LUCIUS FAIRCHILD was born in Kent, Ohio, but moved to Cleveland as an infant and to Madison, Wisconsin as a teen. In 1849, he went to California in search of gold, returning to Madison in 1858. There, he was elected Clerk of the Dane County Circuit Court and studied law, winning admission to the bar in 1861. When the Civil War broke out, Fairchild turned down the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Wisconsin Volunteers to begin instead as a private in the First Wisconsin Infantry. But within four months, he rose to Lieutenant Colonel of the Second Wisconsin Infantry and ultimately rose to the rank of Brigadier General of the Wisconsin Volunteers. He saw action at the second Battle of Bull Run, and at Antietam, Stone Mountain, and Fredericksburg, losing his left arm at Gettysburg. Returning to Wisconsin a war hero, he won election as Secretary of State in 1863. In 1865, at the age of thirty-four, he defeated his Democratic opponent-also a military hero-in the election for governor. During Fairchild’s tenure as governor, Wisconsin’s welfare system was reorganized, with six separate institutions being combined under the state Board of Charities and Reform. After serving three terms, Fairchild was awarded a number of diplomatic posts, including Consul to Liverpool, Consul General in Paris, and U.S. Minister to Spain. He made an unsuccessful bid for a U.S. Senate seat in 1885, but was appointed shortly after as a commissioner to settle Cherokee Indian affairs in Oklahoma. He remained active in veterans’ affairs, serving as national commander-in-chief of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion in 1893.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 12. New York: James T. White & Company.
Wisconsin Historical Society