A Civil War Biography

Absolom Madden West

West was born in Alabama in 1818. He received an irregular education before having to leave school at the age of 14. When he was 19 West set out on his own for Mississippi. As a proponent of internal improvements he became a Whig and in 1847 won election to the state legislature. He next was elected to the state senate where he served two terms. Because of his views on railroad and industrial development he was opposed to secession until the outbreak of the war.

Once Mississippi did secede West followed his adopted state. He was commissioned a brigadier general in the state forces and ordered to raise a brigade. In doing so his talent for administrative duties became apparent and from then on he was assigned to a variety of administrative posts. At one point he served as the Mississippi quartermaster-general, paymaster-general, and commissary-general simultaneously. He assumed authority over the state's salt works seeing to it that salt was provided both to the troops in the field and those that remained in Mississippi.. At his direction, the state legislature established a commission to audit the books of his offices. He assumed the presidency of the Mississippi Central Railroad in 1864 and kept the railroad running until the end of the war in spite of it being wrecked by the armies of both sides.

After the war ended West was instrumental in getting the Mississippi Central Railroad rebuilt and reorganized. Again proving his skills as an administrator he provided a complete accounting of the various offices he held during the war. Once the railroad had become marketable again it was purchased by the Illinois Central and West retired. His retirement did not last long, as he again was elected to the state senate. He was twice elected by the voters of Mississippi to serve as a representative in the US Congress but the House refused to seat the delegation. West helped form the Mississippi affiliate of the National Labor Union. He served as an elector for the 1876 Democratic national ticket and delivered the official Mississippi state address at the 1876 International exhibition. He was again elected to the state senate. By 1880 West embraced the Greenback-Labor ticket but that party's dismal showing in that year's national election and a recovering economy led many former Greenbacks to the National Anti-monopolist Party. The party met in Chicago and nominated Benjamin F. Butler as its presidential candidate. West was nominated as Butler's running mate. The party's platform primarily was to eliminate the transportation and communication monopolies that existed at the time. The remnants of the Greenback party would endorse the ticket as there own a few months later. The ticket's showing was terrible with the Butler/West ticket getting only 175,370 votes, 1.7% of the popular vote, and not a single electoral vote. Grover Cleveland would be elected president in 1884. Although West remained sympathetic he never again ventured onto the national political stage. He died 30 September 1894 at Holly Springs, Mississippi.

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