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Milton W. Humphreys


Soldier and scholar Milton Wiley Humphreys (September 13, 1844-November 20, 1928) was born in Greenbrier County and was educated at Mercer Academy and Washington College, now Washington and Lee University. During the Civil War, on March 27, 1862, he enlisted in the Confederate service as a sergeant in Bryan’s Battery, Virginia Artillery. At the battle of Fayetteville, May 19, 1862, Sergeant Humphreys fired his cannon at Union artillery from behind an intervening forest. The shells rained down on the Union fort, and troops thought they came from the sky. This demonstration set a precedent for modern warfare by the use of indirect fire.

Humphreys served throughout the war and was paroled at Charleston, June 12, 1865. After the war he became noted as an authority on gunnery and ballistics. As a professor of Greek and ancient languages Humphreys taught at Washington and Lee University, Vanderbilt University, the University of Texas, and finally the University of Virginia. Professor Humphreys was a commissioner to the World’s Fair at Vienna, and in 1882 was elected president of the American Philological Association. In 1926, he published a memoir of his Civil War service titled Military Operations 1861–1863 at Fayetteville, West Virginia. He died at Charlottesville, Virginia, at the age of 84 and is buried in the University of Virginia Cemetery.

Written by Tim McKinney


  1. McKinney, Tim. Civil War in Fayette County. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1988.

  2. Scott, John L. Lowry's, Bryan's and Chapman's Batteries of Virginia Artillery. Lynchburg: H. E. Howard, 1988.