Skip to main content

Henry L. Benning-Seaborn Jones Collection

Identifier: MC 6

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the collection deals with the financial transactions of (and especially debts owed to) Seaborn Jones, the records of his (and to a lesser degree Benning's) law practice, and the Civil War correspondence and records of Henry L. Benning. T he legal papers contain copies of suits and various estate proceedings for a wide variety of individuals; these items reflect other aspects of antebellum life in Georgia, particularly the institution of slavery. Jones's papers included a leather packet containing approximately 150 items, most of these were notes or debts owed to him, apparently at the time of his death. They reflect his business activities and the financial practices of the period. Benning's war correspondence deals with his service throughout the war and includes orders sent to him, reports of engagements, both those sent to him and those he submitted to his superiors. Much of this material probably also appears in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, but it does include original material about his actions.

The Benning portion of this collection was originally given on loan to the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina. They arranged it and microfilmed it and returned it to Columbus. It was then donated to the Columbus Museum of Arts and Sciences by Mrs. Henry Pease along with the material relating to Seaborn Jones. This collection was transferred to the Columbus College Archives at the same time as the Alva C. Smith Collection and the Columbus Museum Collection. C. Dexter Jordan, Harold Martin, and Frank Schnell played important roles in allowing the Columbus College Archives to acquire these significant collections in the first year of its existence.

At the time Mrs. Pease donated this collection to the Columbus Museum of Arts and Sciences, she also donated another box of materials, which included memorials for Henry L. Benning and some organizational pins belonging to Anna Carolina Benning and Mary Howard Benning. These items might be considered as an adjunct collection to the Benning-Jones Collection. They reached the Columbus College Archives as part of the Columbus Museum Collection and they have not been separated from that collection.


  • 1795 - 1845

Biographical / Historical

Seaborn Jones, Jr.- a distinguished jurist, politician, planter, business entrepreneur, and military leader-was born in Augusta, Georgia, in 1788. Admitted to the bar in 1808, he practiced law in Milledgeville and served in the Georgia Senate. During the War of 1812, he served as an aide to Governor Peter Early, holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel; later (1825) while acting as an aide to Governor George M. Troup, he accompanied General Marquis de Lafayette into western Georgia. He moved to that area about 1828 and, within a few years, built a suburban estate, El Dorado (St. Elmo after the 1870s). While he owned cotton-producing land in other counties, Colonel Jones never grew that staple at El Dorado (St. Elmo). His wife's family (Mary Howard, whom he married in 1810) was also important in the establishment of Columbus. Jones created a flourishing law practice in Columbus, which later included both his son, John Abraham who was killed at Gettysburg, and his son-in-law, Henry L. Benning. Jones also invested in businesses such as City Mills, a grist mill which he began in 1828. A staunch Democrat, Jones served two terms in the U.S. Congress, 1833-1835 and 1845-1847; by 1860 he was a "fire-eating" (pro-secessionist) Democrat. At age 74, he served for a year in the Confederate army before an illness forced him to resign. He died two years later in 1864.

Henry L. Benning, best known as a Confederate general, was born in Columbia County, Georgia, and moved with his father, a prosperous planter to Harris County in 1832. Two years later he finished first in class at the University of Georgia. He read law under former Governor George W. B. Towns in Talbotton, moving to Columbus in 1835, was admitted to the bar, married Seaborn Jones's daughter (Mary Howard) in 1839, and entered his father-in-law's firm. While successful by almost any measure, Benning always felt he should have had a more distinguished political career and always envied his classmate Howell Cobb, who served as Speaker of the U. S. House and whose grades had not been as high as Benning's. In 1840, Benning lost a race for the General Assembly. Ten years later, he attended the Nashville Convention and advocated secession; espousing the same philosophy Benning was soundly defeated in the 1851 Congressional race by Unionist James Johnson. The state legislature elected Benning to the Supreme Court in 1853. There, he claimed that state supreme courts were "coequal" with U. S. Supreme Court, but Benning was removed from the court by the legislature because of his involvement with a bank scandal. Benning supported secession in the Georgia Convention and went to Richmond to urge Virginia to follow suit. When war came, he raised the 17th Georgia Infantry and therefore, served as its Colonel. He served in 21 engagements starting with the Seven Days in the summer of 1862. He commanded Robert Toombs's brigade when Toombs was absent, which was frequent. At Sharpsburg, his unit held the high ground beyond the bridge over Antietam Creek and inflicted heavy casualties on Ambrose Burnside's troops, thus earning Benning the nickname of "Old Rock." He led an attack on Little Round Top on the second day at Gettysburg. Later, his troops were shifted to the West where they participated in the Confederate break-through at Chickamauga and later in the battle of Knoxville. In May 1864 he was wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness, but returned to the army before Petersburg. By that time he was commanding a division and would have been promoted to Brigadier had the war had not ended. After the war, Benning returned to Columbus and resumed the practice of law, dying on his way to the court in 1875.

Biographies of Jones and Benning can be found in the Dictionary of Georgia Biography and in older biographical works of famous Georgians.


2.5 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Related Materials

Louise Jones DuBose Collection, MC 2

Columbus Museum of Arts and Sciences Collection, MC 9

City Mills Collection, MC 90

Muscogiana Collections, MC 291

Billy Winn Papers, MC 297

In addition to the microfilmed Benning material at the University of North Carolina, other related manuscript collections are the Benning, Henry Lewis, Folder II, Names (Record Group 4, Sub-group 2, Series 46), Georgia Department of Archives & History, contains 4 pieces of his correspondence (1830s & 1872) and 4 letters (1934 & 1941) concerning him; the Seaborn Jones Family Papers, at the Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, includes some of Jones's correspondence, 1804-1811, which predates his moving to Columbus.

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Columbus State University Archives and Special Collections Repository

4225 University Ave
Columbus Georgia 31907 United States