Edmund Ruffin

Politician, Author

1794 – 1865


Who was Edmund Ruffin?

Edmund Ruffin was a wealthy Virginia planter and slaveholder who in the 1850s was a political activist known as one of the Fire-Eaters. He advocated states' rights and justified slavery, arguing for secession years before the Civil War. Ruffin is credited as "firing the first shot of the Civil War" at the Battle of Fort Sumter, and served as a Confederate soldier despite his advanced age.

But, Ruffin in the long term has been more influential for his pioneering work in methods to preserve and improve soil productivity; he recommended crop rotation and additions to restore soils exhausted from tobacco monculture. Early in his career, he studied bogs and swamps to learn how to correct soil acidity. He published essays and in 1852 a book on his findings for improving soils. He has become known as "the father of soil science" in the United States. He was among a circle of intellectuals who sought reformation in the South.

He also wrote books on slavery and the economy of the South, and a comparison between conditions of slavery and those of free labor in the North.

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Jan 5, 1794
Prince George County
  • United States of America
  • College of William & Mary
Lived in
  • Virginia
Jun 17, 1865

on July 23, 2013


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