A Civil War Biography

Matthew Ransom

Ransom was born 8 October 1826 near Warrenton, Warren County, North Carolina. He was educated at a private academy then attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from which he graduated in 1847. He studied the law, passed the bar, and established a law practice in Warrenton.

Ransom entered the political arena in 1852 as a Presidential Elector on the Whig ticket of 1852. He was elected attorney general of North Carolina in 1852 and served until resigning in 1855. He was elected to the North Carolina House of Commons in 1858 and served until the term expired in 1861. In 1861 he was chosen as one of three peace commissioners sent by North Carolina to the to the Confederate Provisional Congress at Montgomery, Alabama.

When North Carolina left the Union, Ransom enlisted as a private in the 1st North Carolina Infantry. He was commissioned a lieutenant colonel on 16 May 1861and fought during the Peninsula campaign. He was wounded twice at Malvern Hill. On 21 April 1862 he was named colonel of the 35th North Carolina. The 35th was attached to Robert Ransom's, Matt's West Point educated younger brother's, brigade in James Longstreet's command. Matt commanded the 35th at Sharpsburg and Fredericksburg. Following Fredericksburg Robert Ransom's brigade, including Matt's regiment, was transferred to North Carolina. Matt was promoted to brigadier general on 13 June 1863 and took over command of his brother's brigade when Robert Ransom was given command at the division level.

Matt Ransom commanded the brigade at Plymouth and Weldon in North Carolina then at Suffolk in southeastern Virginia. He was wounded during the fighting at Drewry's in May 1864. He returned to command after the brigade was absorbed into the Army of Northern Virginia. He commanded the brigade through parts of the Petersburg siege then surrendered what was left of the brigade, that was shattered at Five Forks and Sayler's Creek, at Appomattox.

Following the war he returned to North Carolina relocating in 1866 to Weldon where he continued practicing law and became a planter. He was elected to the US Senate in 1872 to fill a vacancy in the term that was to have begun on 4 March 1871. He remained in the Senate until 3 March 1895 after failing in a reelected bid in 1894. Ransom would then serve two years as US Minister to Mexico from 1895 until 1897. He died 8 October 1904 on his estate near Garysburg, Northampton County, North Carolina.

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