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Bill Thayer

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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1833

Vol. I

(Born N. Y.)

Rufus King

(Ap'd N. Y.)


Born Jan. 26, 1814, New York, NY.

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1829, to July 1, 1833, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Bvt. Second Lieut., Corps of Engineers, July 1, 1833.

Served: as Asst. Engineer in the construction of Ft. Monroe, Va., 1833‑34, — on Survey of Boundary Line between Ohio and Michigan, 1834‑36, — and of Improvement of the Navigation of Hudson River, N. Y., 1834‑36.

Resigned, Sep. 30, 1836.

Civil History. — Asst. Engineer, New York and Erie Railroad, 1836‑38. Adjutant-General of the State of New York, 1839‑43, and commanding the forces to suppress the Anti-Rent excitement. Editor of the "Albany (N. Y.) Advertiser," 1839‑41; Associate Editor of "Albany  p538 Evening Journal," 1841‑45; and Editor of "Milwaukee Sentinel and Gazette," 1845‑61. Member of the Convention to form the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin, 1847‑48. Colonel, Wisconsin Militia, 1857‑61. Regent of the University of Wisconsin, 1848‑61. Member of the Board of Visitors to the U. S. Military Academy, 1849. Superintendent of Public Schools of the City of Milwaukee, Wis., 1859‑61. U. S. Minister for the Pontifical States, Italy, holding the appointment from Mar. 22 to Aug. 5, 1861, but did not enter upon the duties, having, on the breaking out of the Rebellion, volunteered his services in the defense of the Union.

Military History. — Served during the Rebellion of the Seceding

(Brig.‑General, Wisconsin Volunteers, May 7 to Aug. 3, 1861)

States, 1861‑63: in the defenses of Washington, D. C., May, 1861, to

(Brig.‑General, U. S. Volunteers, May 17, 1861)

Mar., 1862; in command of division in the Department of the Rappahannock, Mar. to Aug., 1862, being engaged in the Advance upon Fredericksburg, Va., Apr. 19, 1862, — Reconnoissance in force beyond the Rappahannock, July 25, 1862, — and in guarding the fords of the Rapidan, Aug., 1862; in Northern Virginia Campaign, Aug.‑Sep., 1862, being engaged in the Combat of Groveton (in command), Aug. 28, 1862, — and Battle of Manassas, Aug. 29‑30, 1862; in the Maryland Campaign (Army of the Potomac), Sep., 1862; on sick leave of absence, Sep. 19 to Oct. 19, 1862; in the defenses of Washington, D. C., Oct. 19 to Nov. 25, 1862; as Member of the Court-martial for the trial of Major-General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Fitz John Porter, Nov. 25, 1862, to Jan., 1863; in waiting orders at Norfolk, Va., Feb.‑Mar., 1863; in command of Yorktown, Va., Mar.‑July, 1863; and in command of division at Fairfax C. H., covering the approaches to Washington, D. C., July 15 to Oct. 20, 1863.

Resigned, Oct. 20, 1863.

Civil History. — U. S. Minister Resident, for the Pontifical States, at Rome, Italy, Oct. 20, 1863, to July 1, 1867. Deputy Collector of Customs for the Port of New York, 1867‑69.

Died, Oct. 13, 1876, at New York city: Aged 63.

Biographical Sketch.​a

Brigadier-General Rufus King was born, Jan. 26, 1814, in New York, and breathed his last in his native city, Oct. 13, 1876. He was the son of Charles King, the erudite journalist and subsequently the accomplished President of Columbia College; and was the grandson of Rufus King, the first U. S. Senator from New York, Minister to England under Washington's administration, and for years the acknowledged leader of the Federal Party in the United States.

Young King, after attending the preparatory department of Columbia College, entered the Military Academy at West Point, July 1, 1829, and upon graduation therefrom was promoted, July 1, 1833, to be Brevet Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers. He was immediately assigned to duty to aid in the construction of Ft. Monroe, Va.; and the next year was an assistant engineer upon the Hudson River improvement, and on the survey of the Northern Boundary of the State of Ohio.

On the 30th of September, 1836, he resigned from the Army to assume the more lucrative profession of Civil Engineering, becoming till 1838 an assistant to Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Andrew Talcott, the Superintending Engineer of the New York and Erie Railroad, then just commenced.

In 1839, he succeeded James Gordon Brooks as Editor of the "Albany Advertiser," which had been conducted for several years by Col. W. L. Stone, and had exercised great influence on State politics. In 1841 he became Associate Editor of the "Albany Evening Journal," a position  p539 which he held with credit to himself and to the paper for four years. During his residence at Albany, he was appointed by Governor Seward Adjutant-General of New York, an office he held from 1839 to 1843, during which he took a lively interest in the welfare of all the militia organizations of the State. He was also, for some time, the commanding officer of the Albany Burgess Corps, the leading company of the State National Guard. When the "Anti-Rent" excitement occurred, he was placed in command of all the troops called out to suppress the disorder; and to his energy and promptitude it is attributable that the ringleaders were captured and serious disorders prevented.

