Adelbert Ames: Twenty-seventh and Thirtieth Governor of Mississippi: 1868-1870;1874-1876
When Governor Benjamin G. Humphreys was removed from office June 15,
1868, President Andrew Johnson appointed Adelbert Ames provisional governor
of Mississippi. At the time of his appointment Ames was also the military
governor of the fourth military district which had been established under
federal Reconstruction policy and included Arkansas and Mississippi. Ames
continued as both military and provisional governor until the reestablishment
of civil authority on March 10, 1870.
General Ames, who was born in Rockland, Maine, on October 31, 1835, was a highly decorated Union officer. He won a Congressional Medal of Honor at the first Battle of Bull Run and a battlefield promotion at the Battle of Gettysburg. Ames is known as a “carpetbagger,” a term that referred to northerners who held office in the South after the Civil War.
Because Ames was a highly vocal advocate of black suffrage, he became enormously popular among Mississippi’s former slaves and emerged quickly as the leader of the Radical wing of the state’s newly established Republican Party. James L. Alcorn, the former Whig leader and wealthy Delta planter, was the leader of the moderate faction of the Republican Party.
After Mississippi was re-admitted to the Union in 1870, the legislature
appointed Ames to the U. S. Senate. In 1873, Senator Ames ran for governor
against James L. Alcorn, the other senator from Mississippi who had also
served as governor in 1870 and 1871. Most of the state’s black leaders
supported Ames and most of the white leaders supported Alcorn. Several
blacks were elected to statewide office in 1873, including Alexander K.
Davis who was elected lieutenant governor.
In the fall elections of 1875, more violent disturbances occurred and Governor Ames called out the state militia to maintain order. His use of the militia incited more unrest and there was widespread violence, fraud, and voter intimidation during the election. The Democratic Party secured a large majority in the state legislature in the 1875 elections and regained control of most county governments.
When the Democratic legislature convened in January 1876, impeachment
charges were brought against Governor Ames and several other Republican
officials, including Alexander K. Davis the lieutenant governor. In most
cases, especially with Governor Ames and Lieutenant Governor Davis, who
was impeached and removed from office, the charges were politically motivated
and were used to drive the Republicans from office. When it became apparent
that Governor Ames would be convicted and removed from office, his lawyers
arranged a compromise with the state legislature. Governor Ames resigned
from office, and the impeachment charges were dropped.
David Sansing, Ph.D., is history professor emeritus, University of Mississippi.
Posted December 2003
Ames, Blanche. Adelbert Ames, 1835-1933 (New York, 1964).
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (1950), 778.
Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1912), 74.
Rowland, Dunbar. Mississippi Comprising Sketches in Cyclopedic Form I. 84-109.
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