Nathaniel Harrison Harris, a lawyer, Confederate general, and businessman, was born on 22 August 1834 in Natchez. After receiving a law degree from the University of Louisiana, he practiced with his brother in Vicksburg. At the outbreak of the Civil War he organized the Warren Rifles and was elected captain. The unit was mustered into state service in April 1861 and entered the Confederate Army in Richmond as Company C of the 19th Mississippi Infantry Regiment.
In July 1861 Harris and his troops joined Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s army confronting Union forces in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. On 21 July they were ordered to Manassas, but they arrived too late to take part in the battle there. Harris spent the rest of 1861 in Northern Virginia and in the spring of 1862 was ordered to Yorktown to meet George B. McClellan’s advance on Richmond. Col. L. Q. C. Lamar praised Harris for gallantry after the Battle of Williamsburg on 5 March 1862, and he received a promotion to major. Harris subsequently took part in the Battle of Seven Pines, the Seven Days’ Campaign, and the Second Battle of Manassas. Following the Battle of Antietam he received a promotion to lieutenant colonel. Later in 1862 he commanded troops at the Battle of Fredericksburg.
In April 1863 Harris became a full colonel. His command was heavily engaged at the Battle of Chancellorsville, where it participated in Stonewall Jackson’s flank attack, and at Gettysburg, where it assaulted the Union position on Cemetery Ridge. Following the Battle of Bristoe Station, Harris was promoted to brigadier general. He took part in the Battles of the Wilderness and of Spotsylvania Courthouse, where he was involved in fighting at Bloody Angle. He also commanded troops at the Battle of Cold Harbor.
Harris’s command was placed along the lines around Petersburg when the city came under siege in June 1864, and his troops took part in several efforts to prevent Union forces from cutting the Weldon Railroad. In March 1865 he was sent to the inner defense lines of Richmond to meet Philip Sheridan’s raid. Harris’s forces were hurriedly sent back to Petersburg when the lines there appeared on the verge of breaking, and his troops were called on to man Fort Gregg and Fort Whitworth. There, despite high casualties, they delayed the Union Army long enough for Robert E. Lee to evacuate his army. Harris ultimately surrendered at Appomattox on 9 April 1865.
After the war Harris returned to Vicksburg to resume his law practice and later became president of the Mississippi Valley and Ship Island Railroad. In 1885 he was appointed registrar of the US Land Office in Aberdeen, South Dakota. In 1890 he moved to San Francisco to pursue business opportunities there. He died while on a trip to Malvern, England, on 23 August 1900.
- Dictionary of American Biography (1931)
- Dunbar Rowland, Military History of Mississippi, 1803–1898 (1908)
- Jack Welsh, Medical Histories of Confederate Generals (1995)