In 1845 King moved to the State of Wisconsin, where he became the editor and one of the proprietors of the "Milwaukee Sentinel and Gazette," which he built up, in the sixteen years he controlled it, to be the leading newspaper in the State, both in literary merit and political influence. While residing in Wisconsin, he filled other important positions for which his education eminently qualified him, such as the command of the Milwaukee Life Guard; Foreman of an Engine Company; Member of the Board of Visitors to the U. S. Military Academy; and Superintendent of Public Schools, to which he was twice elected, though belonging to a party in a hopeless minority.

After nearly a quarter of a century's residence in Milwaukee, where he had no enemies, but troops of warmly attached friends, he was invited by President Lincoln, immediately after his inauguration, to take the appointment of Minister to the Pontifical States in Italy, which he accepted, Mar. 22, 1861, and was about to proceed to Rome, when our Civil War began by the bombardment of Ft. Sumter. Without a moment's hesitation he removed his baggage from the steamer about to depart from New York, resigned his new honors, and tendered his services to the Government, to do battle for the preservation of the Union. Civilians were plenty who could represent the United States at the Eternal City; skilled soldiers were comparatively few, and General King was not the man to spend his days at a pleasant post while his country was rent by the throes of fraternal strife.

As soon as the resignation of his diplomatic appointment was known at Milwaukee, he was commissioned a Brigadier-General of Wisconsin Volunteers, in which capacity he served in the defenses of Washington till transferred with the same rank to the United States Volunteers, being assigned to the command of what subsequently was called the "Iron Brigade." Leaving the lines covering the capital in Mar., 1862, he was promoted to the command of the First Division of the First Corps, Army of the Potomac, which took an active part in the various military operations in the Department of the Rappahannock. In the Northern Virginia Campaign he commanded, Aug. 28, 1862, in the combat of Groveton; and on the following two days was engaged with his division in the Battle of Manassas. The next month he served in the Maryland Campaign, when his health broke down, and he became incapacitated for field service. He, however, after a short sick leave of absence, went again on duty in the defenses of Washington; and was subsequently in command of Yorktown, Va., and then of Fairfax Court House, a station guarding the enemy's approach to Washington.

The epileptic fits, to which General King was subject, became so frequent that he felt compelled to resign from the military service, Oct. 20, 1863, when he was re-appointed Minister Resident to the Pontifical States in Italy. His services in that capacity were highly satisfactory to our State Department, and to the many Americans who enjoyed his courteous hospitality at Rome.

The Roman Mission having been abolished by Congress, July 1, 1867, King returned to the United States; took up his residence at Elizabeth,  p540 N. J.; and soon after was appointed Deputy Collector of Customs for the Port of New York, which position he held till Nov. 30, 1869.

Though the writer of this brief sketch of General King was his classmate and the intimate friend of his boyhood, it is difficult, after so long an interval of only occasional intercourse with him, to picture the stripling youth of fifteen developed into the ripened age of activity and usefulness. In his more than threescore years of life, King filled many spheres of varied responsibility, — engineer, editor, soldier, diplomatist, and others of less note, — and he did honor to them all; but his chief title to remembrance was his own noble manhood, fervent patriotism, and affectionate disposition, which enshrined his image in the heart-niches of hosts of ardent admirers. Few were warmer in their friendships; none more genial in the social amenities of intercourse; and even in controversy he gave no vent to acerbity of feeling, nor rancor of expression. His conversation was sparkling, full of sentiment, rich in reminiscence, and always captivating by its temperate tone and joyous utterance. It was never thrust upon you; nor were you made to sit under it as receiving a lecture from one above you; but his flowing words soothed you with a calm gentleness, pictured all he said by graphic illustration, and convinced more by magnetizing the heart than by capturing the brain. In writing he had an easy, graceful style, of great purity and elegance; was just, generous, and honorable in all he expressed; and, though often wielding a partisan pen, his vigorous blows were given with the mace of a templar knight. It was not within the possibilities of his noble nature to willingly wound a friend, and even for the bitterest foe he always had Christian charity. Ever

"He kept his temper'd mind serene and pure,

And ev'ry passion aptly harmonized,

Amid a jarring world."

Buried, Grace Episcopal Churchyard, Jamaica, NY.

Thayer's Note:

a In 1921, his son Gen. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Charles King published a somewhat longer biographical sketch of his father: it is onsite.

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Page updated: 19 Feb 13