Louis Trezevant Wigfall was born on April 21, 1816, on a plantation near Edgefield, South Carolina, to Levi Durant and Eliza Thomson Wigfall. His father, who died in 1818, was a successful Charleston merchant before moving to Edgefield. His mother was of the French Huguenot Trezevant family. She died when Louis was 13 years old.
|Edgefield, South Carolina|
Tutored by a guardian until 1834, he then spent a year at Rice Creek Springs School, a military academy near Columbia, South Carolina, for children of the Southern elite. He then entered the University of Virginia. A perceived insult by another student prompted the first of many dueling challenges he would make, but the affair was resolved peaceably.
|University of Virginia|
|South Carolina College|
|Seminole Wars, Florida|
|Charlotte Maria Cross Wigfall|
|James Henry Hammond|
This initial foray into politics and the Brooks affair destroyed his law practice. He was elected delegate to the South Carolina Democratic convention in 1844, but his violent temperament and behind-the-scenes meddling had already doomed his youthful political ambitions. He piled up medical bills because of a sickly infant son who eventually died. Sheriff sales followed, swallowing up his Edgefield estate.
|James Hamilton, Jr.|
A cousin, James Hamilton, Jr., a former governor of South Carolina, arranged a fresh start and a law partnership for him in Texas. Wigfall joined William Ochigree's law practice at Nacogdoches, then settled in Marshall. He quickly dove back into politics, serving in the Texas House of Representatives from 1849 to 1850, and in the Texas Senate from 1857 to 1860.
The Texas legislature elected Wigfall to the United States Senate in 1859 as a Democrat to the 36th United States Congress. Wigfall served until March 23, 1861, when he withdrew.
After Abraham Lincoln was elected president, Wigfall coauthored the "Southern Manifesto," declaring that any hope for relief in the Union was gone and that the honor and independence of the South required the organization of a Southern Confederacy. Wigfall helped foil efforts for compromise to save the Union and urged all slave states to secede.
|Envelope with cartoon featuring Wigfall, Wise and Davis|
He went to Baltimore, Maryland and recruited soldiers for the new Confederacy before traveling to the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia.
|Bombardment of Sumter|
While serving as an aide to General P.G.T. Beauregard during the bombardment of Fort Sumter, and without authorization, he rowed a skiff out to the island fort and demanded its surrender from Major Robert Anderson.
|Confederate Flag flying at Fort Sumter|
With his newfound celebrity, Wigfall secured an appointment to full Colonel of the 1st Texas Infantry Regiment, and a rapid promotion to Brigadier General of the "Texas Brigade" in the Confederate Army.
Louise "Luly" Wigfall had been born in Rhode Island in 1846 (Charlotte Wigfall was visiting her mother, Frances Maria Halsey Cross, before the family went to join Wigfall in Texas) and was raised in Texas. She was 16 years old when the war began, and lived in the Confederate capital of Richmond during the war. She is mentioned frequently in Mary Chestnut's famous "Diary from Dixie" where she was briefly linked romantically with General John Bell Hood.
|Louise "Luly" Wigfall|
Mary Chesnut, in her Diary from Dixie, alluded to Wigfall's kind heart when she spoke of his "defense of the weak", and described him as the "very best husband I know, and the kindest father," even as she spoke of "how aggravating he can be."
She made a speech to a group of United Daughters of the Confederacy in late 1905. The speech begins, "It will be forty-one years on the 9th of next April since the flag of the Southern Confederacy was furled. That we are gathered here today, as a chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, proves that our love for that sacred banner, though hopeless, is as ardent as in the days of our youth when we watched its starry cross floating over our gallant hosts in grey; and the principles it embodies, and for which was shed the priceless blood of the men of the South, are today as true and as worthy of our faith and loyalty as then." And the closing comment was, "The Cause of the South was the love of my youth and I shall love it to the end!"