A Civil War Biography

Edmund Winston Pettus

Pettus was born 6 July 1821 in Limestone County, Alabama. He obtained his early education in the common schools of Alabama then attended Clinton College in Smith County, Tennessee. He studied the law in Tuscumbia, Alabama. After being admitted to the bar in 1842 he established a practice in Gainesville, Alabama. He was elected solicitor of Alabama's 7th circuit court in 1844.

He left that position to serve as a lieutenant in the war with Mexico. After leaving the army he headed to California but returned to Alabama after a couple years. He was again elected solicitor in 1853 and served until he was elected judge of the 7th circuit court in 1855. He resigned his seat on the bench in 1858 and moved to Dallas County, Alabama where he resumed his practice of law. He served as Alabama's envoy to Mississippi, where his brother, John J. Pettus, was governor, during the secession crisis and as the Southern Confederacy was formed.

When the war started Pettus helped form the 20th Alabama infantry regiment and began his military service as a major and soon became a lieutenant colonel. He took part in the defense of Port Gibson, Mississippi where he was captured but soon escaped. He took part in the defense of Vicksburg, Mississippi, during which he was promoted to colonel, and was surrender with the city but soon exchanged. He commanded the 20th at Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge and for his services was promoted to brigadier general on 18 September 1863. He commanded a brigade in Carter L. Stevenson's division of the Army of Tennessee during the Atlanta campaign, at Franklin and Nashville, and into the Carolinas. He was wounded at Bentonville then surrendered at Durham Station.

Following the war Pettus returned to Alabama, settling in Selma where he established a law practice. He represented Alabama at the Democratic National Convention each time it met for 20 years beginning in 1876. He was elected as a Democrat to the US Senate in 1896, taking his seat on 4 March 1897. He was reelected in 1902 and remained in the US Senate until he died on 27 July 1907 while at Hot Springs, North Carolina.

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