Absalom Madden West
Absalom Madden West was born on
March 9, 1813, near Marion in Perry County, Alabama, the son of Anderson and
Celia (Tubb) West. His father, a native of South Carolina, was a planter and
county sheriff. The younger West, after a meager country schooling, migrated to
Holmes County, Mississippi, in 1837. He soon became a noted and prosperous
plantation owner. A Whig and a Unionist, West won election to the state house in
1847, where he took a leading part. Subsequently the voters of Holmes County
elected him to the state senate, where he served from 1854 to 1861. In 1859 he
was named director of the Mississippi Central Railroad, thus beginning a
lifelong involvement with railroads. In 1860 West supported the
anti-secessionist Democrat Stephen Douglas for president, an act at odds with
the vast majority of Mississippi voters.
On May 22, 1861, Governor John Pettus of Mississippi, an ultrasecessionist and old political foe, appointed West brigadier general of Mississippi state troops. West took command of the 2nd Brigade of Mississippi state troops (the 4th and 6th regiments). The companies within the two regiments rendezvoused at Grenada, Mississippi, in August, 1861, at a camp site selected by General West. The next month was spent organizing the units and in drilling the soldiers. On September 21 the two regiments were ordered to Tennessee to join the Confederate army. The regiments were accepted into Confederate service, and West's troop-leading days were at an end. His abilities were more suited to staff duties. The governor appointed him successively state quartermaster general, paymaster general, and commissary general. West's "practical usefulness" and business experience made him particularly fitted to discharge these duties. He also was assigned the duty of providing salt for indigent families and the families of soldiers. In 1863 he ran for governor of Mississippi, but was defeated. In 1864 West resigned his three posts to become ptesident of the Mississippi Central Railroad.
West continued his career as a planter and railroad executive after the war. He served as president of the Mississippi Central through 1874, then as director of its successor through 1886, and in those posts oversaw the rebuilding of a railroad ruined by the war. In 1865 he was elected to the U.S. Congress, but the radical Republican Congress refused to seat even this old-time Unionist. In 1870 West relocated in Holly Springs, Mississippi, but retained his farms in Holmes County. In 1876 he was an elector for the Democratic presidential ticket. At this time his political views became more reformist and radical. In 1884 West was chosen as the vice presidential nominee of the Anti-Monopoly party and of the GreenbackLabor party, as running mate of ex-Union general Ben Butler. The ticket lost, but West won favorable mention for his physical size— "225 pounds with not an ounce of surplus flesh"—the "resonance of his lungs," and his "unquestioned... integrity." This flirtation with national splinter parties did not seem to affect his political fortunes in his own county, where he was elected to the state senate in both 1878 and 1880. General West died on September 30, 1894, in Holly Springs, and is buried in Hill Crest Cemetery.
West's rank of general in Mississippi's state army qualifies him to be considered a Confederate general.
Reference: More Generals in Gray. Bruce S. Allardice. A companion volume to Generals in Gray. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.