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 killed.

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