James Lusk Alcorn
James Lusk Alcorn, brigadier
general of Mississippi state troops in 1861, was born on November 4,1816, in
Golconda, Illinois Territory, to James and Louisa (Lusk) Alcorn. His father
operated trading boats on the Mississippi River. The family soon moved to
Kentucky, where Alcorn was raised. He attended Cumberland College in 1836, but
had to quit college when his funds ran out. After a brief stint teaching school
in Jackson, Arkansas, Alcorn returned to Kentucky and embarked upon a long and
distinguished political career. He served as deputy sheriff and state
representative from Livingston County from 1839 to 1843 before moving to Delta,
Coahoma County, Mississippi. History There Alcorn practiced law, owned and
operated a plantation, and was active in founding the Mississippi River levee
system. A leader among Delta-area Whigs, Alcorn served in the Mississippi
legislature from 1846 to 1860. In 1856 he ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Congress.
Elected delegate to the state secession convention in 1861, Alcorn, who personally opposed secession, nonetheless led a Whig faction that, in the interests of southern solidarity, consistently voted with the secessionists. This veteran Whig politico, a "handsome individual of slow and stately utterance," was elected brigadier general of Mississippi state troops by the convention. With the successive resignations of Jefferson Davis, Earl Van Dorn, and Charles Clark as major generals of Mississippi state troops, Alcorn, the senior brigadier, was in line for promotion to major general. However, Governor John Pettus, a Democrat and old political opponent, appointed fellow Democrat Reuben Davis to the rank instead. In the fall of 1861, General Alcorn and his troops were ordered to join Confederate forces in central Kentucky. An outbreak of the measles crippled the troops. Transferred to Fort Donelson, Tennessee, Alcorn's "valuable assistance" was praised by the Confederate commander. Relieved from Donelson on October 27, 1861, he returned to Mississippi to organize more regiments. In December of that year he led a brigade of three regiments of sixty-day state troops to Columbus, Kentucky. Under orders from Major General Leonidas Polk, the Confederate commander at Columbus, Alcorn and his brigade took over the post of Camp Beauregard, west of Columbus. The brigade was disbanded at the end of January, 1862. After that Alcorn saw no more field service. In 1862 he was taken prisoner in Arkansas. Upon his parole later that year, he returned to his Delta plantation. Alcorn seems to have spent the balance of the war alternately damning Jefferson Davis (in the legislature, to which he was again elected in 1863) and selling cotton to both sides. Two of his sons died in service, and Alcorn contributed a large part of his personal fortune to the Confederate cause.
When the war ended Alcorn, a distinguished old-line Whig who had never been a strong secessionist, was a natural choice for office of Mississippians willing to cooperate with the newly imposed federal order. The legislature elected him U.S. senator in May, 1865; however, the radical Republican Congress refused to seal) him. Turning Republican himself, he was elected governor in 1870 and U.S. senj ator in 1871. No emancipationist, Alcorn as governor resisted all federal efforts; to enforce social equality for blacks and otherwise opposed the radical faction of the Mississippi Republican party. After his Senate term ended in 1877, General Alcorn returned to his lucrative law practice, in which his "natural vigor of intellect, remarkable industry, and thorough knowledge of the law" made him a leader of the state bar.' Alcorn's last official service was as a member of the Mississippi Constitutional Convention of 1890. General Alcorn died at Eagle's Nest, in Coahoma County, December 20,1894, and is interred in a family cemetery on his estate.
Reference: More Generals in Gray. Bruce S. Allardice. A companion volume to Generals in Gray. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.