Oliver Otis Howard was born in Leeds, Maine, on 8th November, 1830. Educated at Bowdoin College he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point in 1855. After two years in the army he returned to the military academy to teach mathematics.
Howard fought at the Bull Run (July, 1861) and accompanied George McClellan on his Peninsular Campaign. During the battle at Fair Oaks (May, 1862), Howard was badly wounded and had to have his right arm amputated. Howard also took part the the battles at Antietam (September, 1862), Fredericksburg (December, 1862), Chancellorsville (May, 1863) and Gettysburg (May, 1863). Promoted to the rank of major general, Howard commanded the Army of Tennessee under William T. Sherman during his Atlanta Campaign in 1864.
After the war President Andrew Johnson appointed Howard as commissioner of the Freedom Bureau. His first task was to provide food and medical facilities for former slaves. In 1867, with the support of Radical Republicans in Congress, helped establish Howard University and for five years served as its president (1869-74).
Howard returned to military service and fought in the Indian Wars before serving as superintendent at West Point (1880-82). After leaving the army he continued his campaign to improve the quality of African American education in the Deep South and founded the Lincoln Memorial University, in Harrogate, Tennessee (1895).
Howard also wrote several books including Chief Joseph (1881), Zachary Taylor (1892), Autobiography of Oliver Otis Howard (1907) and Famous Indian Chiefs I Have Known (1908). Oliver Otis Howard died on 26th October, 1909.