Civil War Generals

The gallant charge of Brigadier General John Adams

Confederate Brigadier General John Adams

       John Adams was born in Nashville, Tennessee on July 1, 1825. Adams entered West Point and graduated in 25th in the class of 1846. He fought in the Mexican War and was cited for gallantry at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Rosalea. He would spend the remainder of his career in the United States army fighting Indians out west.
       When the Civil War began, Adams would receive a commission of colonel in the cavalry and remain at that rank for the first two years of the war. One embarrassing incident occurred at Sweeden’s Cove, Tennessee, where his command was surprised by Federal forces and he would lose over a hundred men. Despite the mishap, General Joseph E. Johnston would recommend Adams for promotion to brigadier general. He would receive that promotion by May, 1863 and took command of Lloyd Tilghman’s Mississippi brigade after that officer’s death at the Battle of Champions Hill.
       He would spend the remainder of his life in command of this brigade. He saw action at Jackson, Mississippi during the Vicksburg Campaign. After the surrender of Vicksburg, his brigade would be transferred to Georgia, where they fought throughout the Atlanta Campaign.


John Adams early in the war

        Adams would be in lead the brigade when Hood’s army invaded Tennessee in the fall of 1864. At the Battle of Franklin, Adams was wounded in the arm early in the fight. His staff insisted he leave the field for medical attention. Adams refused, saying, “I am going to see my men through.”
       Once his brigade neared the breastworks, they came upon and impenetrable abatis of Osage Orange trees the Federal soldiers had chopped down in front of their works. Adams brigade came to a sudden halt and he understood for them to stay in this position meant certain death. He rode his horse west until he came to a gap in the abatis and directed his men to charge through. Leading by example, he turned his horse through the gap and charged the Federal breastworks alone. The Federal troops could hardly believe their eyes.
John Adams gallant charge at Franklin

       Colonel Scott Stewart of the 65th Illinois Infantry yelled for his men to hold their fire because he thought John Adams was too brave an officer to die this way. At that moment, Adams rode his horse upon the breastworks and attempted to snatch the regimental battle flag from the flag bearers hands. The color guard opened fire at once. Adams and his horse both collapsed in a heap, the horse landing on the leg of the general.
       When the firing had died down, the Federal soldiers climbed onto the works and pulled the general from beneath the horse. He had been hit by nine bullets, but was still alive. They made him a pillow of the cotton from the old gin house and gave him water. At this point, the Federal soldiers apologized for shooting such a brave man. Adams replied, “It is the fate of a soldier to die for his country.” He died a few minutes later and after dark, the Federal soldiers placed his body back among his men on the other side of the works.
       The next morning, his body was placed in a wagon beside the body of Major General Patrick Cleburne and carried back to the rear porch of the Carnton Plantation. His body was then carried to Pulaski, Tennessee where it rests today beside his wife in Maplewood Cemetery.
The grave of John Adams in Pulaski, Tennessee

       Like a lot of incidents that occur during the fog of war, Adams death would become controversial after the war. One soldier in the 65th Illinois reported that Federal troops found Adams in front of the earthworks, but the man was already dead. He stated the body was brought inside the Federal lines and placed near the cotton gin which caused many to believe the general had actually penetrated the Union lines.
       Federal General Jacob Cox stated that Adams and his horse were shot outside the breastworks. He claimed Adams horse charged ahead after being hit and died on top of the works. Adams, he reported, was shot through the legs and attempted to crawl away when he was shot to pieces. He originally stated that Adams was never brought inside the works, but later changed his story. Cox was in the vicinity, but in all likelihood he never witnessed the death of Adams personally and was only repeating a story he had heard.
       Colonel Casement, commander of the brigade that Adams charged, claimed in 1891 that he was the man who spoke with Adams. He said that Adams was conscious and uncomplaining and only desired to be placed back among friends.
       Tom Gore, a soldier in the 15th Mississippi Infantry said he saw Adams horse staggering after being hit by nine bullets. This account was soon accepted as false due to the fact that Adams cousin and adjutant, Captain Thomas Gibson stated that Adams horse named “Old Charlie” tended to squat close to the ground when under fire. With all the heavy firing at Franklin, it is almost certain that Adams horse did the same here, causing Gore and others to think the animal had been hit.
       Most historians today believe that Adams was hit on the enemy parapet and taken prisoner only to die within Federal lines. Most believe he was then returned to the Confederate side of the works after dark before the Federals retreated to Nashville. Whichever story is true, one thing is certain, Adams was one of the bravest officers in the Confederate army and few have led such a gallant charge in any war.

