Jeremiah McLain Rusk

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Jeremiah Rusk
Jeremiah McLain Rusk - Brady-Handy.jpg
2nd United States Secretary of Agriculture
In office
March 6, 1889 – March 6, 1893
PresidentBenjamin Harrison
Grover Cleveland
Preceded byNorman Coleman
Succeeded byJulius Morton
15th Governor of Wisconsin
In office
January 2, 1882 – January 7, 1889
LieutenantSam Fifield
George Ryland
Preceded byWilliam E. Smith
Succeeded byWilliam D. Hoard
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 7th district
In office
March 4, 1873 – March 3, 1877
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byHerman L. Humphrey
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 6th district
In office
March 4, 1871 – March 3, 1873
Preceded byCadwallader C. Washburn
Succeeded byPhiletus Sawyer
6th Bank Comptroller of Wisconsin
In office
January 1, 1866 – January 3, 1870
GovernorLucius Fairchild
Preceded byWilliam Ramsey
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly
from the Bad Ax 2nd district
In office
January 6, 1862 – January 5, 1863
Preceded byDaniel Harris Johnson (Bad Ax–Crawford)
Succeeded byDaniel B. Priest (Vernon 2nd)
Personal details
Jeremiah McLain Rusk

(1830-06-17)June 17, 1830
Malta, Ohio, U.S.
DiedNovember 21, 1893(1893-11-21) (aged 63)
Viroqua, Wisconsin, U.S.
Resting placeViroqua Cemetery, Viroqua, Wisconsin
Political partyRepublican
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Union Army
Years of service1862–1865
RankUnion Army LTC rank insignia.png Lieutenant Colonel
Union Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Brevet Brig. General
Unit25th Reg. Wis. Vol. Infantry
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

Jeremiah McLain Rusk (June 17, 1830 – November 21, 1893) was an American Republican politician. He was the 2nd United States Secretary of Agriculture (1889–1893) and the 15th Governor of Wisconsin (1882–1889), and served three terms in the United States House of Representatives (1871–1877), representing northwest Wisconsin. He also served as a Union Army officer during the American Civil War, served one term in the Wisconsin State Assembly (1862), and was the last Bank Comptroller of Wisconsin (1866–1870) before the office was abolished.


Representative Jeremiah M. Rusk

Rusk was born in Malta, Ohio,[1] the younger brother of Allen Rusk.[2] He was a member of the Republican Party. He began as a planter, then turned to innkeeping and finally to banking before the American Civil War.

Rusk started his service with the Union Army during Civil War as major of the 25th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment on August 14, 1862.[3] He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on September 16, 1863.[3] He took command of the regiment on July 22, 1864 when Colonel Milton Montgomery was wounded and captured at Decatur, Georgia during the Battle of Atlanta.[3][4] He continued in command after Montgomery was exchanged because Montgomery was given command of the brigade to which the 25th Wisconsin Infantry was assigned.[3][4] Rusk was wounded at Salkehatchie River, Georgia on January 20, 1865.[3] Rusk was mustered out of the volunteers on June 7, 1865.[3] He received an appointment as brevet colonel to rank from March 13, 1865.[3] On February 24, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Rusk for appointment to the grade of brevet brigadier general of volunteers to rank from March 13, 1865, and the United States Senate confirmed the appointment on April 10, 1866.[5]

After the Civil War, he became a congressman in the United States House of Representatives.[6] He was elected to the Forty-second United States Congress as the representative of Wisconsin's 6th congressional district serving from March 4, 1871 to March 3, 1873. For the Forty-third Congress he redistricted and was elected as representative of Wisconsin's newly created 7th District. He was reelected to the Forty-fourth Congress as well serving from March 4, 1873 to March 3, 1877. While in congress, he was chairman of Committee on Invalid Pensions (Forty-third congress). After his terms in congress he ran as a Republican for Governor of Wisconsin, an election he won.[6] His most noted act during his governorship was when he sent the National Guard into Milwaukee to keep the peace during the May Day Labor Strikes of 1886. The strikers had shut down every business in the city except the North Chicago Rolling Mills in Bay View. The guardsmen's orders were that, if the strikers were to enter the Mills, they should shoot to kill. But when the captain received the order it had a different meaning: he ordered his men to pick out a man and shoot to kill when the order was given. This led to the Bay View Tragedy, in which a number of workers were killed; Governor Rusk took most of the blame.

In 1889, after the end of his third term as governor, he accepted the new cabinet position of Secretary of Agriculture in the Benjamin Harrison administration.[6] He lived, died and was buried in Viroqua, Wisconsin.[7] Rusk County, Wisconsin was named after Rusk. It was originally Gates County but changed its name in 1905.

The house he bought and lived in while Governor of Wisconsin, now known as the Old Executive Mansion, was used by the state as the official residence of the Governor for several decades and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[8] His son, Lycurgus J. Rusk, was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Rusk, Jeremiah McLain (1830–1893)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress. Retrieved December 20, 2010.
  2. ^ "Lively Times of Another Era Gone, Liberty Basks in Quiet". The La Crosse Tribune. May 14, 1967. p. 20. Retrieved October 17, 2017 – via open access
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3. p. 465.
  4. ^ a b Eicher, 2001, pp. 393–394.
  5. ^ Eicher, 2001, p. 756.
  6. ^ a b c Spetter, Allan. "Jeremiah M. Rusk (1889–1893): Secretary of Agriculture". American President: An Online Reference Resource. University of Virginia. Archived from the original on December 17, 2010. Retrieved December 20, 2010. Archived December 17, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Rusk, Gov. Jeremiah M. (1830–1893)". Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved April 7, 2021.
  8. ^ "Old Governor's Mansion 1855–56". Historical Marker Database. Retrieved April 7, 2021.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for Governor of Wisconsin
1881, 1884, 1886
Succeeded by
Wisconsin State Assembly
Preceded by
Daniel Harris Johnson (Bad Ax–Crawford)
Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Bad Ax 2nd district
January 6, 1862 – January 5, 1863
Succeeded by
Daniel B. Priest (Vernon 2nd)
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 6th congressional district

Succeeded by
New constituency Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 7th congressional district

Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
William Ramsey
Bank Comptroller of Wisconsin
January 1, 1866 – January 3, 1870
Position abolished
Preceded by Governor of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
Government offices
Preceded by United States Secretary of Agriculture
Succeeded by