Lucius Fairchild

Lucius Fairchild
10th Governor of Wisconsin
In office
January 1, 1866  January 1, 1872
Lieutenant Wyman Spooner
Thaddeus C. Pound
Preceded by James T. Lewis
Succeeded by Cadwallader Colden Washburn
Personal details
Born (1831-12-27)December 27, 1831
Franklin Mills, Ohio
Died May 23, 1896(1896-05-23) (aged 64)
Madison, Wisconsin
Resting place Forest Hill Cemetery
Madison, Wisconsin
Political party Republican (Post war)
Democratic (Pre war)
Spouse(s) Frances Bull Fairchild
Children Mary, Sarah, Caryl, Lucia, Charlotte
Profession Clerk, Politician, Soldier
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1858–1863
Rank Brigadier General
Unit Iron Brigade in the Army of the Potomac
Commands 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment

American Civil War

Lucius Fairchild (December 27, 1831  May 23, 1896) was an American politician, army general, and diplomat. He served as the tenth Governor of Wisconsin and as U.S. Minister to Spain.

Military career

General Fairchild, as a Private in 1858, enlisted in a Wisconsin volunteer militia known as the "governor's guard". Under his guidance the militia was titled Company K, 1st Wisconsin volunteers and by 1861, was serving in the Civil War at Falling Waters against the "Stonewall Brigade" of General Thomas J. Jackson. In August 1861, Fairchild was appointed captain in the 16th U.S. Infantry as well as major of the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The 2nd Wisconsin served in the brigade commanded by General William T. Sherman until the general reorganization of the Union army following the First Battle of Bull Run. Electing to stay with the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, Fairchild was soon commissioned lieutenant colonel and, with his regiment now a part of the famed Iron Brigade within the Army of the Potomac, participated in the Second Battle of Bull Run. One week thereafter, on September 8, 1862, he was promoted to the rank of colonel of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry. On February 27, 1863, the Iron Brigade, now under the command of Brig. Gen. Solomon Meredith, was re-designated the "1st Brigade, 1st Division, I Corps", which gave Fairchild the distinction of being the ranking officer among all commissioned officers within the I Corps of the Army of the Potomac during the Spring and Summer of 1863.

Fairchild and the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry distinguished themselves at the Battle of Antietam, and then again at Seminary Ridge during the first day of fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, being the first infantry regiment to make close contact with the Confederate Army. During the engagement, at approximately 10:00, the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry delivered a striking blow by capturing very first Confederate general officer of the war, Brig. Gen. James J. Archer. Almost immediately after this success, the regiment was ambushed by an attack on their right flank, losing seventy-seven percent of their ranks, including most officers. Fairchild was shot in the upper arm, captured, tended to, and released. While recovering from his amputated left arm, Fairchild was commissioned as a brigadier general by President Abraham Lincoln on October 19, 1863.

Political and diplomatic career

Fairchild resigned from the military in November 1863 and was appointed Secretary of State of Wisconsin (1864–1866), before being elected three term Governor of Wisconsin (1866–1872). After his time as governor, Fairchild was appointed U.S. consul at Liverpool (1871) and then consul general at Paris (1880–1881), Fairchild was Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Spain.[1][2]

Fairchild later served as Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (1886–1887) and of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (1893–1895); during the former of these terms, he came to national prominence for calling upon God to "palsy" President Grover Cleveland for offering to return several captured Confederate battle flags to the veterans of their respective regiments as a peace gesture towards the South. He was also a member of the Society of the Army of the Potomac. Fairchild also received 95 degrees in the Masonic Order "Egyptian Masonic Rite of Memphis". He died in Madison, Wisconsin in May 1896.

Fairchild was also known as an outspoken "Radical Republican", he fervently supported civil rights for blacks and vehemently opposed Rutherford B. Hayes for "appeasing" southern segregationists in what he referred to as "the second civil war". He believed Reconstruction ended too early, and on terms he described as "cowardly" and "disgraceful". He supported Wisconsin Senator Timothy O. Howe in pushing for more severe measures in the South that would guarantee civil rights by force.[3]


Lucius Fairchild was of entirely English ancestry, all of which had been in America since the 1600s. His entire family tree can be traced to three large migrations. Firstly all of his ancestors migrated from England to New England during the Puritan migration to New England (1620–1640) during the early colonial period. In the immediate aftermath of the American Revolution all of Fairchild's ancestors moved from New England to the region of upstate New York, and only one generation after that, following the Northwest Indian War they moved to the northern part of Ohio.[4][5][6][7] Fairchild had a grandfather and a great grandfather who fought in the American Revolution. Fairchild is a descendant of Thomas Fairchild who emigrated to North America in 1639. His father was Democrat, Jairus C. Fairchild, the first Treasurer of the State of Wisconsin and the first Mayor of the city of Madison, Wisconsin. His brother, Cassius Fairchild served as Democratic Party Leader in the Wisconsin State Assembly, and also served in the Union Army during the American Civil War with the rank of colonel (and brevet brigadier general).[8] His brother Charles served in the Union Navy during the war. His wife was Frances Bull Fairchild, and together they had three daughters: Mary, Sarah, and Caryl.[9]


The town of Fairchild, Wisconsin and the 422-foot (129 m) Liberty ship SS Lucius Fairchild, built in 1943 in Portland, Oregon for the United States War Shipping Administration, were named in his honor, as was Mount Fairchild (13,502'), a prominent peak located in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. In Kent, Ohio, where Fairchild was born in 1831, Fairchild Avenue is named after him. Fairchild visited Kent with much fanfare in 1887 and the road was officially named for him in 1904.[10] A John Singer Sargent portrait of General Fairchild is housed at the Wisconsin Historical Museum located in Madison, Wisconsin.[11][12]

See also


  • Gilmore, Jean Fairchild. Early Fairchilds in America and Their Descendants. Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, 1991.
  • Ross, Sam. The Empty Sleeve: A Biography of Lucius Fairchild. Madison, WI: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1964.


  1. Fairchild, Lucius 1831 - 1896
  2. Wisconsin Historical Society | Wisconsin Historical Images
  3. Ross, Sam. The Empty Sleeve: A Biography of Lucius Fairchild. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1964. pp. 107, 110, 125.
  4. Ross, Sam (1964). The Empty Sleeve: A Biography of Lucius Fairchild. Madison, Wisconsin: State Historical Society of Wisconsin for the Wisconsin Civil War Centennial Commission. pp. 1–55.
  5. Bacon, Lee Fairchild (1928). The Civil War Letters of Charles and Lucius Fairchild. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin--Madison. p. 17.
  6. Ross, Sam (1955). A biography of Lucius Fairchild of Wisconsin. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin--Madison. pp. 9, 16–18.
  7. The Empty Sleeve: A Biography of Lucius Fairchild, by Sam Ross (State Historical Society of Wisconsin for the Wisconsin Civil War Centennial Commission, 1964)
  8. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2010-06-27.
  9. Gilmore, Jean Fairchild (1991). Early Fairchilds in America and Their Descendants (1st ed.). Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press. p. 294.
  10. Di Paolo, Roger (2009). Rooted in Kent. Kent, Ohio, USA: Kent Historical Society Press. pp. 82–84. ISBN 9781607251750.
  11. Wisconsin Historical Society | Wisconsin Historical Images
  12. Fairchild Bio and Portrait Case Study
Political offices
Preceded by
James Lewis
Secretary of State of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
Thomas Allen
Preceded by
James Lewis
Governor of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
Cadwallader C. Washburn
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
James Russell Lowell
U.S. Minister to Spain
Succeeded by
Hannibal Hamlin
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