Commanders-in-Chief Biographies

General Lucius Fairchild
Commander-in-Chief 1893 - 1895

by Robert G. Carroon, Past Commander-in-Chief
Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States

Lucius Fairchild succeeded Rear Admiral John Jay Almy as the Commander-in-Chief of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (Loyal Legion). Admiral Almy had served a portion of the year 1893, succeeding President Rutherford Birchard Hayes and being himself succeeded by Brigadier General Fairchild who was elected at the Annual Congress of the Loyal Legion that same year. Brigadier General Fairchild served a two-year term as Commander-in-Chief, from 1893 to 1895.

Brigadier General Fairchild was considered one of the heroes of the Civil War and particularly of the Battle of Gettysburg. He was the commanding officer of the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, one of the regiments forming the famed "Iron Brigade." General Fairchild was seriously wounded on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

A native of Ohio, Lucius Fairchild was born in Franklin Mills (now Kent) Portage County, on December 27, 1831. After living in Cleveland for several years, he moved with his parents to Madison, Wisconsin, in 1846. His father, Jairus, became the first mayor of Madison and the first Treasurer of the State of Wisconsin; his mother was Sally Blair. After attending Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Lucius departed for California in 1849, to participate in the gold rush. He was successful as a merchant and entrepreneur rather than as a gold miner. Returning to Wisconsin in 1855, young Fairchild decided to follow his father into politics. He was successful and in 1858 was elected clerk of the circuit court of Dane County on the Democratic ticket serving from January 1, 1859 to January 1, 1861. In 1860, Lucius successfully passed the required examinations and was admitted to the Bar, and became a practicing attorney; he also became a member of the Republican Party. Lucius was active in the Wisconsin State Militia, serving in the "Governor's Guard " eventually rising to the rank of First Lieutenant.

In response to President Abraham Lincoln's call for volunteers to suppress the Rebellion, Lucius enlisted as a Private in the Wisconsin Infantry on April 17, 1861, but only three days later he was elected Captain of Company K of the 1st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, which was a three-month regiment. July 2, 1861 saw him participating in the engagement at Falling Waters where the 1st Wisconsin faced the famous "Stonewall" Brigade under the command of Colonel Thomas J. Jackson. Captain Fairchild later wrote, The bullets whizzed around us thick and fast. The men were cool and easy to manage, only they wanted to go in and shoot, whether or no. On August 5th, he was commissioned a Captain in the 16th Regiment of the U.S. Army with leave to serve with the volunteer forces and four days later was transferred to the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry with the rank of Major. On August 20th, he was commissioned as Lieutenant Colonel of the 2nd Wisconsin. Edgar O'Connor was the Colonel of the regiment, but a throat infection prevented him from exercising many of his duties and Lieutenant Colonel Fairchild was, in effect, the commander of the regiment. In early October, the 2nd Wisconsin became part of the brigade composed of the 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin, the 19th Indiana and, after Antietam, the 24th Michigan which became known as the "Iron Brigade" one of the most famous units to serve in the Civil War.

After service at Chain Bridge under General William F."Baldy" Smith, command of the Iron Brigade was assumed by General Rufus King and then by Brigadier General John Gibbon. As part of the famed brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Fairchild participated in the battle of Second Manassas. In that engagement Colonel O'Connor was mortally wounded and Lieutenant Colonel Fairchild assumed command of the regiment. On September 8th, Fairchild was received his commission as Colonel as well as command of the 2nd Wisconsin to date from August 30, 1862. The next major battle in which the 2nd Wisconsin participated was that of South Mountain. Captain John B. Callis of the 7th Wisconsin reported, Colonel Fairchild, of the Second Wisconsin, seeing our perilous condition, brought his regiment forward on our left, and commenced a fire that relieved us from further annoyance on our left, this leaving us to contend against a direct fire from behind a stone wall in our front.

The Battle of Antietam was fought on September 17th, and Fairchild, who had fallen ill, insisted in accompanying his regiment while lying in an ambulance. The action grew so intense that Colonel Fairchild was unable to restrain himself and insisted on mounting his horse and taking direct command of his regiment. An orderly carried a blanket so that whenever there was a lull in the action the Commander might dismount and rest. Following Antietam, Fairchild and his regiment were engaged in the battles of Fredicksburg, Fitzhugh's Crossing, and Chancellorsville. After the Battle of Chancellorsville Colonel Fairchild participated in the pursuit of General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, which resulted in the confrontation with the Army of the Potomac on July 1, 2 and 3, 1863 at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Early Photograph

The Iron Brigade was part of the First Corps of the Army of the Potomac, which was commanded by Major General John F. Reynolds. As the head of his column approached Gettysburg, General Reynolds turned it across the fields to the left at the Codori House, toward the Cashtown road, where Brigadier General John Buford's cavalry was heavily engaged. The Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia under Lieutenant General A.P. Hill was moving against Buford's troops and Archer and Davis's Brigades of Heth's Division were approaching through McPherson's Wood. General Reynolds ordered the Iron Brigade, commanded by Colonel Solomon Meredith, to expel the enemy from the woods. The Confederate forces could be seen in the woods and Colonel Fairchild and his staff at once dismounted and led the 2nd Wisconsin, which was the lead regiment of the brigade, in the attack. They received a heavy volley from Archer's brigade; General Reynolds was killed instantly and Colonel Fairchild, who was standing less than a hundred paces from his corps commander, was struck by a Minnie ball which shattered his left arm just above the elbow.

