Author: David E. Goldberg

a doctoral student at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia

George Wythe Randolph (1818–1867)

George Wythe Randolph was a lawyer, Confederate general, and, briefly, Confederate secretary of war during the American Civil War (1861–1865). The grandson of former U.S. president Thomas Jefferson, Randolph hailed from an elite Virginia family but largely shunned public life until John Brown‘s raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. He supported secession, founded the Richmond Howitzers, joined the Confederate army, and fought at the Battle of Big Bethel (1861). Appointed the Confederacy’s third secretary of war in March 1862, he helped to reform the War Department at a time when the Confederate capital at Richmond was threatened by Union general George B. McClellan‘s Peninsula Campaign (1862). Randolph helped to improve procurement and authored the Confederacy’s first conscription law, having already done the same for Virginia. His independence and focus on the strategic importance of the West put him into conflict with Confederate president Jefferson Davis, and he resigned in November 1862, his health failing. He died of tuberculosis in 1867.