John A. Quitman

Last updated
John Quitman
Hon. John A. Quitman, Miss - NARA - 528341.jpg
Member of the U.S.HouseofRepresentatives
from Mississippi's 5th district
In office
March 4, 1855 July 17, 1858

Born at Rhinebeck, New York, in 1798, Quitman studied classics at Hartwick Seminary, graduating in 1816. He was an instructor at Mount Airy College, Pennsylvania, but decided to study law.

He was admitted to the bar in 1820, and moved to Chillicothe, Ohio. The following year, he moved south to Natchez, Mississippi. He purchased Monmouth in 1826, and it would remain in his family for the next 100 years. It was an archaeological dig site investigated by Dr. Montroville Dickeson during his 10-year study of the Natchez Indians of the Mississippi River Valley.

Plantation and enslaver

Quitman owned four plantations: Springfield, which he purchased in 1834, on the Mississippi River near Natchez, a cotton plantation and dairy farm; Palmyra (Warren County, Mississippi), which he acquired through marriage (cotton); Live Oaks (Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, sugar and molasses); and Belen (Holmes County, Mississippi, cotton).

He did not personally manage the plantations, a task entrusted to (white) overseers. Not counting house servants, at Palmyra he enslaved 311 people under sixty years of age in 1848; at Live Oaks, 85 in 1850; at Springfield, 39 in 1842; and at Belen 32 in 1858. [4] :554–555

One favored enslaved person accompanied him on his expedition to Mexico. [4] :567–568 Being frequently absent, Quitman was unaware of slave resistance and did not plan for slave revolts. "Neither he nor his family entertained second thoughts about the propriety or morality of their holding blacks in bondage." [4] :563 He "genuinely believed that owner-slave relations were harmonious. ...The Quitmans lived to the very eve of the Civil War virtually oblivious of the dangers of slave rebellion and believing, as Quitman put it, that Southern society was 'based upon a more solid foundation' than Northern society." [4] :558


Quitman practiced law in Natchez until 1826, when he was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives. He became Chancellor of the state in 1828, and served on the state's Constitutional Convention in 1832. He was the protégé of John C. Calhoun during the Nullification Crisis. [3]

In 1835, he was elected to the State Senate, becoming President of the Senate the following year. He also served as Acting Governor of Mississippi during that time. In 1838, he became a judge on the High Court of Errors and Appeal. Quitman was grand master of the Mississippi Masons from 1826 to 1838 and again from 1840 to 1845. [5]

He was initiated to the Scottish Rite Masonry till his elevation to the 33rd and highest degree. [6] [7]

Mexican–American War

Quitman circa 1846. John A Quitman c1846.png
Quitman circa 1846.

On July 1, 1846, during the Mexican–American War, Quitman was made a Brigadier General of Volunteers. He commanded a brigade under Zachary Taylor in northern Mexico.

After the Battle of Monterrey, he was sent to join Winfield Scott's expedition. He led the 2nd Brigade in the Volunteer Division during the Siege of Veracruz and on April 14, 1847, he was promoted to Major General in the Regular Army.

Following the battle of Cerro Gordo, General Robert Patterson returned to the United States with other Volunteer soldiers whose enlistments had expired. Reinforcements from Veracruz, including about 300 U. S. Marines, were organized into a new brigade under Colonel Samuel E. Watson. Shields' and Watson's brigades were designated the 4th Division, with Quitman in overall command.

By this point Quitman had gained a reputation as a competent military commander and enjoyed an affectionate respect from Volunteer and professional soldiers alike. [8]

Quitman led his division to the Valley of Mexico where he was posted to guard the supply depot, hospital and horse teams. Frustrated at his supporting role, Quitman was nevertheless ordered to send reinforcements to the front. At the battles of Contreras and Churubusco, Shields' brigade was actively engaged, though Quitman was not personally involved.

He commanded the southern assault during the battle of Chapultepec. U.S. Marines of Quitman's division spearheaded the attack, and their involvement in this battle is remembered in the opening line of the Marines' Hymn. Quitman received the surrender of the citadel in Mexico City.

After the fall of Mexico City, General Scott named Quitman as the Military Governor of Mexico City for the remainder of the occupation. He was the only American to rule from within the National Palace of Mexico. Quitman was a founding member of the Aztec Club of 1847. He was discharged on July 20, 1848, and served as Governor of Mississippi in 1850 and 1851.


It was in his capacity as governor of Mississippi that Quitman was approached by the Venezuelan filibuster Narciso López to lead his expedition of 1850 to liberate Cuba from Spanish rule. He turned down the offer because of his desire to serve out his term as governor, but did offer assistance to López in obtaining men and material for the expedition. López's effort ended in failure, and the repercussion led to Quitman's being charged with violations of Neutrality Act of 1817 and his resignation from the post of governor so that he could defend himself. The charges were dropped after three hung juries allowed him to avoid conviction.

