Font Size: AAA

Matt W. Ransom (1826 - 1904)

Matt Whitaker Ransom was born on October 8, 1826, in Warren County, North Carolina, to his parents Robert and Prisilla Ransom. In 1847, Ransom graduated from the University of North Carolina and he began studying law. The young Ransom passed the North Carolina bar, later practicing law in his hometown. On January 19, 1853, Matt Ransom married Martha Exum, and the couple moved to Northampton County.

Ransom, a member of the Whig Party, became the youngest North Carolina Attorney General when he was elected to the position in 1852. In 1855, Ransom resigned from office, joining the Democratic shortly after his resignation. Before the start of the Civil War, Ransom served as a county legislator from 1858 until 1861, and he was selected as a Confederate delegate to the 1861 Confederate convention in Montgomery, Alabama.

When the Civil War started, Ransom enlisted in the Confederate Army and he was commissioned into the 35th North Carolina Infantry Division. Although he entered the army as a private, Ransom eventually took command of the 35th Infantry as a Brigadier General. Ransom proved an effective leader during the war, fighting in battles of Antietam, Fredricksburg, and Petersburg. In July of 1863, the recently promoted Brigadier General Ransom and his 35th North Carolina Regiment mounted a successful defense in Northampton County at the Battle of Boon’s Mill. At the end of the war, Ransom was present when Robert E. Lee yielded to the Union forces at Appomattox.

In 1866, Ransom moved to Weldon, North Carolina, to start a new law practice. As a Democrat who stressed the importance of Northern and Southern cooperation, Ransom campaigned for the Senate in 1872 after Zebulon Vance resigned from office. Ransom served in the Senate for over twenty years, and during the Fifty-third Congress, Senator Ransom served as president pro tempore.

In 1875, Senator Ransom delivered a speech that summed up his career in Congress: “I came from the true State of North Carolina to the Senate of the United States with a sacred purpose to reconcile the once divided people of my country...To accomplish it, no sacrifice seemed too dear, except the dishonor of my State.”

In 1895, Ransom lost his seat to an Populist party candidate, but he soon received a presidential appointment as Minister of Mexico in 1897. Ransom served as foreign minister to Mexico until 1897, when he decided to return to his home in Northampton County. Senator Ransom passed away on October 8, 1904, and he was buried on his estate in Weldon.


“Matt W. Ransom.” North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program website. A Division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. (Accessed March 1, 2012).

“Ransom, Matt Whitaker.” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress., (accessed March 1, 2012).

“Matt W. Ransom Papers, 1845-1914.” SHC Staff; Jessica Sedgwick. The University Library of UNC-Chapel Hill website.,Matt_W.html, (accessed March 1, 2012).

“Boon’s Mill, Battle of.” William S. Powell, ed. Encyclopedia of North Carolina (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC 2006).

By Jonathan Martin, North Carolina History Project

See Also:

Related Categories: Political History, Civil War
Related Encyclopedia Entries: Constitution of 1835, Whig Party, Henry Toole Clark, Samuel T. Sawyer (1800 - 1865), Edward Bishop Dudley (1789 – 1855) , John Motley Morehead (1796-1866), David Lowry Swain (1801-1868), William Alexander Graham (1804-1875), Willie P. Mangum (1792 - 1861), Asa Biggs (1811 - 1878), State v. Negro Will (1834) and State v. Manuel (1838), Bedford Brown (1795 - 1870), John W. Ellis (1820-1861), Bunker Hill Covered Bridge, Secession, Salem Brass Band, Confederate States Navy (in North Carolina), United States Navy (Civil War activity), James Iredell Waddell (1824-1886), CSS Neuse, USS Underwriter, Warren Winslow (1810-1862), Prelude to the Battle of Averasboro, The Battle of Averasboro-Day One, Louis Froelich and Company, Louis Froelich (1817-1873), North Carolina Button Factory, CSA Arms Factory, Ratification Debates, Peace Party (American Civil War), Braxton Bragg (1817-1876), Daniel Harvey Hill (1821-1889), Battle of Bentonville, Bryan Grimes (1828-1880), Fort Hatteras, Fort Fisher, Fort Clark, Fort Macon, Daniel Russell (1845-1908), The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet It, Union League, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Levi Coffin (1798 – 1877), Battle of Forks Road, Aaron McDuffie Moore (1863-1923), Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897) , Fort Anderson (Confederate), Battle of Deep Gully and Fort Anderson (Federal), James T. Leach (1805-1883), Sarah Malinda Pritchard Blalock (1839-1903), Thomas Bragg (1810-1872), Curtis Hooks Brogden (1816-1901), Zebulon Baird Vance (1830-1894), Alamance County (1849), Gates County (1779), Clay County (1861), Lenoir County (1791), Union County (1842), Teague Band (Civil War), Fort Hamby Gang (Civil War), Shelton Laurel Massacre , Parker David Robbins (1834-1917), Henry Eppes (1831-1917), Washington County (1799), Hertford County (1759), Rutherford County (1779), Granville County (1746), Salisbury Prison (Civil War), Stoneman's Raid, James City, Fort York, Thomas Clingman (1812 - 1897), St. Augustine's College, Peace College, Election Case of Joseph Abbott and Zebulon Vance, Stephen Dodson Ramseur (1837 - 1864) , Vance Birthplace, Matthew Calbraith Butler (1836-1909), Wade Hampton III (1818-1902), The Battle of Monroe's Crossroads (March 10, 1865), Carolinas Campaign (January 1865-April 1865), William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891), Confederate Surrender at Bennett's Place (April 17-26, 1865), Hugh Judson Kilpatrick (1836-1881) and the Carolinas Campaign, Joseph Eggleston Johnston (1807-1891) and the Carolinas Campaign
Related Commentary: Graham Brothers, Toward an Inclusive History of the Civil War: Society and the Home Front, Edward Bonekemper on the Cowardice of General McClellan, Freedmen’s Bank Served Blacks in Post-Civil War Economy, N.C. Played Crucial Role At Civil War’s End
Related Lesson Plans: Discussion of the Lunsford Lane Narrative
Timeline: 1776-1835 , 1836-1865 , 1866-1915
Region: Piedmont Plateau

© 2016 John Locke Foundation | 200 West Morgan St., Raleigh, NC 27601, Voice: (919) 828-3876
Website design & development by DesignHammer Media Group, LLC. Building Smarter Websites.