Benjamin Grubb Humphreys: Twenty-sixth Governor of Mississippi: 1865-1868
For five years after the Civil War, both martial law and civil authority existed concurrently in Mississippi. That phenomenon created a constitutional entanglement that scholars have yet to unravel. Governor Benjamin Grubb Humphreys had the misfortune of being caught in that tangle of conflicting and often competing authority. When Governor Humphreys was inaugurated October 16, 1865, he shared power with a provisional governor and was eventually removed by a military governor, whose authority he challenged and whose orders he countermanded. (See William Sharkey and Adelbert Ames.)
Humphreys was born August 26, 1808, at Hermitage, his father’s plantation in Claiborne County along the Bayou Pierre. He was appointed to the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, but because of his involvement in a Christmas frolic, he and about forty other cadets were expelled. He returned to help his father manage their plantation. For almost a decade, Humphreys represented Claiborne County in the Mississippi Legislature, serving in both the house and the senate.
In 1846 Humphreys purchased land in Sunflower County and established
a plantation at Roebuck Lake. Humphreys was a Whig before the Civil War
and opposed secession, but when the war began, he organized the Sunflower
Guards and was soon afterwards elected colonel of the Twenty-first Mississippi
Regiment. His plantation was destroyed by federal troops during the Vicksburg
campaign. In July 1863, Humphreys was promoted to brigadier general and
given command of General William Barksdale’s brigade after Barksdale
fell in the Battle of Gettysburg. Humphreys was seriously wounded at Berryville
in September 1864 and was reassigned to duty in south Mississippi.
When Mississippi and other ex-Confederate states failed to reconstruct
themselves under President Johnson’s lenient plan, Congress placed
the southern states under military law and installed military governors.
That action did not automatically remove the civil governor. It did, however,
create a rivalry between the military and civil authority which led eventually
to Governor Humphreys’s removal from office in 1868.
David Sansing, Ph.D., is history professor emeritus, University of Mississippi.
Posted December 2003
Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1912), 73.
Rowland, Dunbar. Mississippi Comprising Sketches in Cyclopedic Form I. 893-906.
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