Richard McCormick

by Jim Garrison

Gov. Richard Cunningham McCormick, Brady-Handy photograph collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Richard Cunningham McCormick (1832- 1901) witnessed two of the bloodiest wars of the 19th century, built a strong friendship with one of the most famous presidents in American history, and helped in the expansion and development of America’s mainland territories. While he was most well known for his accomplishments in early Arizona history as its second territorial governor, his life before Arizona was equally impressive. McCormick took an interest in journalism at a young age when technology was advancing at a never-before-seen rate improving the speed at which information could be disseminated. As war broke out in Crimea, the power of this new information technology was placed on full display.

In his early twenties, Richard McCormick was one of many who traveled to Crimea to report on breaking news from the battlefield. He reached Constantinople on December 1st, 1854. From there he sailed with British and French soldiers to Balaklava. For six weeks McCormick observed the camps surrounding Sevestople, the trenches, battlefields, and villages affected by the war before returning to Constantinople beginning his journey home. His experience in Crimea prepared him for the war that would break out in America just a few years later. During the Civil War, he was one of two war correspondents with war experience following the Army of the Potomac. McCormick would gain much prominence for his coverage of the Battle of Bull Run.[6]

After the Civil War, he served on the New York School Board.[7] He also had a failed run for Congress before being appointed as First Territorial Secretary of Arizona by President Abraham Lincoln.[8] Not long after, he married his first wife Margaret Griffiths Hunt from New Jersey. Together they traveled from New York to Los Angeles and across the Mojave on their way to Arizona.[9] Not long after, McCormick became the second Territorial Governor of Arizona and played a major role in the early development of Arizona. He died at the age of 69 in New York.[10]

Richard C McCormick lived an exciting life, rarely slowing down. At a young age, he began writing for the New York Evening Post, and traveled all over Europe and Crimea reporting on the war. Only a few years later he returned to the battlefield following Union soldiers through the Civil War. He then went on to be one of the most prominent early officials of the Arizona territory and by far one of its strongest advocates at the time. After his death, the House of Representatives put together a resolution honoring his life and service to the Arizona Territory saying “Resolved, that his long and zealous public service, in the face of many obstacles, and his thorough knowledge of the country and its resources, will entitle him to the confidence shown by the people in his selection as their representative in the Congress of the United States, and must ever honorably identify his name with the organization and history of the Territory.”[11]


[1] ED: For more on the importance of the Crimean War to the history of journalism, see: Cross, Anthony. “The Crimean War and the Caricature War.” The Slavonic and East European Review 84, no. 3 (2006): 460-80. Accessed March 17, 2021.; Ulrich Keller, The Ultimate Spectacle: A Visual History of the Crimean War (Amsterdam 2001); Trudi Tate, A Short History of the Crimean War (London: I. B. Taurus, 2018); Alexis Peri, “Heroes, Cowards and Traitors: the Crimean War and its Challenge to Russian Autocracy,” Berkeley Program in Soviet and post-Soviet Working Paper Series (Institute of East European and Eurasian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, Summer, 2008); and other works cited herein.

[2] Eugene E. Williams, “The Territorial Governors Of Arizona-Richard Cunningham McCormick,” Arizona Historical Review, n.d. The University of Arizona with the cooperation of Arizona Pioneers Historical Society (Tucson, AZ).

[3] ED: William Russell’s Correspondence have been gathered into an edited collection. William Howard Russell, Despatches from the Crimea, edited by Nicholas Bentley (New York: Hill and Wang, 1967).

[4] ED: Karl Marx, The Eastern Question: A Reprint of Letters Written 1853-1856 dealing with the Crimean War (New York: Burt Franklin, 1968)

[5] ED: For an English langauge discussion of Tolstoy’s Sevastopol Sketches, see Liza Knapp, “Tolstoy’s Sevastopol Sketches: Pathos, Sermon, Protest, and Stowe,” pp. 211-266 in Before they Were Titans: Essays on the Early Works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, edited by Elizabeth Cheresh Allen (Boston, MA: Academic Studies Press, 2015).

[6] “Richard and Margaret McCormick Papers, SHM MS-35,” Arizona Archives Online. Sharlot Hall Museum Library and Archives. Accessed April 12, 2021.

[7] Arizona Archives Online. “Richard and Margaret McCormick Papers, SHM MS-35.”

[8] Williams, “The Territorial Governors Of Arizona-Richard Cunningham McCormick.”

[9] Norm Tessman, “The personal journal and Arizona letters of Margaret Hunt McCormick,” The Journal of Arizona History 26.1 (1985): 41-52. Accessed April 6, 2021.

[10] Williams, “The Territorial Governors Of Arizona-Richard Cunningham McCormick.”

[11] Williams, “The Territorial Governors Of Arizona-Richard Cunningham McCormick.”he