Francis Eugene Whitfield
Francis Eugene Whitfield was born
in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, on June 22, 1839, the son of Francis Edwin and
Demetria (Jones) Whitfield. His father, a wealthy planter born in North
Carolina, moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1847, and later still relocated in
Corinth, Mississippi. The younger Whitfield grew up in Memphis and Corinth. He
attended the University of Virginia and later the law school of Cumberland
University in Tennessee, earning high academic honors at both institutions.
At the start of the war Whitfield was elected lieutenant of the "Corinth Rifles" (later Company A of the 9th Mississippi), organized in Tishomingo County in March, 1861. The 9th, a twelve-months regiment, served in garrison at Pensacola, Florida, throughout 1861. Whitfield served as regimental adjutant. Upon the expiration of the twelve-months enlistment the 9th was reorganized for the duration of the war and Whitfield was made a major. While leading the skirmish line of the 9th at the Battle of Shiloh "with great coolness and with marked ability and skill," Major Whitfield was severely wounded in the hip. Heavily involved in the assaults on the "Hornet's Nest," Whitfield personally captured Union Colonel William T. Shaw of the 14th Iowa. His Shiloh wound kept him on sick leave for months and limited his further field duty. In 1863, now lieutenant colonel, he returned to the 9th. General Braxton Bragg, the army commander, had in the meantime appointed another officer to fill the colonel's vacancy in that regiment. When Whitfield protested his supercession, Bragg had him arrested for being absent without leave. A suspicious commander always on the lookout for dereliction of duty among his subordinates, Bragg was under the impression that Whitfield had used his sick leave to travel to Richmond and intrigue against Bragg's appointee. However, Whitfield had in reality been in Richmond on medical leave. The arrest was later voided by the War Department, but Whitfield's career with the 9th was over. At the Battle of Chickamauga in September, 1863, he served as provost marshal of Polk's Corps of the Army of Tennessee. In the Atlanta campaign of 1864, he was wounded at the Battle of Resaca, which ended his field service. Upon recovery he took command of the post of Meridian, Mississippi.
After the war ended Whitfield returned to Corinth. He practiced law there and in Memphis. One of the South's "most eminent lawyers . . . courtly in bearing, patient, generous hearted and forgiving," Whitfield became general attorney for the Southern Express Company and a leader of the Memphis bar. Politically active, like most lawyers of that era, Whitfield was elected to the Alcorn County Democratic Executive Committee. On March 18, 1885, while on a steamboat outing on the St. John's River in Florida, Whitfield died suddenly. He is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis.
Whitfield is called a brigadier general by SHSP. The basis for this is question able, since Colonel Whitfield (as contemporaries always called him) doesn't appear to have ever commanded so much as a regiment in battle. Perhaps SHSP confused him with Brigadier General John W. Whitfield, who served in northern Mississippi during the war. What is certain is that Whitfield was paroled at Meridian on May 10, 1865, as colonel of the 9th Mississippi.
Reference: More Generals in Gray. Bruce S. Allardice. A companion volume to Generals in Gray. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.