Benjamin Grubb Humphreys was born on August 26, 1808, at The Hermitage, his father’s plantation in Claiborne County, Mississippi Territory. His parents were George Wilson and Sarah Smith Humphreys. His grandfather had been a colonel in the Continental Army during the Revolution.
Sarah died when Benjamin was young and his father sent him to live with his grandfather in Kenturcky. After attending school in New Jersey from 1821 to 1824 his father asked him to come home, and he worked as a store clerk for a time in Port Gibson.
Humphreys then attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he was in the same class as Robert E. Lee and Joseph E. Johnston. But he was expelled in 1826 after the Eggnogg Riot, a Christmas party that turned into a drunken brawl.
Humphreys returned to his father’s plantation as overseer. In March of 1832 he married Mary McLaughlin and moved to his own plantation on the Big Black River. But Mary died in 1835. Benjamin, his infant son Thomas, and his daughter Mary Elizabeth returned to the Hermitage. Thomas then died in 1838. Mary Elizabeth would go on to marry Jefferson Davis’ nephew Isaac Stamps, who would be killed at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Humphreys was elected in 1838 to the Mississippi House of Representatives and then to the Mississippi State Senate, serving from 1839 to 1844. In1839 he married Mildred Hickman Maurey, with whom he would have three sons, David, John, and Benjamin II. In 1846 he moved to Sunflower County and established his own plantation.
Humphreys opposed secession, but in 1861 he organized and became captain of a company, the Sunflower Guards. This became part o the 21st Mississippi Infantry Regiment, of which he was elected Colonel. The regiment was sent to Virginia, where it took part in all the major battles of the Army of Northern Virginia except Second Manassas.
At the Battle of Gettysburg, Humphreys took over the brigade as senior colonel after Brigadier General William Barksdale was mortally wounded. He was confirmed as permanent commander of the brigade and promoted to Brigadier General on August 14, 1863.
Humphreys continued to command the brigade until September of 1864, when he was badly wounded in the Battle of Berryville. Disabled for field command, he was reassigned to duty in southern Mississippi.
After the war Humphreys rebuilt his life in Mississipi. His plantation had been destroyed during the Vicksburg Campaign, but Humphreys went on to be elected Governor of Mississippi. He served in tandem with a provisional governor appointed by Washington. He won a second term in 1868, but was removed from office – physically – by the reconstruction administration in June after he repeatedly clashed and nullified the laws of Military Governor Adelbert Ames, a Union general.
Humphreys then began a career in insurance for the New York Life Insurance Company. He retired in 1877 to his plantation in Leflore County.
Benjamin Humphreys died on December 20, 1882. He is buried in Port Gibson, Mississippi in Wintergreen Cemetery.
Humphreys County, Mississippi is named after him. His son, Benjamin, went on to become a United States Congressman for twenty years.