BG Edmund Winston Pettus

   BG Edmund Winston Pettus  Picture of

 

Edmund Pettus was born in 1821 in Limestone County, Alabama.  He was educated in local public schools, and later graduated from Clinton College located in Smith County, Tennessee.[3]

Pettus then studied law in Tuscumbia, Alabama, and was admitted to the state's bar association in 1842. Shortly afterward he settled in Gainesville and began practicing as a lawyer. On June 27, 1844, Pettus married Mary L. Chapman, with whom he would have three children. Also that year he was elected solicitor for the seventh Judicial Circuit of Alabama.[4]

During the Mexican–American War in 1847–49, Pettus served as a lieutenant with the Alabama Volunteers, and after hostilities he moved to California, where he participated in paramilitary actions against Yukis and other American Indians.

By 1853 he had returned to Alabama, serving again in the seventh circuit as solicitor. He was appointed a judge in that circuit in 1855 until resigning in 1858. Pettus then relocated to the now extinct town of Cahaba[ in Dallas County, Alabama, where he again took up work as a lawyer.

In 1861, Pettus, an enthusiastic champion of the Confederate cause and of slavery, was a Democratic Party delegate to the secession convention in Mississippi, where his brother John was serving as governor. Pettus helped organize the 20th Alabama Infantry, and was elected as one of its first officers.[On September 9 he was made the regiment's major, and on October 8 he became its lieutenant colonel.

Pettus served in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. During the Stones River Campaign, he was captured by Union soldiers on December 29, 1862 and then exchanged a short time later for Union soldiers. Pettus was captured again on May 1, 1863 while part of the surrendered garrison that had been defending Port Gibson in Mississippi. However he managed to escape and return to his own lines. Pettus was promoted to colonel on May 28, and given command of the 20th Alabama.

During the 1863 Vicksburg Campaign, Pettus and his regiment were part of the force defending Confederate control of the Mississippi River. When the garrison surrendered on July 4, Pettus was again a prisoner until his exchange on September 12.  Six days later he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general,  and on November 3 he was given brigade command in the Army of Tennessee.  ] Pettus and his brigade participated in the Chattanooga Campaign, posted on the extreme southern slope of Missionary Ridge on November 24, and fought during the action the following day.

Pettus and his command took part in the 1864 Atlanta Campaign, fighting in the battles of Kennesaw Mountain on June 27, Atlanta on July 22, and Jonesborough from August 31 to September 1.   Beginning on December 17, he temporarily led a division in the Army of Tennessee. ] Afterward during the 1865 Carolinas Campaign, Pettus was sent to defend ColumbiaSouth Carolina, and participated in the Battle of Bentonville from March 19–21.[4] Pettus was wounded in this fight, hit in his right leg—perhaps a self-inflicted wound, according to some sources—during the battle's first day. On May 2 he was paroled from Salisbury, North Carolina, and, after the Confederacy surrendered at Appomattox, Pettus was pardoned by the U.S. Government on October 20.

After the war, Pettus had returned to Alabama and resumed his law practice in Selma. Pettus served as chairman of the state delegation to the Democratic National Convention for more than two decades.[1] In 1877, Pettus was named Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan, during the final year of Reconstruction.  With earnings from his law practice, he bought farm land.

In 1896, at the age of 75, Pettus ran for U.S. Senate as a Democrat and won, beating incumbent James L. Pugh. His campaign relied on his successes in organizing and popularizing the Alabama Klan and his prominent opposition to the constitutional amendments following the Civil War that elevated former slaves to the status of free citizens.   On March 4, 1897, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, and was re-elected in 1903.

Pettus died at Hot Springs, North Carolina, in the summer of 1907. He is buried in Live Oak Cemetery located in Selma.