Winfield Scott Featherston "Old Swet" (August 8, 1820 – May 28, 1891) was an antebellum two-term U.S. Representative from Mississippi and a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He was later a state politician and a circuit court judge.
Early life and career
Winfield S. Featherston was born near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the youngest of seven children of Charles and Lucy Featherston, who had recently emigrated from Virginia. Featherston completed his preparatory studies, but left high school in 1836 to enroll in a local militia group to fight Creek Indians during the Creek War. He later moved to Mississippi and settled in Houston, where he studied law. He was admitted to the bar in 1840 and established a successful law practice.
Featherston was elected as a Democrat to the Thirtieth and Thirty-first Congresses (March 4, 1847 – March 3, 1851). He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1850 to the Thirty-second Congress, being defeated by John Allen Wilcox. He returned home to Houston and resumed his law practice.
He moved to Holly Springs, Mississippi, in 1856 and began a new law practice in that town. Two years later, he married Elizabeth McEwen, the daughter of the town's leading merchant. The couple would raise a large family in Holly Springs.
With the secession of Mississippi, Featherston was appointed to visit neutral Kentucky to try to influence Governor Beriah Magoffin into also leading his state from the Union. With the start of the Civil War in early 1861, Featherston raised a regiment of infantry (17th Mississippi) and became its colonel. He fought at the First Battle of Manassas and was cited for gallantry at the Battle of Ball's Bluff. He was commissioned as a brigadier general on March 4, 1862. He led a brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia during the Peninsula Campaign and was wounded during the Seven Days Battles. He then participated in the fighting at the Second Battle of Manassas, as well as at Antietam and Fredericksburg. He was among a number of generals that Robert E. Lee removed from command or reassigned when he reorganized his army, along with Nathan G. Evans, Thomas F. Drayton, Roger Pryor, and several others.
Transferred to Mississippi in early 1863, Featherston assumed command of a brigade of Mississippians in Loring's Division in the army of Joseph E. Johnston. He fought in several major campaigns in the Western Theater, including the Vicksburg Campaign in 1863 and the Atlanta Campaign the following year. Loring's men accompanied the Army of Tennessee during John Bell Hood's Tennessee Campaign.
With the war over, Featherston returned to his home and family in Holly Springs. Later that same year, he was an unsuccessful candidate for United States Senator from Mississippi. Featherston returned to his law practice and later served as president of the state taxpayer's convention which protested against high taxes and wasteful government spending of carpetbagger Governor Adelbert Ames. He was elected to the State House of Representatives in 1876, where he continued his battle against the former Union general. Featherston's wife Elizabeth died at their home of yellow fever in 1878, as did some of their children (four survived).
Featherston was elected to another term in the state legislature in 1880, where he chaired the Judiciary Committee. He was a delegate to the 1880 Democratic National Convention. In 1882, he became judge of the second judicial circuit of Mississippi. He was member of the State constitutional convention in 1890.
Featherston died from paralysis at his home in Holly Springs, Mississippi on May 28, 1891. He was interred in the town's Hill Crest Cemetery.
- Winfield S. Featherston at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress Retrieved on 2008-10-19
- Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959, ISBN 0-8071-0823-5.
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