Guide to the Rufus King Papers, RG 115

Listed by:  Dwayne Cox and Paul Martin
Date:  May 2001

Date Span:  1861 - 1867

Size of Collection: 22 items

Biographical Sketch:  Rufus King (1814 - 1876) commanded Wisconsin's "Iron Brigade" during the Civil War and later rose to division commander.  In 1863 he was appointed United States Minister to Rome where he assisted in apprehending John Harrison Surratt, alleged co-conspirator in the assassination of President Lincoln.

Scope / Content:  Letters to and from King regarding Military activities during the Civil War and his involvement in Surratt's apprehension.


May 29, 1861.  Gov. A. W. Randall to General King.  The governor directs King to coordinate with the War Department on details and conditions for raising three volunteer regiments in Wisconsin.  Also, he is to travel to Washington, D.C. and return through New York, to arrange for purchase of arms for these regiments.

Aug. 5, 1861.  HQs. Of Army, Special Orders No. 128.  Brigadier General Rufus King report to major General Dix in Baltimore.

Aug. 22, 1861.  Gov. A.W. Randall to King.  He sends a  requisition for arms, guns, and equipment to king for five regiments and five batteries being raised, and asks king to help expedite matters.  The governor has asked the secretary of war to appoint an assistant quartermaster for Wisconsin, with authority to coordinate transportation and supply matters.

Oct. 16, 1861.  Col. Amos Cobb, 5th Regt. Wisconsin Vols., to Gen. King.  Cobb sends a petition from his Regt. Addressed to Maj. Gen. McClellan, asking that the 5th Regt. Be returned under command of Genl. King’s brigade, and removed from Gen. Hancock’s brigade.

Oct. 17, 1861. Col. Amos Cobb, 5th Regt. Wisconsin Vols., to Gen. King.  Cobb informs King that Gen. Hancock has objected to the petition and its forwarding to Gen. King, as improper actions.  Hancock is threatening to take disciplinary action if the petition is not withdrawn.

Oct. 21, 1861.  Division Circular, Gen. McDowell to division troops.  Troops are to be prepared to march at a moment notice, with three day rations.

Feb. 24, 1862.  Charges and specifications preferred against Chaplain James C. Richmond, 2nd Regt. Wisconsin Vols.  The paper charges Richmond of dereliction of duty; conduct prejudicial to good order + military discipline; and signing a false certificate.

June 24, 1862.  Mayor, Fredericksburg, VA to Gen. Rufus King.  The mayor sends a communication via Gen. King to Gen. McClellan thanking Gen. King for many acts of kindness, and asking that good treatment of the town and community be continued.

Oct. 21, 1862.  HQs. Army Special Order No. 306, Extract.  This order Directs Gen. King to report to major Gen. Dix at Fort Monroe, Va. instead of major Gen. McClellan.

May 4, 1863.  Brig. Gen. King, 4th Army Corps, Yorktown, VA: to Commanding Officer, Ft. Magruder.  Gen. Dix sends instructions for the commander at Ft. Magruder to destroy the railroad at Whitehouse, and return to Williamsburg.

Oct. 23, 1866.  H:B. St. Marie to Gen. King, Rome, Italy.  This letter informs King that John H. Surratt told him details of his mother and J. Wilkes Booth’s involvement in the plot to kill president Lincoln.  St. Marie fears for his own life, and asks King’s help in returning to America.

Nov. 15, 1866.  George P. Marsh, Legation, Florence to U.S. minister Rufus King.  This letter discusses at length the attempt to have Surratt apprehended by Italian authorities, conditions of apprehension, and transfer for Italian sovereignty to U.S. sovereignty for deportation to America.  He thinks that Italian and papal government authorities are not wanting to cooperate on this matter.

Nov. 24, 1866.  Rufus King, Rome, to George P. Marsh.  This letter is very detailed in relating the story of Surratt’s identification, arrest, imprisonment, escape there from, and travel by British steamer from Italy towards Alexandria, Egypt.

Nov. 27, 1866.  Charles Hale, Consulate Alexandria to U.S. Minister Rufus King, Rome.  This letter informs king that a man has been arrested form the steamer “Tripoli”, He has been identified as John  H. Surratt.  He has sent this information to the U.S. secretary of State, and is awaiting instructions.

Nov. 27, 1866.  George P. Marsh to Gen. Rufus King.  Marsh thanks King for his cooperation and clear instructions.  He thinks that Surratt may not be convicted due to politics in Washington, but should be extradited from Egypt without trouble, compared to that is he were still in Italy.

Dec. 19, 1866.  Charles Hale, Alexandria, Egypt to Rufus King.  Hale has received two letters and a photograph from King, Surratt is in secure custody in Alexandria, but is not saying or admitting to anything.  He anticipates no problem in placing him on a U.S. warship for return to America.

Dec. 25, 1866.  William N. Jeffers, U.S. Ship “Swatara” To Gen. Rufus King.  Jeffers, commanding the “Swatara” Has Surratt in confinement on board the ship.  Jeffers told king that the ship’s clerk, a native of Washington, D.C. recognizes Surratt, even though the photograph does not resemble him.  Jeffers will sail soon, but is not sure the “Swatara” will go to the United States.

Dec. 26, 1866.  E. Day Morris, Constantinople to Gen. Rufus King.  Morris acknowledges King’s earlier request for cooperation in apprehending Surratt, and promises all possible aid.  He also notes that he is aware of Surratt’s capture in Egypt.

Dec. 27, 1866.  Charles Hale, Alexandria, to Rufus King.  Hale informs King that with no problems from Egyptian or British authorities, Surratt was put on the U.S. “Swetara”, which sailed on Dec. 26. Surratt had claimed to be Canadian, but did not ask for British protection.

Jan. 7, 1867.  Secy. of State W.H. Seward to Gen. Rufus King.  Seward thanks King for his efforts in capturing Surratt, and says he has published King’s audience with the Pope.

Jan. 10, 1867.  H.B. St. Marie, Nice, France to Gen. Rufus King.  Marie informs King that his voyage  aboard the U.S. “Swetara” was bad.  He was required to sleep in the crew quarters, where he was threatened and treated badly.  As a result, he requested Commander Jeffers to put him ashore at the U.S. consulate.  He needs funds, and will go to the United States to testify against Surratt, but only if promised acceptable passage on a non-military ship.

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