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John F. Farnsworth

John Franklin Farnsworth
John F. Farnsworth
Born (1820-03-27)March 27, 1820
Eaton, Canada
Died July 14, 1897(1897-07-14) (aged 77)
Washington, D.C.
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch Union Army
Years of service 1861 - 1863
Rank Brigadier General
Commands held 8th Illinois Cavalry
Battles/wars American Civil War

John Franklin Farnsworth (March 27, 1820 – July 14, 1897) was a seven-term U.S. Representative from Illinois and a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.


  • Biography 1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Farnsworth was born in Eaton, Canada, but moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan as a young adult. He studied law at the University of Michigan and was admitted to the bar in 1841, he moved to St. Charles, Illinois and established a private law practice. About 1852, he moved to Chicago and was active in the local political scene as a Democrat. Switching parties (partially due to his abolitionist views), he was elected as a Republican to Congress for two terms (1857–61). He was unsuccessful in gaining the party's nomination for a third term.

Early in the Civil War, Farnsworth organized the 8th Illinois Cavalry at President Abraham Lincoln's direction and was commissioned as its first colonel. Through his political influence, he was able to help secure a lieutenant's commission for his 24-year-old nephew Elon John Farnsworth, who died at the Battle of Gettysburg. John Farnsworth also was instrumental in raising the 17th Illinois. He led the 8th Illinois Cavalry during the Peninsula Campaign, seeing his first action at the Battle of Williamsburg, then during the Seven Days Battles.

In September 1862, Farnsworth led a cavalry brigade in the Army of the Potomac during the Maryland Campaign, sparring with Confederate cavalry under J.E.B. Stuart and Wade Hampton in a series of minor engagements near South Mountain and Middletown, Maryland. He became a brigadier general of volunteers on December 5, 1862. He resigned his commission in March 1863 to resume his duties as a congressman (this time from the district including St. Charles), serving until 1873. He was a member of the Committee on Post Office and Post Roads.

Farnsworth was closely aligned with the Radical Republicans and a strong supporter of their extreme Reconstruction policies. He voted in favor of the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. He was defeated for renomination in 1872 as the political climate had shifted towards more moderation. Being beaten again two years later in yet another attempt (this time as a Democrat), he resumed practicing law in Chicago. He moved to Washington, D.C. in 1880 and continued as an attorney until his death. Farnsworth is interred in North Cemetery in St. Charles.

John F. Farnsworth, photograph by Mathew Brady

See also


External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
James H. Woodworth
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Isaac N. Arnold
Preceded by
Isaac N. Arnold
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Jasper D. Ward
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