Ruggles, James M.

Born: 1818-03-07 Mansfield, Ohio

Died: 1901-02-09 Havana, Illinois

Flourished: 1843 Scott County, Illinois

James M. Ruggles was a printer, newspaper publisher and editor, lawyer, state legislator, transportation advocate, and Union Army brevet brigadier general. At the age of fifteen, Ruggles became involved in the printing business in his native state. He moved from Ohio to Illinois with his family in 1837, settling in Scott County. Ruggles became involved in newspaper printing and publishing, and in 1844, he became the owner and editor of the Winchester Republican. Ruggles was also an unsuccessful candidate for state printer in 1844. In June 1844, Ruggles married Mary Jane Field. In 1846, he and his family relocated to Bath, where Ruggles read law and earned admission to the Illinois bar. Deciding not to practice law, Ruggles became a merchant. In 1852, he won election to the Illinois Senate, serving in that body from 1853 to 1855. Keen to promote the construction of railroads in Mason County, Ruggles lobbied for passage of a bill to build a railroad running through the county, and he became one of the incorporators of the company to build a branch of the so-called Illinois River Railroad to run from Bath to Rock Island, Illinois. Ruggles also championed other wagon road and railroad projects in Mason County. A friend of Abraham Lincoln, Ruggles became a founding member of the Republican Party in Illinois, writing the first platform for the party in 1856 and attending the Illinois Anti-Nebraska Convention in Bloomington. The convention nominated him for lieutenant-governor, but he declined the offer in favor of Francis A. Hoffman. When Hoffman resigned from the race the convention delegates reconvened to choose a replacement candidate. Ruggles was again considered for the nomination, but lost the vote to John Wood. In 1860, Ruggles was a delegate to the Republican National Convention, supporting Lincoln as the party’s nominee for president. In 1860, Ruggles was employed as a merchant in Bath and owned real property valued at $30,000 and had a personal estate of $10,000. Following the outbreak of the Civil War, Ruggles received a commission as a lieutenant and quartermaster in the First Illinois Cavalry Regiment. Dissatisfied with a non-combat role, Ruggles soon sought out a more active position and received a transfer to the Third Illinois Cavalry Regiment, receiving promotion to major in August 1861. He remained with the Third Illinois until he mustered out in 1864. In July 1862, Ruggles earned promotion to lieutenant colonel for his actions at the Battle of Pea Ridge and briefly commanded the regiment. In March 1865, the U.S. War Department breveted him colonel and brigadier general for meritorious service.

The History of Menard and Mason Counties, Illinois (Chicago: O. L. Baskin, 1879), 775-76; Illinois, U.S., Compiled Marriages, 1791-1850 21 June 1844, Mason County (Provo, UT: Operations, 1997); Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 2 January 1855, 2:3; “An Act to Amend An Act Entitled, ‘An Act to Construct a Railroad from Jacksonville, in Morgan County, to LaSalle, in LaSalle County,’” 1 March 1854, Laws of Illinois (1854), 207-9; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 15 September 1856, 2:2, 25 September 1856, 2:2; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Bath, Mason County, IL, 46; John H. Eicher and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001), 465; Gravestone, Bath Cemetery, Bath, IL.