(Jan. 27, 1834-Mar. 4, 1903). Born in Vernon, Indiana, Robert Sandford Foster came to Indianapolis at age 16, learning the tinner’s trade and later working in his uncle’s store. In 1861, he joined the Indianapolis Greys Militia company and subsequently raised and became captain, then lieutenant colonel of a company that joined Colonel Lew Wallace‘s 13th Indiana Regiment. The Regiment, led by Wallace, son of Indiana governor David Wallace and a lawyer, who later penned the popular novel Ben Hur, was one of the first four regiments volunteering from the state for the Civil War. The regiment joined for three years and was mustered in on June 19, 1861.

G.A.R. National Encampment, 1893
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

Foster became a brigadier general during the conflict in June 1863 and thereafter commanded almost continually at the division level. His engagements and outstanding services all occurred in the eastern theater in the sieges of Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia, and later in the Appomattox campaign under General John Gibbon. He became brevet major general in March 1865.

After the Confederate surrender, Foster declined a regular army appointment, choosing instead to return to Indianapolis where he entered the brokerage business, maintaining offices in the Board of Trade Building. He served as city treasurer (1867-1872) and as U.S. marshal for the district of Indiana (1881-1885).

In 1876, Foster served as president of the Indianapolis Board Of Trade and at the time of his death was the quartermaster general of the Indiana National Guard. In addition to serving as Indiana’s first Grand Army Of The Republic department commander, Foster was a member of the Columbia Club, the Scottish Rite Masons, and the Odd Fellows.

Revised February 2021

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