What happened to federal judges in the South during the Civil War?

August 1st, 2016

After the outbreak of the Civil War, all federal judges in the South resigned, save one–West. H. Humphrey’s of the District of Tennessee. The Eastern District of Tennessee’s Historical Society had this account in its 2011 newsletter:

In his oral history, conducted by the Court Historical Society in As the country observes the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil war this spring, it’s worth mentioning here the unusual circumstances involving the U.S. district judge who served the Tennessee District during those days–West H. Humphreys of Clarksville.

There were three district court jurisdictions in Tennessee at that with one judge presiding over all three–Judge Humphreys. When Tennessee seceded from the Union in June 1861, Judge Humphreys accepted an appointment as a Confederate district judge, but he did not resign from his federal judgeship like all federal judges of other seceded states did.

The U.S. Senate impeached Humphreys in 1862, barring him from holding future office in the United States government. Humphreys continued to sit on the Confederate bench in Knoxville until 1863, when the city was captured by federal forces. Humphreys fled to Alabama. Hew as captured there in December 1864 but was later exchanged as a prisoner of war.

In September 1865, he took an oath of allegiance to the United States and sought–and was granted–amnesty by President Johnson. [JB: A native of Tennessee]. Humphreys continued to practice law until his death in 1882.

The federal Judgeship that Humphreys held was filled by Knoxville lawyer Connally F. Trigg upon Humphrey’s impeachment. Trigg was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln and served until his death in 1880.

Richard Aynes wrote further on Humphreys’ impeachment.

H/T to longtime reader Stephen R.