The Black Knight

      Turner Ashby

       Turner Ashby was born in Virginia in 1828. His father, Turner Ashby, Sr., served as a colonel in the War of 1812 and died while he was very young. His grandfather was a captain in the Revolutionary War. Turner Ashby was privately tutored and after finishing, he purchased a farm near his mother’s home. He named the home Wolf’s Crag.
Wolf’s Crag

       Turner Ashby was known for his chivalry, horseman ship, and as an avid outdoorsman. He was a natural leader and when the war began, he took command of a cavalry unit. The man was described as about five feet, eight inches, weighing about one hundred-sixty pounds and had a dark complexion from all the time he’d spent outdoors. He earned the nickname ‘Black Knight of the Confederacy’ because of his jet black hair and dark eyes. Always riding either a solid black horse or a solid white horse, he was a fearless leader. His command would follow him anywhere, but he was without formal military training and had lots of trouble because of his lack of discipline.
       Ashby was soon assigned to Stonewall Jackson’s command in the Shenandoah Valley. Jackson gave him the job of patrolling the Potomac River north of the valley. In an engagement there, his brother Richard Ashby would be killed. Turner was told that Richard was bayoneted to death while attempting to surrender. No one for certain exactly what happened there, but regardless, Turner believed the story. From that point forward, he hated Northern troops and fought with a vengeance.
Ashby in the militia uniform of Virginia before the war

       Ashby was soon promoted to colonel and given command of the 7th Virginia Cavalry Regiment. Many were pushing for Ashby to be promoted to brigadier general, but Jackson was against the idea. Jackson didn’t think Ashby was capable of higher command because of the lack of discipline in his command and no proper military training. A brave fighter, Ashby never learned how to properly drill his men. Despite what Jackson suggested, Ashby was promoted to brigadier general in May of 1862. He would hold that rank for just ten days.
       Although Ashby was brave to a fault, there were times when he failed Jackson. Cavalry being the eyes of an army, it was Ashby’s job to give Federal positions and troop strengths. At Kernstown, he greatly underestimated the size of the Union army. Jackson attacked the position and was defeated. Near Winchester, Virginia, after Jackson’s infantry had defeated Nathaniel Banks force, Ashby’s soldiers were too busy plundering captured wagons and allowed the retreating enemy to escape. Had Ashby’s men been trained properly and disciplined, most of Banks force would have been captured.
       On June 6, 1862, General Ashby was fighting a rearguard action near Harrisonburg, Virginia. His force was being attacked by both Federal cavalry and infantry. His men easily repulsed the first attack. When the second attack began, Ashby’s horse was killed. Rising from the ground, Ashby charged the enemy force, yelling, “Forward, my brave men!”
Monument marking the place where Ashby was killed
       Those were his last words. A bullet had hit him in the heart. He was killed instantly. It has been suggested that he could have been hit by friendly fire leading his men forward, but this seems highly unlikely. Turner Ashby’s body was carried to the Kemper Home in Port Republic, photographed and then laid out in one of the rooms. Jackson soon arrived to view his remains.
Frank Kemper Home

       Despite the differences between Jackson and his cavalryman, the Confederate commander retired to his tent when he learned of his Ashby’s death. He later wrote, “As a partisan officer I never knew his superior; his daring was proverbial; his powers of endurance almost incredible; his tone of character heroic, and his sagacity almost intuitive in divining the purposes and movements of the enemy.”
Room where Jackson viewed Ashby’s body

       Ashby rests today in the Stonewall Cemetery, Winchester, Virginia next to the body of his brother Richard. Turner Ashby was thirty-three years old.
Ashby photographed in death

Grave of both Turner and Richard Ashby

Confederate General Killed by D.U.I.?

