Barksdale was born in Smyrna, Tennessee, a son of William Barksdale and Nancy Hervey Lester. He was the younger brother of William Barksdale, the famed Confederate general who was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. Ethelbert Barksdale moved to Jackson, Mississippi, as a young man and later adopted journalism as a profession. He edited the official journal of the state from 1854–1861 and again from 1876-1883.
Near the war's end, in a desperate effort to provide soldiers for the Confederate Army, Rep. Barksdale introduced legislation that would permit "Negroes" to fight for the South against the Union. Initially it passed the Confederate House, was barely defeated in the Senate, but weeks later, a version of this "last resort" effort was eventually approved, though never implemented.
Returning to politics in postbellum Mississippi during Reconstruction, Barksdale served as delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 1860, 1868, 1872, and 1880. He served as chairman of the Democratic State executive committee from 1877-1879.
Barksdale was elected as a Democrat to the Forty-eighth and Forty-ninth Congresses (March 4, 1883 – March 3, 1887). He was an unsuccessful candidate for renomination in 1886, and then engaged in agricultural pursuits in Yazoo County.
- McPherson, James (7 October 2014). Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief. New York, NY: Penguin Press HC. p. 237. ISBN 978-1594204975. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- United States Congress. "Ethelbert Barksdale (id: B000146)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Mississippi's 5th congressional district
Charles E. Hooker
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