William Feimster Tucker was born in Iredell County, North Carolina, on 9 May 1827. He graduated from Emory and Henry College in Virginia in 1848 and moved to Houston, Mississippi, where he taught for several years before being elected probate judge of Chickasaw County in 1855. Tucker courted and wed Martha Josephine Shackelford, the daughter of a prominent planter. He studied law, was admitted to the bar, and was a practicing attorney in Okolona when the Civil War began. Tucker was appointed a captain in the Mississippi militia in January 1861 and in May entered Confederate service as a captain in the 11th Mississippi Infantry. He fought with that unit at First Bull Run (Manassas) in Barnard E. Bee’s brigade. His company was transferred to the West, where it became part of the 41st Mississippi Infantry, and Tucker was commissioned colonel of the regiment on 8 May 1862.
Tucker and his regiment fought with distinction on a number of battlefields, including Perryville, Kentucky, where Tucker was wounded in the right arm; Stones River (Murfreesboro), Tennessee; Chickamauga, Georgia; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. He won promotion to brigadier general on 1 March 1864 and led a brigade of five Mississippi infantry regiments, including his old command. Tucker was wounded again early in the Atlanta Campaign at Resaca on 14 May 1864, while his brigade was in reserve and he was observing the movements of the enemy. His left arm was severely damaged, probably by an artillery shell fragment, and surgeons amputated a portion of it. With two bad arms, he was forced to retire from active field duty. In April and May 1865 he commanded the District of Southern Mississippi and Eastern Louisiana and negotiated the cessation of hostilities in that region. He was paroled on 15 May 1865.
Tucker returned to Chickasaw County and resumed his law practice. He served in the Mississippi state legislature from 1876 to 1878. On 14 September 1881 Tucker was assassinated at his home by an assailant who fired through an open bedroom window, striking Tucker in the chest and killing him almost immediately. Although several people were questioned in connection with Tucker’s murder, no one was ever prosecuted, and the identity of the assassin remains unknown.
- Harold A. Cross, They Sleep beneath the Mockingbird: Mississippi Burial Sites and Biographies of Confederate Generals (1994)
- John H. Eicher and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands (2001)
- Ezra J. Warner, Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders (1959)
- Jack D. Welsh, Medical Histories of Confederate Generals (1995)