William Edwin Baldwin
Brigadier General William Edwin Baldwin
Confederate Brigadier General William Edwin Baldwin was born in 1827 in South Carolina. He moved with his family at an early age to Columbus, Mississippi and that is where he would call home. As an adult, Baldwin owned a book store and served in a local militia company. He served as an officer in that company for twelve years.
When the Civil War began, he was made captain and the company became a part of the 14th Mississippi Infantry Regiment. The regiment was assigned to Pensacola, Florida where Baldwin became colonel commanding the regiment. He would soon be sent to Cumberland Gap and placed in charge of a brigade.
From there he was sent to Fort Donelson, Tennessee where he was placed in command of a brigade of Tennessee and Mississippi Infantry. His brigade led the breakout attempt there and he was commended for his courageous leadership. He was surrendered there with the rest of the fort and held prisoner of war for six months.
After being exchanged, Baldwin was promoted to brigadier general and sent to Mississippi. His brigade fought at the Battle of Port Gibson. During the siege of Vicksburg, Baldwin was wounded, but was soon back in command of his men. When Pemberton approached all his officers looking for support in surrendering his command, he received approval from all but one man. That man was William Baldwin who voted to hold out to the last man.
Baldwin was exchanged and sent to Mobile where he took command of a garrison of sixteen-hundred men. It was here that Baldwin would meet an early death. Although, many disagree as to what happened, we know that he died from a fall from his horse. It was reported that a stirrup broke and the fall resulted in his death.
As with all of history things are a little murky. Rumors were soon being spread that Baldwin had been intoxicated and riding his horse at high speed when he fell from the saddle. Many believe the story was changed to a broken stirrup in an attempt to save the man’s reputation.
Regardless of whether the rumors are true or not, William Edwin Baldwin was a brave officer and hero of the Civil War. Everyone makes mistakes and this should have no impact on the man’s war record.
William Edwin Baldwin was 36 years old. Initially buried in Mobile, he would be re-interred in Friendship Cemetery, Columbus, Mississippi where he rests today.
Resting place of General Baldwin

 

 

Nathaniel Prentiss Banks


       Ever wonder why certain generals of the Civil War were more loved by their men than others? I have a theory. First, let me set the stage.

       When Nathaniel Prentiss Banks ordered his second assault on Port Hudson against Franklin Gardner’s entrenched Confederate troops, he suffered over 1500 casualties in a very short time. His wounded lay suffering in the hot July sun and when the Southern troops attempted to go assist these poor men, they were fired on by the Federals on Banks’ orders. Gardner sent a flag of truce to Banks asking for a truce that his men may go out and bury Banks’ dead, Banks replied that he had no dead on the field. 

       One of Banks’ subordinates, General William Dwight had several Confederate officers send him messages asking for a truce to bury the dead and tend the wounded. Dwight replied, “No, sir, it is a strategem of the enemy to get the dead carcasses carried away from their works. No sir. I’ll stink the rebels out of the citadel with the dead bodies of these damned volunteers. If I cannot make the cowards take it by storm, as I have ordered them to do.” Surprisingly, Dwight wasn’t very loved by his troops either. The bodies of his troops lay on the field as the bones were picked clean by vultures until the siege ended. 


 

Ulysses Grant


       Many present day historians have attempted to re-write history by attempting to show what everyone during Civil War times knew about the man. Grant was nicknamed the “butcher” and apparently for good reason. More importantly, it wasn’t the people of the southern states who gave Grant this nickname, but his own people. 

       After Grant’s assault at Vicksburg, hundreds of dead and wounded lay between the lines in the Mississippi sun. The cries of the wounded caused Confederate troops to venture out in the night to give these poor men water. Confederate General James Pemberton asked Grant for a truce so Grant could bury his dead and recover the wounded. Pemberton even told Grant the southern troops would do this for Grant if he didn’t want to care for his own men. Grant refused citing that it would appear a weakness on his part to call a truce. The Confederate soldiers complained that Grant was attempting to stink them out of Vicksburg because he couldn’t take it. Finally, Grant’s own medical staff warned Grant that the bodies were bound to cause health and sanitation problems if not buried. Grant then relented. 

       After the bloody assaults at Cold Harbor which inflicted 9000 casualties on Grant’s army, he found himself again with hundreds of dead and wounded between the lines. Lee’s men had been entrenched and therefore had no bodies between the lines. Hancock asked his commander to ask for a truce to care for the wounded and bury the dead. 

       Grant understood that to ask Lee for a truce was the same as admitting he had been defeated in the climactic battle of his first campaign in the east. Therefore, he wrote Lee saying it has been reported to me there are wounded between the lines of both armies. If it was alright with Lee, anyone along the line could call a truce to attend these men. The wording of the note to Lee made it appear that Grant had been too busy to notice there were wounded men between the lines.