Colonel Fairchild was taken to the house of Dr. Schaffer, President of the Pennsylvania (now Gettysburg) College. Dr. A.J. Ward was at the house and undertook to amputate Colonel Fairchild's arm just below the left shoulder. A few hours later, Colonel Fairchild was seen by members of Battery "B" of the Fourth United States Artillery on the porch of the Schaffer home, waving his remaining hand and calling out, Stick to 'em boys! Stay with 'em! You'll fetch 'em finally!

Colonel Fairchild was captured by the advancing Confederates, but as he was too ill to be moved they accepted his parole and he remained in Gettysburg for the remainder of the battle. Following the Battle of Gettysburg, Colonel Fairchild returned to Madison, Wisconsin, on sick leave and on October 20, 1863 the President commissioned him Brigadier General of Volunteers. His wound was so severe that it was obvious that he could not continue on active service and so he resigned his commission and was mustered out of service on November 2, 1863. General Fairchild had allowed his name to be placed in nomination for the office of Secretary of State for Wisconsin by the Union Party, and he was elected on the day after his mustering out.

General Fairchild continued in the office of Secretary of State until 1865, when he was elected to the first of three terms as Governor of Wisconsin, serving in that office until 1872. At the conclusion of his third term, Governor Fairchild accepted an appointment as U.S. Consul in Liverpool, England, and four years later was promoted to the post of U.S. Consul General in Paris, France. In March 1880, he succeeded James Russell Lowell as Minister and Envoy Plenipotentiary to Spain. While Minister to Spain, he participated in an International Congress which had been assembled to settle problems in Morocco. His diplomatic career came to an end in December 1881 when he was succeeded as Minister to Spain by former Vice President Hannibal Hamlin.

General Fairchild now turned from politics and diplomacy to veteran's affairs. He had served a term from 1869 to 1870 as Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic(GAR). In 1884, he became Commander of the GAR Post in Madison, Wisconsin, and in 1886 Commander of the Department of Wisconsin of the GAR. That same year at the National Encampment in San Francisco, he was elected Commander-in-Chief of the GAR. It was while serving as Commander-in-Chief of the GAR that Fairchild, campaigned for Republican candidates becoming one of the more famous "wavers of the bloody shirt" against Southern Democrats and former Confederates. At a speech in Harlem, New York before the GAR, he remarked, regarding President Grover Cleveland's executive order that the Confederate Battle Flags be returned to their respective states, May God palsy the hand that wrote that order. May God palsy the brain that conceived it, and may God palsy the tongue that dictated it. So great was the resulting outcry in response to Fairchild's speech among the United States Civil War veterans that the President was forced to withdraw the order and it was not until the next century that Congress was able to secure the return of most of the Confederate Battle Flags to the South. President Benjamin Harrison, who defeated Cleveland in the presidential election partially on the basis of General Fairchild's electioneering, appointed General Fairchild to the Cherokee Claims Commission in Oklahoma.

Lucius Fairchild became a Companion of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States by election as a Companion of the First Class by the Commandery of Wisconsin on March 4, 1882 and was assigned Insignia Number 2387. On May 7, 1884, General Fairchild was elected Commander of the Wisconsin Commandery and served for three terms, through May of 1887. On October 11, 1893 General Fairchild was elected Commander-in-Chief of the Loyal Legion. While Commander-in-Chief, he made numerous visits to various state Commanderies making speeches and taking greetings to the Companions. He wrote a number of articles including several published in the Papers of the Wisconsin Commandery. He served a two-year term, becoming Past Commander-in-Chief in 1895 when Major General John Gibbon, who also was associated with the "Iron Brigade" as its most famous commander, succeeded him. General Fairchild died at Madison, Wisconsin on May 23, 1896. At Fairchild's funeral, which was held from his home, one of the pall bearers was the Honorable William Henry Upham, Governor of Wisconsin; Governor Upham's son, William Henry Upham, Jr., served as Commander-in-Chief of the Loyal Legion from 1985 to 1989.

Governor Fairchild's brother, Colonel Cassius Fairchild, died during the Civil War as a result of wounds received at the Battle of Shiloh. Governor Fairchild was survived by his wife, Frances Bull, and three daughters, Mary Fairchild Morris, Sarah Fairchild Bacon, and Caryl Frances Fairchild. Governor Fairchild was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Madison. His nephews, Charles Fairchild and John Cummings Fairchild, succeeded him in the Loyal Legion.

Sources Soldiers & Citizens Album of Biographical Record. 1888. Brown & Brown
History of Dane County--Biographical & Genealogical. 1906. Western Historical Association; Madison, Wisconsin

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