MILLEDGE LUKE BONHAM was born in Red Bank, Edgefield District, South Carolina. After graduating from South Carolina College, he studied law and began a private law practice in Edgefield in addition to being a planter. He had a distinguished military career, starting with his command of the South Carolina Brigade in the Seminole War. He then held the rank of Major General in the South Carolina Militia, after which he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel (and then promoted to Colonel) of the Twelfth Infantry by President James K. Polk. During the Mexican War he was appointed Lieutenant Coloel of a U.S. Army brigade and was appointed military governor of a Mexican province when the war ended, a position in which he remained for one year. He was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the South Carolina troops around Charleston in 1860 but waived his rank and served instead under Confederate Brigadier-General P.G.T. Beauregard. He was appointed Brigadier-General in the Confederate Army in 1861, resigning one year later when he became governor, although he was reappointed a Brigadier-General of Cavalry in February 1865. Bonham served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1840 to 1844, was Solicitor of the Southern Circuit of South Carolina from 1848 to 1857, served in the U.S House of Representative from 1857 to 1860 (where he was when the Civil War broke out), and served in the Confederate States House of Representatives in 1862. Despite South Carolina’s significant contribution to the war effort, the economy suffered shortages and inflation during Bonham’s gubernatorial administration, and the increasing prospect of defeat led to the loss of support for secessionist politicians. After Bonham’s gubernatorial term expired, he rejoined the Confederate Army, serving until the Civil War ended, after which he resumed his law practice, returned to planting, and operated an insurance business. He was a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1865 to 1867, a delegate to the Democratic National Convention of 1868, and a member of the South Carolina Taxpayers’ Conventions of 1871 and 1874. He also served for a time as South Carolina Railroad Commissioner.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 12. New York: James T. White & Company.