"Private Joe" Fifer, Governor of Illinois (1889-1893) Defeated Four Generals and Three other Officers


Mar 30, 2015
DuPage Cnty, IL

Joseph Wilson Fifer (October 28, 1840 – August 6, 1938) was the 19th Governor of Illinois, serving from 1889 to 1893. He also served as a member of the Illinois Senate from 1881 to 1883. "Private Joe" Fifer was born at Staunton, Virginia on October 28, 1840. At the age of 16, in 1856, he moved with his family to Danvers, Illinois and worked in his father's brickyard for several years. Fifer enlisted as a Private in the 33rd Illinois Infantry at the start of the Civil War and was severely wounded at Jackson, Mississippi during General Grant's Vicksburg campaign. He refused a discharge and spent the rest of the war guarding a prison boat. (Wikipedia)

It was in the gubernatorial campaign of 1888, when he himself was a candidate for governor, that Fifer earned the nickname "Private Joe" which remained with him for the rest of his life. The other Republican candidates for the nomination for governor that year were General John C. Smith, General John C. McNulta, General John I. Reinecker, Colonel Clarke F. Carr, Major J. A. Connelly, and Captain Frank Wright. Fifer was the only one who had served as a Private in the Civil War. Thus he became "Private Joe" during the campaign. And, as "Private Joe", he was afterward victorious over his Democratic rival, who was General John M. Palmer.