       Lee worried about misunderstandings with anyone along the line calling temporary truces replied to Grant that he would agree to a truce if Grant desired one, but it should be done by the commanders, not individual soldiers. Grant decided to pretend he misunderstood Lee. He wrote Lee saying he understood Lee wanted a flag of truce and would send the men out at noon the next day. 

       Lee was forced to write Grant again apologizing that he had not made himself clear. He stated that for a truce to be made it should be sent from one army commander to another in the proper military way. Grant finally conceded and requested the truce, but by the time he did so it was too late and the wounded lay between the lines another night. 

       It is interesting to note, that while Lee was eventually defeated by Grant, it is Lee who was more respected by his men. Although, some modern historians want us to think Grant was not what history labeled him, one can understand how he earned his nickname. His ego certainly ruled his decision making at times, where a commander who loved his men would have realized his mistake and asked for a truce right away. Of course there were commanders who cared too much for their men. Two such generals were McClellan and Joe Johnston who often refused to fight for fear of losing any men. These type men are poor commanders also. There is a fine line between a general who cares for his men and yet is able to send them to their deaths. Lee is an example of just that type commander. 

       


Fought Like Hell: William Barksdale

William Barksdale

       William Barksdale was born in 1821 in Tennessee.  His father had served in the War of 1812.  He moved to Columbus, Mississippi, became a lawyer and editor.  He was a captain in the Mexican War and proved himself to be an excellent commander.
       Returning from the Mexican War a hero, he was elected to the United States Congress where he served until Mississippi left the Union.  He had never supported secession, but stated that he would join Mississippi if it should secede because the South had borne the burdens of maintaining the Federal government.
       He began the Civil War as Colonel of the 13th Mississippi Infantry.   At the battle of First Manassas, he and members of his regiment stumbled into a nest of angry yellow jackets, their only action in that battle.  He was almost court-martialed for drunkenness, but promised to abstain from liquor for the duration of the war.
       When Brigadier General Richard Griffith was killed at Savage’s Station, Barksdale was promoted to Brigadier General.   McLaws had recommended him for promotion after witnessing him leading his brigades charge with the Confederate battle flag at Malvern Hill.  He missed Second Manassas, but fought at the Battle of Antietam.
       His best day of the war came at Fredricksburg in December 1862.  His brigade was assigned to defend Federal river crossings into town.  He sent General Robert E. Lee a message, asking him if he wanted a bridge of dead Yankees.  Once the Federal troops forded the river, Barksdale and his men fought an excellent rearguard action through the streets of town to the heights where Lee’s main army was entrenched.  He defended the stonewall at Fredericksburg during the Battle of Chancellorsville, helping to secure Lee’s right flank.  Heavily outnumbered they were pushed out of the way, but managed to move into the enemy’s rear after he passed by to assault Lee and helped to save the day.
No uniformed photo of Barksdale exists (all are pre-war)

       Barksdale and his brigade arrived at Gettysburg just after midnight on July 2, 1863.  They formed on the right flank the next day which mean they would be assaulting the Peach Orchard.  Beyond the Peach Orchard was the Trostle House where the Ninth Massachusetts Artillery was located.  The Federal battery was shelling Barksdale’s men furiously.  Barksdale begged his division commander Lafayette McLaws and corps commander James Longstreet for permission to charge the little battery.  Both instructed him to wait.  Barksdale begged Longstreet to just give him five minutes and he would take those cannons.  Longstreet told him that they would all be going in shortly.
       William Barksdale then called all his brigade’s officers for a conference.  He stated, “The line in front must be broken.  To do so, let every officer and man animate his comrades by his personal presence in the front line.”
       Barksdale was on a white horse and positioned himself just behind his line in the center of his brigade.  When the message from McLaws reached Barksdale to advance, the man’s face radiated with joy.  He held his hat in his hand and his long white hair waved behind him.  He instructed his men that they would advance to within seventy-five yards of the Federal battery, halt, fire and then charge with the bayonet.  He then spurred his horse fifty yards in front of his brigade to lead them.  Advancing toward the Trostle house, Barksdale’s brigade captured fifty men and General Graham.  He expertly maneuvered his brigade across the road.  When two of his colonels begged him to stop and reform, he refused.  Barksdale yelled, “We’ve got them on the run! Move your regiments!”
Area where Barksdale was wounded

