John Smith Preston

Reference: Find-a-Grave

John Smith Preston, a half-uncle by marriage and also the father-in-law of General Wade Hampton, was born at the Salt Works, near Abingdon, Virginia, April 20, 1809. He attended Hampden-Sydney College, the University of Virginia, and Harvard, where he studied law. Beginning the practice of his profession at Abingdon, he later moved to Columbia, South Carolina, and subsequently for some years engaged in sugar planting in Louisiana. He returned to South Carolina in 1848, and served for eight years in the state senate. From 1856 to 1860 he lived abroad. An uncompromising secessionist, he headed the state's delegation to the Charleston Democratic convention of 1860. In the following year he was a commissioner to Virginia, and made an eloquent plea for the withdrawal of that state from the Union. As lieutenant colonel and assistant adjutant general he served on General Beauregard's staff during the reduction of Sumter and at the battle of First Manassas. He was promoted to colonel on April 23, 1863, and to brigadier general on June 10, 1864. Preston served in command of prison camps, conscript camps, and from July 30, 1863 until its discontinuance, as superintendent of the bureau of conscription in Richmond. After the war he lived in England until 1868, when he returned to the United States. At this time he made a speech at the University of Virginia, which because of its impassioned defense of the right of secession, received much criticism in the North. Completely unreconstructed until the end, he died in Columbia, South Carolina, May 1, 1881. General Preston was an orator of great force, and perhaps for this reason, his management of the unpopular conscript bureau was extremely able. He is buried in Columbia.

Ref: Generals in Gray, Lives of the Confederate Commanders by Ezra J. Warner.  Printed by Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge and London.

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