About John Anthony Quitman
John Anthony Quitman (b. September 1, 1798, Rhinebeck, New York– July 17, 1858, Natchez, Mississippi) was an American politician and soldier. He served as Governor of Mississippi from 1835 to 1836 as a Whig and again from 1850 to 1851 as a Democrat and one of the leading Fire-Eaters.
John A. Quitman studied Classics at Hartwick Seminary, graduating in 1816. After serving as an instructor at Mount Airy College, Pennsylvania, he decided to study law.
Upon being admitted to the bar, he moved to Chillicothe, Ohio in 1820, and from there to Natchez, Mississippi, in 1821. He purchased Monmouth Plantation in 1826, and the plantation would be in his family for around 100 years (Monmouth (Natchez, Mississippi)). The plantation was used as an archaeological dig site for Dr. Montroville Dickeson of Pennsylvania during his 10 year study of the Natchez Indians in the Mississippi River Valley.
Quitman practiced law in Natchez until 1826, when he was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives. He became Chancellor of the state in 1828, and served on the state's Constitutional Convention in 1832. In 1835, he was elected to the State Senate, becoming President of the Senate the following year. He also served as Acting Governor of Mississippi during that time. In 1838, he became a judge on the High Court of Errors and Appeals.
Quitman circa 1846.On July 1, 1846, during the Mexican-American War, Quitman abandoned politics and enlisted in the military with the rank of Brigadier General of Volunteers. He commanded a brigade under Zachary Taylor in northern Mexico.
After the Battle of Monterrey he was sent to join Winfield Scott's expedition. He led the 2nd Brigade in the Volunteer Division at the Siege of Veracruz and On April 14, 1847 he was promoted to the rank of Major General in the Regular Army, and fought at Cerro Gordo.
In the battle, Robert Patterson, the division commander, was wounded and command passed to Quitman. Reinforcements arrived from Veracruz including about 300 marines and were organized into a new brigade under Colonel Watson. The Volunteer Division was divided into two new divisions with Shields' and Watson's brigade being designated the 4th Division with Quitman in command. In this new capacity Quitman fought at the battles of Contreras and Churubusco. He commanded the southern assault during the battle of Chapultepec and received the surrender of the citadel within Mexico City.
With the fall of Mexico City, General Scott appointed Quitman as Military Governor of Mexico City during the U.S. occupation, being the only American to rule from in the National Palace. He received an honorable discharge on July 20, 1848, and returned to Mississippi, serving as Governor of Mississippi in 1850 and 1851.
It was in his capacity as governor that Quitman was approached by the filibuster Narciso López to lead his filibuster expedition of 1850 to Cuba. He turned down the offer because of his desire to serve out his term as Governor, but did offer assistance to López in obtaining men and material for the expedition. López’s effort ended in failure and the repercussion led to Quitman’s being charged with violations of neutrality law and his resignation from the post of Governor so that he could defend himself. The charges were dropped after three hung juries allowed him to avoid conviction.
With the encouragement of President Franklin Pierce, Quitman, with assistance from later Confederate General Mansfield Lovell, began preparations in July 1853 for a filibuster expedition of his own. The preparations were nearly complete, with several thousand men prepared to go, when in May 1854 the administration reversed course and undertook steps to stop what it had almost put into motion, presumably because it felt that in the wake of the furor over the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act that action to add slaveholding territory such as Cuba would cause irreparable damage to the Democratic Party in the North.
Return to politics
On March 4, 1855, Quitman was elected to the Thirty-fourth Congress for the Democratic Party, and served in that and the ensuing Congress until his death. In Congress, he was Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs.
Quitman died on his plantation, “Monmouth,” near Natchez, Mississippi on July 17, 1858, aged 58, apparently from the effects of National Hotel Disease, which he contracted during the inauguration of President James Buchanan. He was buried in the Natchez City Cemetery in Natchez, Mississippi.
The towns of Quitman, Texas, county seat of Wood County, Texas, Quitman, Mississippi, county seat of Clarke County, Mississippi, Quitman, Georgia, of Brooks County, Georgia, Quitman, Missouri, of Nodaway County, Missouri and Quitman County, Mississippi are named after him. The west Texas military installation Fort Quitman was named in his honor.