Rufus King (general)

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For other people named Rufus King, see Rufus King (disambiguation).
Rufus King
Rufus King Civil War General - Brady-Handy.jpg
Rufus King
Born January 26, 1814
New York City, New York
Died October 13, 1876 (aged 61–62)
Place of burial Grace Churchyard, Jamaica, New York
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch Union Army
Years of service 1833 - 1836, 1861 - 1863
Rank Union army brig gen rank insignia.jpg Brigadier General
Commands held Iron Brigade
Battles/wars American Civil War

Rufus King (January 26 or July 26, 1814[1] – October 13, 1876) was a newspaper editor, educator, U.S. diplomat, and a Union brigadier general in the American Civil War.[2]

Early life[edit]

King was born in New York City, New York, the grandson of Rufus King, delegate for Massachusetts to the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention. After graduation from Columbia College, where his father, Charles King, served as president, King enrolled in the United States Military Academy at West Point. King graduated near the top of his class, and was appointed to the engineer corps in 1833. He resigned his commission in 1836. He was appointed adjutant general of the New York state militia in 1839 by Governor William H. Seward and held this post until 1843.[3]

After a short time with the New York and Erie Railroad, King served as the associate editor for two newspapers, the Albany Evening Journal and the Albany Advertiser (1841–45). At this point, he left New York and moved to the Wisconsin Territory, accomplishing a mixture of politics (member of the 1848 Wisconsin constitutional convention), journalism (part owner of the Milwaukee Sentinel and Gazette), and education (superintendent of schools in Milwaukee and a regent of the University of Wisconsin–Madison). 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.

Civil War[edit]

King was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln as Minister to the Papal States in 1861. On his way to Rome when the Civil War broke out, he took a leave of absence to join the 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, which he commanded briefly.

However, before the Iron Brigade saw combat, King was promoted to command of a division (which included the Brigade) in the I Corps of the Army of the Potomac. The Division's first action was in the Second Battle of Bull Run in August 1862, but King had suffered a fit of epilepsy and could not command it. 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 for his actions at Second Bull Run - which King himself had missed.

His epileptic seizures became more frequent, and King was unable to return to active duty. Finally, in October 1863, King resigned his commission, and took up his ministerial post.

Postbellum career[edit]

Returning to New York from Rome in 1867, King served for two years as deputy comptroller of customs for the Port of New York, but then retired from public life on account of failing health until he died in 1876. He is buried in Grace Churchyard, Jamaica, New York.

King was the father of Rufus King, Jr., of the U.S. Horse Artillery Brigade in the Civil War, and General Charles King of the Philippine-American War.


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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Eicher, p. 333, cites the July date; Warner, p. 269, January.
  2. ^ Rufus King, Wisconsin Historical Society
  3. ^ "Rufus King". The Civil War in the East. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 


External links[edit]