A Civil War Biography

James Conner

Conner was born 1 September 1829 in Charleston , South Carolina. He graduated from South Carolina College in 1849 and read law under James L. Petigru, a prominent Charleston lawyer and former South Carolina state's attorney most noted for his strong Unionist views during the Secession Convention in South Carolina. Conner was admitted to the bar in 1852 and established a practice. In 1856 he was appointed US district attorney from his native state. He remained in that position until 1860 when he resigned as the secession of South Carolina seemed likely.

Conner was a member of the Secession Convention. As the captain of Company A in the Montgomery Guards, a local militia company, he took part in the capture of Fort Sumter after turning down an appointment as Confederate district attorney from South Carolina. The Montgomery Guards became part of Wade Hampton's South Carolina Legion and Conner fought at First Manassas actually commanding the legion after Hampton was wounded. Conner was promoted to major on 21 July 1861 and saw action at Yorktown and Seven Pines then was appointed colonel of the 22nd North Carolina regiment. In command of the 22nd Conner was wounded in the leg at Gaines Mills. After recuperating for two months he returned to the 22nd and led them at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.

For unknown reasons Conner appears to have resigned on 13 August 1863. He became a member of the military court of the II Corps with the rank of colonel of cavalry. He was promoted to brigadier general on 1 June 1864 and commanded Samuel McGowan's brigade in the III Corps while McGowan recuperated following wounding at Spotsylvania. At one point Conner, as an acting major general, commanded the division. Once McGowan returned to duty Conner was assigned command of Joseph Kershaw's brigade in the I Corps after Kershaw was raised to division command. He commanded the brigade at Petersburg. He led the brigade into the Shenandoah Valley and on 13 October 1864 in a skirmish near Cedar Creek was again wounded in the left leg, this time necessitating amputation. He would see no further field duty. The paper work promoting Conner to major general was submitted but failed to reach him before the war ended.

Following the war Conner returned to Charleston and his law practice. He served as assistant counsel and solicitor of the South Carolina railroad. He also served as counsel for the Bank of Charleston. He was the receiver of the Greenville & Columbia railroad. In 1876 he was chairman of the Democratic executive committee of South Carolina, and was elected attorney general on the ticket headed by Wade Hampton. Conner is credited with keeping the peace allowing Hampton to defeat the carpetbaggers threatening to take control of the state. Conner died 26 June 1883.

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