BONHAM, Milledge Luke, a Representative from South Carolina; born near Red Bank (now Saluda), Edgefield District, S.C., December 25, 1813; attended private schools in Edgefield District and at Abbeville, S.C.; was graduated from South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina) at Columbia in 1834; studied law; was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Edgefield in 1837; served as major and adjutant general of the South Carolina Brigade in the Seminole War in Florida in 1836; during the Mexican War was lieutenant colonel and colonel of the Twelfth Regiment, United States Infantry; major general of the South Carolina Militia; member of the State house of representatives 1840-1843; solicitor of the southern circuit of South Carolina 1848-1857; elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-fifth and Thirty-sixth Congresses and served from March 4, 1857, until his retirement on December 21, 1860; appointed major general and commander of the Army of South Carolina by Gov. F. W. Pickens in February 1861; appointed brigadier general in the Confederate Army April 19, 1861; resigned his commission January 27, 1862, to enter the Confederate Congress; elected Governor of South Carolina in December 1862 and served until December 1864; appointed brigadier general of Cavalry in the Confederate Army in February 1865; again a member of the State house of representatives 1865-1866; delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1868; member of the South Carolina taxpayers’ convention in 1871 and 1874; resumed the practice of law in Edgefield, engaged in planting, and also conducted an insurance business in Edgefield, S.C., and Atlanta, Ga., 1865-1878; appointed State railroad commissioner in 1878 and served until his death at White Sulphur Springs, N.C., August 27, 1890; interment in Elmwood Cemetery, Columbia, S.C.
“Bonham, Milledge Luke,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=B000616.
In the role of both politician and soldier, Bonham was a man of commanding presence, his appearance highlighted by gray-streaked hair, steely eyes, and an immaculately kept beard. His forceful personality was somewhat weakened by a difficult temper and a tendency to mood swings. From his twenties to the end of his public life he struck observers such as James Henry Hammond as "not of an equable temperament, being either full of hope or plunged in despair." High-minded and generous, he could also be condescending, imperious, and abrupt to the point of rudeness; during his Civil War military service, his staff referred to him behind his back as "the Dictator." His frequent squabbling with regular army and West Point-trained superiors such as Beauregard and his acute sensitivity to matters of seniority betrayed the worst traits of the citizen-soldier.
Edward G. Longacre, "Bonham, Milledge Luke," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-00120.html.