Milton Humphreys enlisted in the Confederate army on March 27, 1862. The Greenbrier County native served in Bryan’s Battery of the Virginia Artillery. It was only two months before he entered the annals of military history.
During a battle at Fayetteville in May 1862, Sergeant Humphreys fired his cannon at Union artillery from behind an intervening forest. When the shells rained down on a Union fort, the troops thought they’d come from the sky. This technique, known as indirect fire, was a first in battle and would become a precedent for modern warfare.
After serving out the remainder of the war, Humphreys became well-known as an authority on gunnery and ballistics. He was also a professor of Greek and ancient languages, teaching at Washington and Lee University, Vanderbilt University, the University of Texas, and the University of Virginia.
He later was a commissioner to the Vienna World’s Fair and promoted the study of languages as president of the American Philological Association. In 1926, he published a memoir of his Civil War service. Milton Humphreys died in Charlottesville, in 1928, at age 84.