. Holmes, had given him before he left for the front, but held off, “determined to wait until pain or sinking strength warned me of the end being near.” He was moved from Camp Benton to Pen Hallowell’s home in Philadelphia, where he spent a week recuperating before being brought back to Boston by his father. At home his “honorable wounds” proved to be a source of pride to his parents, even as they appreciated that their son had had “a most narrow escape from instant death!” He had been wounded badly and only returned to his regiment in late March the following year. ECWC

Oliver Wendell Holmes was noted for his Memorial Day Speech titled, "In Our Youth Our Hearts Were Touched With Fire".


Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (March 8, 1841 – March 6, 1935) was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1902 to 1932, and as Acting Chief Justice of the United States January–February 1930. Noted for his long service, his concise and pithy opinions and his deference to the decisions of elected legislatures, he is one of the most widely cited United States Supreme Court Justices in history, particularly for his "clear and present danger" opinion for a unanimous Court in the 1919 case of Schenck v. United States, and is one of the most influential American common law judges, honored during his lifetime in Great Britain as well as the United States. Holmes retired from the Court at the age of 90 years, 309 days, making him the oldest Justice in the Supreme Court's history. He also served as an Associate Justice and as Chief Justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and was Weld Professor of Law at the Harvard Law School, of which he was an alumnus.


Holmes died of pneumonia in Washington, D.C. in 1935, two days short of his 94th birthday. In his will, Holmes left his residuary estate to the United States government (he had earlier said that "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society" in Compañia General de Tabacos de Filipinas vs. Collector of Internal Revenue, 275 U.S. 87, 100 (1927)


  • "Massachusetts Marriages, 1841-1915," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N437-LM6 : 17 February 2016), Oliver Wendell Holmes and Fanny Bowditch Dixwell, 17 Jun 1872; citing , Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, State Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 1,433,030.
  1. http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2813&context=ilj
  2. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N437-LM6

More Genealogy Tools

Sponsored Search

Searching for someone else?
First: Last:

No known carriers of Oliver's ancestors' Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA have taken yDNA or mtDNA tests and no close relatives have taken a 23andMe, AncestryDNA, or Family Tree DNA "Family Finder" test.

Have you taken a DNA test for genealogy? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.

Images: 3
Oliver Holmes Image 1
Oliver Holmes Image 1

Oliver Holmes Image 2
Oliver Holmes Image 2

1902 portrait photograph of Oliver Wendell Holmes
1902 portrait photograph of Oliver Wendell Holmes


On 18 Nov 2014 at 00:10 GMT Sandy Culver wrote:

Spouse was Dixwell-5 Fanny Dixwell

Oliver is 20 degrees from Walter Morrison, 24 degrees from Alison Wilkins and 15 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

H  >  Holmes  >  Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.