The son of transplanted Virginians, Winfield Scott Featherston was born on 8 August 1820 near Murfreesboro in Rutherford County, Tennessee. He volunteered for military service against the Creek Indians before studying law, moving to Mississippi, and gaining admission to the bar. Featherston built a successful law practice and entered the political arena, winning election to the US Congress as a Democrat in 1846 and 1848 but losing his bid for reelection in 1850. He remained a leading political voice in Mississippi, and in 1860 the state sent him to Kentucky to discuss secession with officials there.
With the outbreak of the Civil War, Featherston served as colonel of the 17th Mississippi Infantry. In 1862 he received a promotion to the rank of brigadier general. He participated in a number of battles in Virginia, including First and Second Bull Run, Ball’s Bluff, Yorktown, Williamsburg, and Fredericksburg, and he was wounded at Glendale. He was later transferred to the Western Theater, where he served during the Vicksburg and Atlanta Campaigns before accompanying John Bell Hood on his ill-fated invasion of Tennessee. Featherston was among the Confederate forces who surrendered with Joseph E. Johnston at Durham Station, North Carolina, in 1865.
Featherston returned to Mississippi after the war, reestablishing both his law practice and his political career. Once Reconstruction ended, he served two terms in the Mississippi legislature, and in 1882 he became judge of the state’s second judicial circuit. In 1890 he served as a delegate to the Mississippi Constitutional Convention, where he contributed as a member of the judiciary committee. Featherston lived to see the new state constitution ratified but died in 1891 at his home in Holly Springs.
- Winfield Scott Featherston, Subject Files, Mississippi Department of Archives and History
- Stewart Sifakis, Who Was Who in the Civil War (1988)