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Gen. Joseph Kennedy Hudson. One of the ablest soldiers of Kansas and most determined fighter for the free-state movement, the late General Hudson will have a lasting fame not only for what he did in the trying years of Kansas’ youth, but also as founder and for many years editor of the Topeka Capital. It was his resourcefulness as a practical newspaper man and his wonderful ability as an editor and molder of public opinion that gave the Capital its wide influence and standing as a journal, and the history of the Kansas Press had no more notable figure than Joseph Kennedy Hudson.
It is not the purpose of this article to describe in detail the history of the Topeka Capital. That belongs to other pages. But something should be said of General Hudson’s personal relations with that journal and also of his ability and personality as an editor. It was in 1873 that he purchased the Kansas Farmer and moved it from Leavenworth to Topeka. He continued to edit and publish this paper until 1879. In March of the latter year he began the publication of the Topeka Daily Capital, now owned by Governor Capper. To the task of making a metropolitan daily paper with at least a state wide influence, General Hudson brought keen foresight, rare judgment, magnificent courage and a fund of energy and endurance that was a marvel to his associates. In a few years he had made the support of the Capital almost indispensable to any general movement in state politics or affairs, and he also elevated it to the position of one of the foremost journals in the West. The Capital under General Hudson had its part in much that now distinguishes Kansas as a state. The adoption of prohibition was probably due more to the ardent advocacy of General Hudson through the Capital than any other one factor. General Hudson himself was a radical in politics, and possessed the courage of his convictions. As a fighter he neither asked nor gave quarter. He used his pen with a vigor and freedom that made it felt in every cause he championed. And yet he did not have the narrowness which often distinguishes radicalism. He would contend for the cause or principles he believed to be right, and yet when experience justified a change in course, he would readily yield or modify his personal convictions. He stated what he regarded to be the truth at the time regardless of what had been his course or belief in the past. It was inevitable that he should be bitterly hated by political opponents and was often the object of savage attack. His honesty was never doubted, and he came to number among his warm personal friends some of his bitterest political foes. Many Kansas newspaper men grew up under the prospering care of General Hudson, and no one ever worked with the Topeka Capital who did not have the greatest of admiration and even of love for him.
Joseph Kennedy Hudson was born at Carrollton in Carroll County, Ohio, May 4, 1840, and died May 5, 1907, at the age of sixty-seven. His early life was spent at Salem, Ohio. It was a Quaker community, and was a stronghold of abolitionism. His father John Hudson published the Anti-Slavery Bugle, at Salem, the organ of the Western Anti-Slavery Society. As a boy there Joseph K. Hudson joined the John Brown League, a secret organization which had for its purpose the destruction of slavery throughout the Union. It was this early connection which subsequently brought him out to Kansas for the purpose of joining the army under Gen. James H. Lane.
At the age of twenty-one he enlisted as a private in the army and finally attained the rank of major. He enlisted at Fort Leavenworth, July 30, 1861, in Company E of the Third Kansas Regiment of Infantry. In 1862 the Third and Fourth Regiments were consolidated, becoming the Tenth Kansas Infantry. In that regiment Mr. Hudson was commissioned first lieutenant of Company C, and the regiment became part of General Lane’s Brigade in the Army of the Frontier.
From the organization of the regiment at Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1861 until July, 1863, General Hudson participated in the various skirmishes and battles of the Division through the campaigns in Missouri, Indian Territory and Arkansas. He was at the engagement at Dry Wood, Newtonia, Old Fort Wayne, Cane Hill, Van Buren and Prairie Grove, all of which mark important stages in the progress of the campaigns through the Southwest. He was at different times under the command of General Fremont, General Hunter, General Blount, General Herron and General Schofield.
Col. William Wear, commanding the Second Brigade, First Division, Army of the Frontier, in the course of a report dated December 12, 1862, made the following recommendations: “To my Acting Adjutant General, Lieutenant J. K. Hudson of the 10th Kansas, I cannot award too high praise. He was my only aide, and was everywhere at duty’s call, carrying orders, cheering and rallying the men. His worthy qualities in camp as well as upon the field entitle him to promotion.”
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In the meantime, in 1862, he had been appointed acting assistant adjutant general of the Se
cond Brigade of the Army of the Frontier. In 1863 he was appointed to the same office in the First Brigade. He was aide on the staff of Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Davis and was later on the staff of Major General Schofield, commanding the Department of Missouri. December 21, 1863, he was commissioned major of the Sixty-second United States Colored Infantry. At the time of his promotion to major his regiment was ordered down the Mississippi River to join Banks in the Red River campaign. He saw active service at Morganza Bend, Baton Rouge, and Port Hudson on the Mississippi River, and at Roca Chica Pass, Brownsville, and on Brazos Santiago Island in the southern end of Texas along the Rio Grande. On detached service he commanded six companies of Infantry at Roca Chica Pass and Ringgold Barracks. General Hudson participated in the battle of Palmetto Ranche on the Rio Grande River May 11, 1865. That was the last engagement of the war, and curiously enough was fought close to the point where the initial engagement of the Mexican war was contested. In July, 1865, General Hudson was given his honorable discharge.
After the war he engaged in farming and stock raising on a large scale in Wyandotte County for about eight years. During a portion of that time he served as a regent of the State Agricultural College. General Hudson had much to do with reconstituting the management and plan of the college at Manhattan. He believed that the theoretical and sectarian interests which were emphasized in the original management of the institution would in time have destroyed its usefulness, and he worked consistently to get the college on a basis of administration which would best serve the original object for which the appropriation had been designed.
In 1871 he was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives, and in 1874 received twenty-four votes on a joint ballot for United States senator. As proprietor and editor of the Topeka Capital he gave nearly thirty years of his active life to journalism. In 1895 he left the newspaper business and afterward spent most of his time looking after his mining and land interests in Missouri.
In 1895 General Hudson was elected state printer of Kansas and held that office two years. On May 29, 1898, President McKinley commissioned him a brigadier general of volunteers to serve in the war with Spain. For this honor he received the almost unanimous endorsement of the people of Kansas and his appointment was urged by the governor, by both United States senators and by the entire congressional delegation without regard to politics. Considering the many excellent qualifications of General Hudson as a military man, it is to be regretted, and it was a keen disappointment to him and his friends, that the path of duty did not take him to the actual battle front during the war. Soon after his appointment he was assigned to the Fourth Army Corps, under command of Major General Coppinger at Tampa, Florida. While in command of the Second Brigade of the Second Division Fourth Army Corps his most important duty was to prevent demoralization and disaster due to the illness which afflicted the unseasoned troops in the summer camps in a tropical climate. Both at Tampa and later at Huntsville, Alabama, General Hudson performed the duties assigned him in such manner as to receive the highest commendation from the commanding general. He was mustered out in November, 1898, and at once returned to his home in Topeka.
General Hudson was long identified with the Grand Army of the Republic. He was a republican in politics.
At Wyandotte, Kansas, April 5, 1863, General Hudson married Mary W. Smith, also of Salem, Ohio. General Hudson had an ideal home life. Mrs. Hudson was a talented woman, had written for magazines and other publications, and with all her outside interests she was a devoted wife and gave the best of her character and talents to her home and family. General and Mrs. Hudson had four children. The three now living are: Mrs. Dell Keizer of Kansas City, Kansas; Paul Hudson; and Mrs. William C. Smith. Mrs. Hudson, the widow of General Hudson, is now living at Fresno, California. The only son, Paul Hudson, is editor of the Mexican Herald, in the City of Mexico.