Wilmot Gibbs De Saussure

Wilmot Gibbs De Saussure, general of South Carolina militia, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on July 23,1822, the son of Henry A. and Susan (Boone) De Saussure. The De Saussure family traces its ancestry back to the Lords of Dammartin in France in 1440 and to the Huguenot immigration to South Carolina. The general's father was a prominent lawyer; his grandfather was chancellor of South Carolina. Entering the University of South Carolina in 1838, De Saussure graduated with an A.B. in 1840 and afterward studied law. De Saussure had an antebellum career as a prominent Charleston lawyer. He was also a secretary of the South Carolina Treasury and five-time representative to the state assembly (1848 to 1849,1854 to 1857,1860 to 1863).

De Saussure began his war services as a lieutenant colonel of the 1st Regiment of Artillery of the 4th (Charleston) Brigade of the South Carolina Militia. After the tiny U.S. Army garrison evacuated Fort Moultrie on the mainland (December 26, 1861) and withdrew to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, De Saussure's regiment occupied the abandoned fort. He commanded the batteries on Morris Island during the April 12 through 14,1861, bombardment of Fort Sumter. Appointed brigadier general of militia in August, 1861, he succeeded General James Simons in command of the 4th Brigade and led that brigade throughout the war. In the summer of 1861 Governor Francis Pickens of South Carolina brought De Saussure into the cabinet as secretary of the treasury. Among other actions, De Saussure deposited state money into Richmond banks for the aid of South Carolina soldiers stationed in Virginia. On April 11, 1862, De Saussure was elected state adjutant general and inspector general of militia. During the 1863 siege of Charleston, General De Saussure commanded the fifth subdivision of the Charleston defenses, leading a mixed force of militia and Confederate troops, which guarded the rear of the city. In late 1864 and 1865 he was ordered away from the seacoast in order to oppose Major General William T. Sherman's army in its invasion of the Carolinas.

General De Saussure's postwar career was a distinguished one. Resuming his Charleston law practice, and active in civic affairs, he wrote several works on South Carolina history, became president of the Huguenot Society and president of the Sons of Cincinnati. It was said of De Saussure that "as a lawyer, a writer, a legislator, a soldier, he discharged his duty with eminent ability and entire fidelity." General De Saussure died in Ocala, Florida (where he had gone to restore his shattered health), on February 1, 1886. He is buried in a family plot in Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston.

General De Saussure's command of a brigade of militia that served in a campaign qualifies him to be considered a Confederate general.

Previous Page

Reference:  More Generals in Gray.  Bruce S. Allardice.  A companion volume to Generals in Gray.  Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.