The First Families Project - SC - Edgefield County - Bonham Family
Brigadier-General Milledge Luke Bonham was born near Red Bank, Edgefield district, December 22, 1813, the son of Capt. James Bonham, who came from Virginia to South Carolina about the close of the last century, and married Sophie, daughter of Jacob Smith, niece of Capt. James Butler, head of an illustrious South Carolina family. The grandfather of General Bonham was Maj. Absalom Bonham, a native of Maryland and a soldier of the revolutionary war. General Bonham, after graduation at the South Carolina college, had his first military experience as a volunteer in the company of Capt. James Jones, in the Seminole war, and was promoted to brigade major, a position corresponding to adjutant-general of brigade. Subsequently, while beginning his career as a lawyer and legislator, he continued his association with the militia and attained the rank of major-general. When war began with Mexico he went to the front as lieutenant-colonel of the Twelfth United States infantry, and served with distinction, earning promotion to colonel, and remained in Mexico a year after the close of the war, as military governor of one of the provinces. Then returning home he resumed the practice of law, was elected solicitor of the southern circuit, and in 1856, upon the death of Preston S. Brooks, was chosen as the successor of that gentleman in Congress. Upon the secession of the State he promptly resigned and was appointed commander-in-chief of the South Carolina army, with the rank of major-general. In this capacity, and waiving all questions of rank and precedence, at the request of Governor Pickens, he served upon the coast in hearty cooperation with General Beauregard, sent there by the provisional government of the Confederate States. At a later date he was commissioned brigadier-general in the provisional army, and he took to Richmond the first troops, not Virginian, that arrived for the defense of the capital. His regiments were commanded by Colonels Kershaw, Williams, Cash and Bacon, and were conspicuous in the operations before Washington and in the first battle of Manassas. Afterward, in consequence of a disagreement with the war department, he resigned and was elected to the Confederate Congress. In December, 1862, he was elected governor of the State, an office which he filled with credit. In January, 1865, he was appointed to command of a brigade of cavalry, in the organization of which he was engaged at the close of military operations. His subsequent career was marked by the same ardent patriotism. As a delegate to President Grant from the taxpayers' convention, and a supporter of the revolution of 1876, he rendered the State valuable service. He was the first railroad commissioner of South Carolina, in 1878, and subsequently chairman of the commission until his death, August 27, 1890. As a soldier he is described as "one of the finest looking officers in the entire army. His tall, graceful figure, commanding appearance, noble bearing and soldierly mien, all excited the admiration and confidence of his troops. He wore a broad-brimmed hat with a waving plume, and sat his horse with the knightly grace of Charles the Bold or Henry of Navarre. His soldiers were proud of him, and loved to do him homage. While he was a good disciplinarian, so far as the volunteer service required, he did not treat his officers with any air of superiority."'
SOURCE: Confederate Military History - SC Volume