With the encouragement of President Franklin Pierce, Quitman, with assistance from later Confederate General Mansfield Lovell, [9] began preparations in July 1853 for a filibuster expedition of his own. The preparations to invade Cuba were nearly complete, with several thousand men prepared to go, when in May 1854 the administration reversed course and undertook steps to stop what it had almost put into motion, presumably because it felt that in the wake of the furor over the passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act the action to add slaveholding territory such as Cuba would cause irreparable damage to the Democratic Party in the North.

Return to politics

On March 4, 1855, Quitman was elected to the Thirty-fourth Congress for the Democratic Party, and served in that and the ensuing Congress until his death. In Congress, he was Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs.


John A. Quitman died at his home, "Monmouth," near Natchez, Mississippi, on July 17, 1858, aged 58, apparently from the effects of National Hotel Disease, which he contracted during the inauguration of President James Buchanan. He was buried in the Natchez City Cemetery in Natchez, Mississippi.


The towns of Quitman, Texas, county seat of Wood County, Texas, Quitman, Mississippi, county seat of Clarke County, Mississippi, Quitman, Georgia, of Brooks County, Georgia, Quitman, Missouri, of Nodaway County, Missouri; and Quitman County, Georgia & Quitman County, Mississippi, are named after him. The west Texas military installation Fort Quitman was named in his honor. There is a Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons in Ringgold, Georgia, also named after him, Quitman Lodge #106.

See also


  1. Aztec Club Biography of 1847
  2. Sansing, David G. (2003). "John Anthony Quitman, Tenth and Sixteenth Governor of Mississippi: December 1835 to January 1836; 1850-1851". Mississippi History Now. Mississippi Historical Society.
  3. 1 2 Jennings, Thelma (March 1986). "John A. Quitman: Old South Crusader (review)". Civil War History . 32 (1): 86–88 (Review). doi:10.1353/cwh.1986.0060 via Project MUSE.
  4. 1 2 3 4 May, Robert E. (November 1980). "John A. Quitman and His Slaves: Reconciling Slave Resistance with the Proslavery Defense". Journal of Southern History . 46 (4): 551–70. doi:10.2307/2207202. JSTOR   2207202.
  5. "Quitman, John Anthony". Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 2016-03-21.
  6. "Celebrating more than 100 years of the Freemasonry: famous Freemasons in the history". Mathawan Lodge No 192 F.A. & A.M., New Jersey. Archived from the original on May 10, 2008.
  7. Leon Hyneman (World Masonic Register Office) (1860). "World's Masonic register: containing the name, number, location, and time of meeting of every Masonic lodge in the world". . Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. p. 236. Archived from the original on October 14, 2018. Retrieved Nov 13, 2018.
  8. May p.181
  9. John D. Winters, The Civil War in Louisiana, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963, ISBN   0-8071-0834-0, p. 64

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Natchez, Mississippi</span> Incorporated city in Mississippi, United States

Natchez is the county seat and only city of Adams County, Mississippi, United States. Natchez has a total population of 15,792. Located on the Mississippi River across from Vidalia in Concordia Parish, Louisiana, Natchez was a prominent city in the antebellum years, a center of cotton planters and Mississippi River trade.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">James L. Alcorn</span> American politician (1816–1894)

James Lusk Alcorn was a governor, slave owner, and U.S. senator during the Reconstruction era in Mississippi. A Moderate Republican and Whiggish scalawag, he engaged in a bitter rivalry with Radical Republican Adelbert Ames, who defeated him in the 1873 gubernatorial race. Alcorn was the elected Republican governor of Mississippi.

Mississippi Territory Territory of the US, 1798–1817

The Territory of Mississippi was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from April 7, 1798, until December 10, 1817, when the western half of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Mississippi. The eastern half was redesignated as the Alabama Territory until it was admitted to the Union as the State of Alabama on December 14, 1819. The Chattahoochee River played a significant role in the definition of the territory's borders. The population rose in the early 1800s from settlement, with cotton being an important cash crop.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William C. C. Claiborne</span> American frontier politician (c.1773–1817)

William Charles Cole Claiborne was an American politician, best known as the first non-colonial governor of Louisiana. He also has the distinction of possibly being the youngest member of the United States Congress in U.S. history, although reliable sources differ about his age.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charles Clark (governor)</span> 24th governor of Mississippi

Charles Clark was the 24th governor of Mississippi from 1863 to 1865.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Francis Hamtramck Claiborne</span> American politician

John Francis Hamtramck Claiborne was a member of the U. S. House of Representatives from Mississippi. He wrote a history of Mississippi.

Richard Taylor (Confederate general) American military figure politician

Lieutenant-General Richard "Dick" Taylor was an American planter, politician, military historian, and Confederate general. Following the outbreak of the American Civil War, Taylor joined the Confederate States Army, serving first as a brigade commander in Virginia, and later as an army commander in the Trans-Mississippi Theater. Taylor commanded the District of West Louisiana and was responsible for successfully opposing U.S. Federal Government troops invading upper northwest Louisiana during the Red River Campaign of 1864. He was the only son of Zachary Taylor, the 12th president of the United States. After the war and Reconstruction, Taylor published a memoir about his experiences.

David E. Twiggs Confederate Army general

David Emanuel Twiggs, born in Georgia, was a career army officer, serving during the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, and Mexican–American War.

