R King small.jpg (43293 bytes) Rufus King
Not a native of Wisconsin, Rufus King was born in New York City in 1814. He was from a distinguished American family - his grandfather, another Rufus King, had been a delegate to the Continental Congress for Massachusetts, had been a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and had written the resolution proposing that neither "slavery nor involuntary servitide"  be permitted in the Northwest Territory  in 1785. As a prominent federalist, he had been appointed by President Washington as minister to Great Britain.
In his youth, Brigadier General King attended Columbia College in New York City, an institution of which his father, who had been a militia officer in the War of 1812, was president, and then went on to West Point, graduating in 1833.
King resigned from the Army Corps of Engineers in 1836 and until 1845, he was a newspaper editor for various papers in New York state, including an Albany daily where he was associated with Thurlow Weed. Keeping his hand in military affairs, he was adjutant general of New York under Gov. William H. Seward.
King came to the Wisconsin Territory in 1845 and settled in Milwaukee. He became editor, and for a time, part owner of the Milwaukee Sentinel and Gazette. Continuing his political activities, he was a leader in the successful fight against the proposed Wisconsin constitution of 1846 and was a member of the 1848 constitutional convention that saw Wisconsin admitted to the Union.
A great supporter of public education, he was superintendent of schools in Milwaukee and a regent of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
He was appointed by President Lincoln as Minister to the Papal States in 1861.

On his way as Minister to Rome, when the war broke out, and soliciting leave of absence, he was appointed Brigadier General, and authorized to raise a brigade of Wisconsin Regiments. He succeeded in organizing a brigade of the Fifth and Sixth Wisconsin and the Nineteenth Indiana, which, on the transfer of the Second Wisconsin from Sherman's brigade on August 27th, the transfer of the Fifth Wisconsin to Gen. Hancock in September and the addition of Seventh Wisconsin on October 2d, became the core of the famous brigade later known as the "Iron Brigade of the West." Charged by Governor Randall with the duty of commanding Wisconsin's regiments in the Washington area, he reported for duty in Washington on August 5th.
King was certainly a promising officer, and combined the qualifications of professional military training and public renown. He was also not in the best of health, and was an occasional victim of attacks of epilepsy which was not discussed at the time.
General King was in the advance of General McClellan's forces in the spring of 1862, General King was placed in command of General McDowell's division, and moved with his command to Fredericksburg, and was sent forward from that point as the advance of reinforcements to General McClellan, but was recalled to take part in the attempt to intercept General Jackson from the pursuit of General Banks. A railroad accident prevented the junction of King's division with the pursuing forces, and they returned to Fredericksburg, where they remained until ordered to reinforce General Banks at Cedar Mountain. Accompanying General Pope in his retreat, General King's division took part in all the battles, and one brigade (the Iron Brigade) fought alone in the bloody battle of Gainesville, one of fiercest of the war, on the 28th of August.

His division also participated in the second Bull Run battle (29th & 30th of August), and returned to the defenses at Washington, with the rest of General Pope's forces. General King's division proceeded to South Mountain, where he was relieved of the command, and his active military services ceased.
It appears command confusion the night of August 28th, when commanding General McDowell could not be found (leading to an Inquiry) and King's continuing illness which, at some points, had him cede command to General Reynolds (it's not indicated if his epilepsy was also involved) contributed to the removal.
He subsequently performed garrison duty at Fortress Monroe, sat on Fitz-John Porter's Court Martial, and served as military governor of Norfolk.

He resigned October 20, 1863 and resumed the post from which he had taken a
leave of absence and became Minister to Rome.
He had been described as "genial..., universally liked .....and a common man who would listed to the complaint of a private as soon as he would a colonel."

As one of many of the "prints" (the Iron Brigade, in general, and the Second Wisconsin, in particular, had attracted a great number of newspaper people) he wrote the following to the "Ben Franklin" banquet of Jan. 17, 1862:


Arlington, Jan. 17, ’62

Sir:--An imperative business engagement in Washington, much to my regret, prevents the acceptance of your kind invitation to meet the Printers of your Regiment this evening. I would be a gratification to meet members of your fraternity, with which my lot was cast for so many years — whose associations were so pleasant — and whose memories are yet so fresh and so cherished. I hope that the festival will be one of uninterrupted enjoyment. Let me offer as a sentiment:

The Memory of Warren M. Graham — A gallant soldier, a true gentleman, and a genial friend. Very respectfully, Your Ob’t Serv’t

Lieut. Geo. H. Otis,
Chairman Com., &c., 2nd Reg., W.V.

HEADQUARTERS KING’S BRIGADE, Arlington, Jan. 17, 1862.

Sir: — A severe accident, which confines me to my quarters, prevents me from being with the printers on the Second Wisconsin to-night, and I regret it much, for there is no class of men whom I could meet with so much pleasure at this gloomy time as the Fraternity of the Press. I have spent the best years of my life within its genial, intelligent, patriotic and true hearted circle, and for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, I hope always to remain steadfast to it as my first love.—When this war is over, I hope that you all may answer at the roll call of returned volunteers, and I know that the soldier printers of Wisconsin will do their share in the work of crushing out this wicked rebellion. I propose as a sentiment:

Gen. Rufus King—An editor, who, in fifteen years at the head of a political newspaper, never said an ungentlemanly word, nor did an unmanly thing.

Very respectfully,
Your ob’t serv’t,
(Editor of the Green Bay Advocate and a member of Gen. King’s staff.)

Note: the entire article describing the Banquet can be found in
"Letters from the Front", January 1862