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
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.
Political partyRepublican
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
 • Union Army
RankUnion Army LTC rank insignia.png Lieutenant Colonel
Union Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Brevet Brigadier General
Unit25th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

Jeremiah McLain Rusk (June 17, 1830 – November 21, 1893) was a U.S. Representative, the 15th Governor of the U.S. state of Wisconsin from 1882 to 1889 and the second United States Secretary of Agriculture from 1889 to 1893. He also served as Union Army officer during the American Civil War.


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]

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 20 December 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 17 December 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ [2]

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Cadwallader C. Washburn
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 6th congressional district

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

Succeeded by
Herman L. Humphrey
Party political offices
Preceded by
William E. Smith
Republican nominee for Governor of Wisconsin
1881, 1884, 1886
Succeeded by
William D. Hoard
Political offices
Preceded by
William E. Smith
Governor of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
William D. Hoard
Preceded by
Norman Coleman
United States Secretary of Agriculture
Succeeded by
Julius Morton