Rufus King (general)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Rufus King (Civil War General))
Jump to: navigation, search
Rufus King
Rufus King Civil War General - Brady-Handy.jpg
Rufus King
Born January 26, 1814 (1814-01-26)
New York City, New York
Died October 13, 1876 (1876-10-14) (aged 62)
New York City, New York
Place of burial Grace Episcopal Churchyard, Jamaica, New York
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1833 - 1836, 1861 - 1863
Rank Union Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Brigadier General
Commands held Iron Brigade
Battles/wars American Civil War

Rufus King (January 26, 1814–October 13, 1876) was a newspaper editor, public servant, U.S. diplomat, and a Union brigadier general in the American Civil War.[1]

Early life[edit]

King was born in New York City, New York, to Charles King, president of Columbia College, and Eliza Gracie.[2] He was the grandson of Rufus King, delegate for Massachusetts to the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention. After graduation from Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, King enrolled in the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1829 and graduated the fourth in his class.[3] He was commissioned into the United States Corps of Engineers in 1833 but resigned in 1836 to become the New York and Erie Railroad civil engineer.[4]

After three years with the railroad, King decided to change his career path and became a newspaper editor. He worked at the Albany Daily Advertiser and the Albany Evening Journal, which were published by Thurlow Weed, a leading figure in the New York's Whig Party. In 1839, King was appointed adjutant general of the New York State Militia by Governor William H. Seward, a political ally of Weed, and held this post until 1843.


In 1836, King married Ellen Eliot, who died two years into marriage; they had no children. After five years, King married her sister Susan Eliot, and they had two children. His son Rufus King Jr. became a Union Army officer of the U.S. Horse Artillery Brigade and was awarded the Medal of Honor; his other son, Charles King became a Brigadier General of Volunteers during the Spanish–American War and a writer of Western novels.

Moving to Wisconsin[edit]

In 1845, he left New York and moved to the Wisconsin Territory, accomplishing a mixture of politics (member of the 1848 Wisconsin constitutional convention), journalism (editor and part owner of the Milwaukee Sentinel and Gazette), and education (superintendent of schools in Milwaukee in 1859-1860, and a regent of the University of Wisconsin in 1848-1854).[5][6] King also organized and played in the first three baseball games played in the state of Wisconsin. The matches were played at the old State Fairgrounds (what is now the Marquette University campus) during the winter of 1859.[7]

Civil War[edit]

King was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln as Minister to the Papal States in 1861 after being nominated by the Secretary of State Seward. On his way to Rome when the Civil War broke out, he took a leave of absence to join the Union Army. He was appointed a brigadier general of the Wisconsin militia on April 15, 1861, and of U.S. Volunteers on May 17, and was given authorization to raise a Wisconsin regiment. King helped organize what came to be known as the famous Iron Brigade, the Second, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Wisconsin, and Nineteenth Indiana volunteers, which he commanded briefly.[8]

However, before the Iron Brigade saw combat, King was promoted on March 13, 1862 to command of a division (which included the Iron Brigade) in the I Corps of the Army of the Potomac replacing general Irvin McDowell. The Division's first action was in the Second Battle of Bull Run in August 1862.[9][10] On August 28, 1862, King received orders to advance on Warrenton Turnpike towards Centreville, Virginia. Later in the day, his division was attacked by Confederate forces under Stonewall Jackson's command. At that time King was confined to an ambulance wagon suffering from a fit of epilepsy. At night, he decided to retreat under advice of his senior officers; orders to hold his position issued by general Pope did not reach him on time. A subsequent court of inquiry reprimanded him for disobedience of orders and he was replaced by Abner Doubleday. In December 1862, King served on the court-martial of Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter for disobedience and cowardice at Second Bull Run, which King himself had missed.

King performed garrison duty at Fort Monroe, Virginia and was a military governor of Norfolk. His epileptic seizures became more frequent, and in October 1863, King resigned his commission, and took up his ministerial post, in which capacity he served until the end of 1867, and was instrumental in apprehending John Surratt in Rome.[11]

Postbellum career[edit]

Returning to New York from Rome in 1868, King served for two years as deputy comptroller of customs for the Port of New York, but then retired on account of failing health. He quietly lived in retirement until he died in New York City in 1876. He is buried in Grace Churchyard, Jamaica, New York.


Rufus King International School – High School Campus, formerly Rufus King High School, in Milwaukee is named after him. The school's teams are known as the Generals.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rufus King, Wisconsin Historical Society
  2. ^ Eicher, p. 333, cites the July date of birth; Warner, p. 269, January.
  3. ^ Cullum, George W. Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., from its Establishment, in 1802, to 1890, With the Early History of the United States Military Academy. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1891.
  4. ^ "Rufus King". The Civil War in the East. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  5. ^ Still, Bayrd. Milwaukee: The History of a City. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1948.
  6. ^ Charles King. Rufus King: Soldier, Editor, and Statesman, Wisconsin Magazine of History, No. 4 (June 1921), pp. 371-381.
  7. ^ Podoll, Brian. The Minor League Milwaukee Brewers. McFarland & Company, 2003. ISBN 978-0-7864-1455-0.
  8. ^ Ethan S. Rafuse. King, Rufus, American National Biography Online. February 2000. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  9. ^ Hennessy, John J. Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.
  10. ^ Gaff, Alan D. Brave Men's Tears: The Iron Brigade at Brawner Farm. Dayton, Ohio: Morningside, 1988.
  11. ^ Stock, Leo F. United States Ministers to the Papal States: Instructions and Despatches, 1848-1868. Washington, D.C: Catholic University Press, 1933, pp. 278-440.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]