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Confederate Attorneys General

Thomas Hill Watts

On March 19, 1862, Thomas Hill Watts (1819–92) was named to succeed Bragg as attorney general. He served more than a year, and he wrote 99 opinions on MARTIAL LAW, reorganization of the military under CONSCRIPTION, pay allowances, rights of prisoners of war, treasonable offenses, and many other issues related to military service and the war.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Watts had organized the Seventeenth Alabama Infantry Regiment and served as its colonel. He was commanding the regiment in Tennessee when he received the appointment as attorney general. Perhaps because of this background, he had a special affinity for the men on the front lines of the conflict and for men from his home state. He spent many hours visiting wounded Alabama soldiers at nearby field hospitals and camps.

Watts was born January 3, 1819, in Alabama Territory near the town of Greenville in presentday Butler County, Alabama. He was a middle son in a family of modest means. His parents, John Hughes Watts and Prudence Hill Watts, agreed to pay for his education at the University of Virginia if he agreed to forfeit any future claim to the family estate. He thought the bargain was a good one, and he graduated in 1839. He studied law locally and was admitted to the bar in 1840.

On January 10, 1842, he married Eliza Brown Allen. The Wattses had ten children. While practicing law and providing for his growing family, Watts served several terms in the Alabama legislature in the 1840s. In 1850, he made an unsuccessful bid for a congressional seat.

As war approached, Watts was an outspoken opponent of ABRAHAM LINCOLN and a firm believer in the right of an individual state to determine its future. While serving as attorney general, Watts left the office in the hands of Keyes on several occasions in order to return home and tend to state business. During the course of those visits, he decided to make a bid for the Alabama governorship in 1863. He was successful. Following his election, he resigned his position as attorney general effective October 1, 1863.

Watts's term as governor of Alabama ended with the fall of the Confederacy. For his part in the rebellion, Watts lost his personal fortune in land and slaves, and, in 1865, he was sent to a Northern prison camp.

Three years later, he was pardoned by President ANDREW JOHNSON and permitted to return to Alabama to care for his ailing wife. She died in 1873. Following her death, Watts moved to Montgomery, Alabama, and resumed the practice of law. He remarried in September 1875. Watts died in Montgomery on September 16, 1892.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Companies House to ConstituencyConfederate Attorneys General - Wade Keyes Jr., Thomas Bragg, Thomas Hill Watts, George Davis, Further Readings - Judah Philip Benjamin