Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Charles M. Conrad (1850–1853): Secretary of War

Charles Magill Conrad was born in 1804 in Winchester County, Virginia. He grew up in Louisiana Territory, studied law, and was admitted to the New Orleans bar in 1828.

From 1839 to 1840, Conrad served in the Louisiana House of Representatives before heading to the U.S. Senate, where he filled a vacancy from 1841 to 1843. Five years later, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and served there from 1849 to 1850. When Millard Fillmore became President following the death of Zachary Taylor in 1850, Fillmore tapped Conrad to become secretary of war, a post Conrad held for the remainder of the Fillmore administration.

Upon leaving the cabinet in 1853, Conrad worked as a lawyer in New Orleans. He attended the Confederate constitutional convention in 1861, helped write parts of the Confederate constitution, and was elected as a representative to the Confederate Congress. Following the end of the Civil War, Conrad returned to New Orleans to find that his estate had been confiscated by the Union. Charles Magill Conrad practiced law until his death in 1878.