Edmund P. Gaines United States Army general

Edmund Pendleton Gaines was a career United States Army officer who served for nearly fifty years, and attained the rank of major general by brevet. He was one of the Army's senior commanders during its formative years in the early to mid-1800s, and was a veteran of the War of 1812, Seminole Wars, Black Hawk War, and Mexican–American War.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John C. Robinson</span> American politician

John Cleveland Robinson had a long and distinguished career in the United States Army, fighting in numerous wars and culminating his career as a Union Army brigadier general of volunteers and brevet major general of volunteers in the American Civil War. In 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated and the U.S. Senate confirmed Robinson's appointment to the brevet grade of major general in the regular army. He was a recipient of the Medal of Honor for valor in action in 1864 near Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia, where he lost a leg. When he retired from the U.S. Army on May 6, 1869, he was placed on the retired list as a full rank major general, USA. After his army service, he was Lieutenant Governor of New York from 1873 to 1874 and served two terms as the president of the Grand Army of the Republic.

A filibuster, also known as a freebooter, is someone who engages in an unauthorized military expedition into a foreign country or territory to foster or support a political revolution or secession. The term is usually applied to United States citizens who incited insurrections across Latin America, particularly in the mid-19th century, usually with the goal of establishing an American-loyal regime that may later be annexed into the United States. Probably the most notable example is the Filibuster War initiated by William Walker in Nicaragua.

History of Mississippi History of the US state of Mississippi

The history of the state of Mississippi extends back to thousands of years of indigenous peoples. Evidence of their cultures has been found largely through archeological excavations, as well as existing remains of earthwork mounds built thousands of years ago. Native American traditions were kept through oral histories; with Europeans recording the accounts of historic peoples they encountered. Since the late 20th century, there have been increased studies of the Native American tribes and reliance on their oral histories to document their cultures. Their accounts have been correlated with evidence of natural events.

John Gregg (Texas politician) American politician

John Gregg was an American politician who served as a Deputy from Texas to the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1862. He served as a brigade commander officer of the Confederate States Army and was killed in action during the Siege of Petersburg.

Thomas Green (general)

Thomas Green was an American soldier and lawyer, who took part in the Texan Revolution of 1835–36, serving under Sam Houston, who rewarded him with a land grant. Green was clerk of the Texas Supreme Court until the outbreak of the Civil War, when he became a Confederate cavalry leader. After winning several victories, including the Battle of Valverde and the recapture of Galveston, he was promoted brigadier and assigned command of the cavalry division of the Trans-Mississippi Department. In the Red River Campaign, he was mortally wounded while charging a fleet of Federal gunboats. The Union naval commander David Dixon Porter paid tribute to Green as a serious loss to the Confederacy.

Monmouth (Natchez, Mississippi) United States historic place

Monmouth is a historic antebellum home located at 1358 John A. Quitman Boulevard in Natchez, Mississippi on a 26-acre (11 ha) lot. It was built in 1818 by John Hankinson, and renovated about 1853 by John A. Quitman, a former Governor of Mississippi and well-known figure in the Mexican–American War. It is one of Natchez's grandest Greek Revival mansions. It was declared a Mississippi Landmark in 1986 and a National Historic Landmark in 1988. It is now a small luxury hotel.

Hiram B. Granbury Confederate Army general (1831–1864)

Hiram Bronson Granbury was a lawyer and county judge in Texas before the American Civil War. He organized a volunteer company for the Confederate States Army after the outbreak of the Civil War and became its captain. He rose to the grade of brigadier general in the Confederate army. Granbury was one of the six Confederate generals killed at the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864.

Thomas Neville Waul American lawyer and politician (1813–1903)

Thomas Neville Waul was a Confederate States Army brigadier general during the American Civil War. Before the Civil War, he was a teacher, lawyer, judge and planter. He served for a year in the Provisional Confederate Congress from Texas. He was captured at the fall of Vicksburg, Mississippi on July 4, 1863 and exchanged in October 1863. After his promotion, Waul served in the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department. He was wounded at the Battle of Jenkins' Ferry. After the Civil War, Waul was a farmer and lawyer who lived in Texas until his death at age 90.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">David Hunt (planter)</span>

David Hunt was an American planter based in the Natchez District of Mississippi who controlled 25 plantations, thousands of acres, and more than 1,000 slaves in the antebellum era. From New Jersey, he joined his uncle in Mississippi business. He became a major philanthropist in the South, contributing to educational institutions in Mississippi, as well as the American Colonization Society and Mississippi Colonization Society, the latter of which he was a founding member.

Abijah Hunt (1762-1811) was an American merchant, planter and banker in the Natchez District.

Oakland College (Mississippi) Defunct private college near Rodney, Mississippi

Oakland College was a private college near Rodney, Mississippi. Founded by Dr. Jeremiah Chamberlain in 1830, the school was affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. It closed during Reconstruction and is now part of the Alcorn State University Historic District.


Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Mississippi

Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of Mississippi
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Mississippi
Title next held by
John J. McRae
U.S. House of Representatives
New constituency Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Mississippi's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the House Military Affairs Committee
Succeeded by