John Camden West, Jr., lawyer and Confederate soldier, was born in Camden, South Carolina, on April 12, 1834, the son of John Camden and Nancy Clark (Eccles) West. He graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1854 and the next year moved to Texas to join his brother, Charles S. West, who had moved there some years earlier. In 1856 West briefly returned to South Carolina to marry Mary Eliza Stark of Columbia on April 14; they became the parents of three children. West read law in his brother's office and passed the Texas bar in 1858. He moved to Waco in 1859 to become headmaster of the Waco and Trinity River Classical School (see WACO UNIVERSITY). In April 1861 West enlisted in the Confederate Army as a private in Company E, Fourth Regiment, Hood's Texas Brigade. In May, Jefferson Davis appointed him to the provisional Confederate government as District Attorney of the Confederate State for the Western District of Texas. West resigned and enlisted in Speight's Regiment in March 1862, but Davis again appointed him district attorney when the permanent government was established. Determined to see action in the Civil War, West again resigned his position and reenlisted with Company E, Fourth Regiment, in April 1863; he fought at Gettysburg, Chickamauga, and Knoxville before being honorably discharged in February 1864. After his discharge West returned to Waco and set up a law practice. He published his war letters and the diary he kept of his experiences in the army in a volume entitled A Texan in Search of a Fight (1901). The book, which provided valuable insight into life as an enlisted soldier, became a collector's item; it was reprinted in 1969. West was a longtime member of the Waco Bar Association and of the Baptist church. The last surviving member of Company E, West died in Waco on July 12, 1927, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
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Dallas Morning News, July 15, 1927. John C. West, A Texan in Search of a Fight (Waco: Hill, 1901; rpt., Waco: Texian Press, 1969). Mamie Yeary, Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray (McGregor, Texas, 1912; rpt., Dayton, Ohio: Morningside, 1986).
Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl,
“West, John Camden, Jr.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 27, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
October 1, 1995
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: