In 1827, John Anthony Quitman was elected to the legislature. From 1828 to 1834 he held the office of chancellor of the state and in 1835 he was chosen to fill the unexpired term of Governor of the state. In 1836, he enlisted, largely financed, and commanded a group of forty mounted volunteers, who went to Texas to aid the revolution. But, the company arrived a few days after the decisive battle.
General Quitman reached his greatest national fame during the War with Mexico. In 1846, Quitman was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers in the United States Army. His command was the first to assault and take an enemy fortification in Zachary Taylor’s frontal attack at Monterey. On April 14, 1847, General Quitman was promoted to Major-General in the army, the first Mississippian to ever gain that rank.
In the Winfield Scotts army, Quitman’s division was responsible for the great American Victory at Chapultpec. His command was the first to breach the immediate defenses of Mexico City. To rally his troops he tied his red silk handkerchief to the bayonet of a rifle and he led the charge that won that day. We have received the red silk handkerchief from the great-great grandchildren of John and Eliza Quitman, which is framed in the Quitman Study. Quitman and his troops were the first to march into the Mexican capitol upon its surrender. Scott, thereupon, appointed him civil and military governor of Mexico City. For his valor during the war with Mexico and, in particular, for his attack on Monterey, President Polk presented General Quitman with a Gold Sword.