Young Red Wing newspaper editor Lucius F. Hubbard backed his words with action when he enlisted as a private in the Fifth Minnesota Volunteers during the Civil War. He emerged from the fighting as a general and a war hero. He became wealthy through wheat marketing, milling, and railroads, and he became governor in 1881.
Ambitious and hopeful, twenty-one year old Lucius Frederick Hubbard moved to the town of Red Wing in Minnesota Territory in 1857. He carried an "old Washington hand press" and planned to start a newspaper. The former New Yorker, born in Troy on January 26, 1836, opened the Red Wing Republican soon after arrival.
Editor Hubbard, as his newspaper's name indicated, supported the fledgling Republican Party. He faced an equally partisan rival in William Colvill, editor of the Democrat-leaning Red Wing Sentinel. The two men battled in print as Americans argued about the nation's future. Ironically, these Red Wing foes would become two of Minnesota's greatest Civil War heroes as leaders in the Union Army.
The American Civil War began in April 1861. Hubbard sold his newspaper and enlisted as a private in the Fifth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment that December. In just over three months, promotions boosted the twenty-five year-old Red Wing editor to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He became second in command of the Fifth Regiment. That unit took part in the Mississippi campaign where Hubbard and his men performed admirably.
On December 16, 1864, Colonel Hubbard commanded a brigade of Union troops, including his Fifth Minnesota Regiment. They were part of General William T. Sherman's army that was preparing to attack Confederate armies near Nashville, Tennessee. Waving his hat and yelling encouragement, Hubbard led his men in an assault on the enemy. Sherman's army won a decisive victory.
During the battle, Hubbard had one horse shot dead under him, and his second mount was also hit. An enemy shot struck the Minnesotan in the neck, but only stunned him. Hubbard was honored with the temporary rank of brigadier general for his gallantry at Nashville.
Hubbard returned to Red Wing after the war. Minnesota was soon in the middle of its King Wheat era. Farmers put more than sixty percent of their cultivated acreage into the valuable grain, leading some to call the state "one vast wheat field." Goodhue County ranked first in the state in wheat production and bushels per acre. In 1873, Red Wing, the county seat, claimed the title of world's largest primary wheat market. Hubbard, like many of his Red Wing friends, became a grain merchant. He also held a major interest in Forest Mills. That flouring facility, near Zumbrota, was one of the county's largest. Lucius Hubbard became a very wealthy man.
Hubbard continued expanding his business and became even wealthier. In 1878 he and some associates bought control of the failing Midland Railroad. The partners completed the rail line's link between Wabasha and Zumbrota. Now, shipment of Forest Mills's flour became much easier. The valuable little railroad became an attractive target of its rival in the area, the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul (CM&StP). The CM&StP bought out the Midland, providing Hubbard and his partners with a hefty profit.
The Red Wing businessman also took an interest in politics and ran for state senate. He served from 1872 to 1875 and was active in the Republican Party. In 1881 the popular war hero and successful investor ran for governor. He won convincingly. Lucius Hubbard was effective in pushing for improvement in public charities and corrections. He urged more government control over commerce with new regulations and licensing. With his Red Wing physician friend Dr. Charles N. Hewitt, Hubbard pushed to give the State Board of Health more power.
Hubbard retired from office in 1887 after two terms and returned to the business world. When war between the United States and Spain broke out in 1898, President William McKinley requested Lucius Hubbard's return to the army as a brigadier general. Now sixty-two, he was assigned command of the Third Division, Seventh Army Corps, but he did not see combat.
Lucius F. Hubbard died on February 5, 1913. Hubbard County is named after him.
Albrecht, Marilyn. "Early Newspapers and Editors: The Republican Eagle and Its Predecessors." Goodhue County Historical News 13, no. 3 (November 1979): 1–3.
Angell, Madeline. Red Wing, Minnesota: Saga of a River Town. Minneapolis: Dillon Press, 1977.
Baker, James H. "Lucius Frederick Hubbard: Ninth Governor of the State of Minnesota, January 10, 1882 to January 5, 1877," in Lives of the Governors of Minnesota. Mankato, MN: Free Press Print Co., 1908.
Carley, Kenneth. Minnesota in the Civil War: An Illustrated History. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2000.
Curtiss-Wedge, Franklyn. History of Goodhue County, Minnesota. Chicago: H.C. Cooper, Jr. & Co., 1909.
Folwell, William. A History of Minnesota. Vol. 3. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1969. First published in 1930 by Minnesota Historical Society Press
Hubbard, Lucius F. "Civil War Papers." Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, 12 (1908): 531–638.
——— . "Early Days in Goodhue County." Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, 12 (1908).
——— . L.F. Hubbard. Minneapolis: Press of Cootey Company, 1913.
——— . "Narrative of the Fifth Regiment," in Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars. St. Paul: Pioneer Press Company, 1891.
Johnson, Frederick L. Goodhue County, Minnesota: A Narrative History. Red Wing,MN: Goodhue County Historical Society, 2000.
Martin, N.B. "Letters of a Union Officer: L.F. Hubbard and the Civil War." Minnesota History 35, no. 7 (September 1957): 313–319.
Military Order of the Loyal Legion. Tributes to the Memory of General Lucius Frederick Hubbard. Minneapolis: Press of the Cootey Company, 1913.
Meyer, Roy W. Ghost Towns & Discontinued Post Offices of Goodhue County. Red Wing, MN: Goodhue County Historical Society, 2003.
Lucius F. Hubbard and Family Papers, 1842–1872, 1956.
Manuscript Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Thirty-eight papers and a report regarding Hubbard's Civil War service.
"State Builders of the West, Lucius Frederick Hubbard." Western Magazine 14, no. 1 (July 1919): 6–38.
In December 1864, Lucius Hubbard's leadership helps the Union Army win the important battle of Nashville. He returns to Minnesota a war hero.