A Civil War Biography
John Franklin Farnsworth
Farnsworth was born 27 March 1820 in Compton City, Quebec Canada. He
studied law in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was admitted to the bar in 1841
and established a practice in St. Charles, Illinois then in Chicago.
Although originally a Democrat, he was elected to the House of
Representatives from the 2nd Illinois district as a Republican in
1856 and served two terms from 4 March 1857 until 3 March 1861.
He did not seek a third term opting to help raise a cavalry
regiment, the 8th Illinois, of which he became the commander with
the rank of colonel on 18 September 1861. He led the 8th on the
Peninsula at Yorktown and during the Seven Days. He commanded the
2nd brigade in Alfred Pleasonton's cavalry division of the Army of
the Potomac during the Maryland campaign. Farnsworth was promoted to
brigadier general of volunteers on 29 November 1862. He commanded
the 1st brigade of Pleasonton's cavalry division of the Right Grand
Division, Army of the Potomac at Fredericksburg.
. Farnsworth was again elected to Congress by the 2nd Illinois
district and resigned from the army on 4 March 1863 to take his
seat. He was reelected to four additional terms. During his time in
Congress he aligned himself with the Radical Republicans supporting
the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment. He believed
Congress should control reconstruction and supported all the radical
measures in Congress including the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.
Farnsworth left Congress on 3 March 1873 after failing in his bid
for re-nomination in 1872. He failed again in1874 and returned to
his law practice in Chicago. He moved to Washington DC in 1880 and
continued to practice law until his death on 14 July 1897.
Farnsworth's nephew was Elon John Farnsworth who originally joined
the army as 1st lieutenant and adjutant of his uncle's 8th Illinois.
A captain on Pleasonton's staff, the younger Farnsworth was promoted
most likely as a political favor to brigadier general on 28 June
1863 and given command of the 1st brigade in the 3rd division of the
cavalry corps. While leading a charge against the Confederate right
flank on the third day at Gettysburg, the young Farnsworth was
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