       He then shouted for his men to charge. He yelled, “Advance! Advance! Brave Mississippians, one more charge and the day is ours!”
       Leading his men forward, William Barksdale was hit nine times by rifle fire.  Legend has it that a Federal captain ordered his entire company to fire at the mounted officer.  He told one of his couriers, “Tell my wife I am killed, but we fought like hell.”
       Barksdale’s brigade would enter the battle with 1,420 men and lose 730 men killed, wounded or missing.  His brigade broke the Federal line, overran the artillery battery, but just wasn’t strong enough to hold the ground they’d won.  Captured, Barksdale was carried to the Hummelbaugh house.  He told surgeons there that Hancock had better watch his back because Pete (James Longstreet’s nickname) would have a surprise for him in the morning.
Hummelbaugh house and backyard

      He told the Federal soldiers who captured him that he had never regretted the choices he’d made and prayed that God would be a father to his boys and care for his wife.  General Barksdale survived until the next day when he was seen lying in the backyard of the Hummelbaugh house.  A young boy was there dipping water into his mouth, while the general burning with a fever, oblivious to the boy’s presence was begging for water.  Federal soldiers raided his body for souvenirs.  They cut the buttons, collar insignia and gold lace from his uniform.  He was buried in the backyard of the Hummelbaugh house.
       Before the war was over, Misses Barksdale traveled to Gettysburg to retrieve the body of her husband.  She took William’s dog along.  When they reached the grave where Barksdale was buried, the dog began to act peculiar.  When they began digging, the dog began to behave irrationally.  Once the body was removed and placed in the wagon, the dog could not be coaxed away from the grave.  Misses Barksdale spent the night in Gettysburg and before leaving the next morning attempted once more to take the dog home.  Still the dog would allow no one to approach the old grave.  Barksdale’s wife was forced to leave the dog in Gettysburg and return home to Mississippi.  The dog refused to leave his masters old grave site and within a week died of dehydration.  Barksdale’s dog now rests in the original grave of William Barksdale, somewhere in the backyard of the Hummelbaugh house at Gettysburg.
       Local legend states that Barksdale’s voice can still be heard there begging for water and at other times his dog can still be heard howling mournfully for his lost master.
Barksdale’s Grave

       William Barksdale was one of the most aggressive general’s who served during the Civil War.  He was described as being fearless.  I have an uncle and several cousins who fought under his command during the war.  Some survived to return home, while a few did not.
       General Barksdale rests today in Greenwood Cemetery, Jackson, Mississippi.  He was forty-one years old.   It was inevitable that a general possessing his personality would be killed in battle.  The most amazing thing was that he lasted as long as he did.

John Decatur Barry: The man who destroyed a stone wall

John Decatur Barry

       John Decatur Barry was born in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1839. He graduated from the University of North Carolina and was working as a banker when the war began. He was a member of a local militia company that became Company I, Eighteenth North Carolina Infantry.
       The regiment spent the first part of the war in North Carolina. In April, 1862 the company was reorganized and Barry was made a captain. The regiment was sent to Robert E. Lee’s army the next month and fought during the Seven Days battles where they took heavy casualties. Barry himself was seriously wounded at Frayser’s Farm. It is believed he wasn’t able to return to the army until September. He would enter Maryland with Lee’s army where he was commended for his gallantry and bravery and awarded with a promotion to major. Barry would see action at Fredericksburg in December.
       The low point of Barry’s career would occur at the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863. After Stonewall Jackson’s successful attack on the Federal right flank, the Eighteenth North Carolina was called up from reserve for night operations. A group of horsemen came riding toward the fresh regiment. Barry, thinking it was Federal cavalry ordered his men to open fire. Despite the yells from the riders that they were friends, Barry thinking it was a trick ordered them to fire again. Because of this order, John Decatur Barry had mortally wounded Confederate Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.
       The battle had been severe on the officer corps of the Eighteenth North Carolina. Out of thirteen field officers, only Barry was unhurt. He had moved from private to colonel in just over a year. He would lead the regiment in Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg and during the Mine Run Campaign. Because of his actions during the Battle of the Wilderness, Barry’s commanding officer recommended he be promoted to brigadier. He also saw heavy action at Spotsylvania.
       When Brigadier General James Lane was wounded at Cold Harbor, Barry took command of the brigade. He would see his first major action in command of a brigade at the Weldon Railroad. General Lee asked Davis to promote Barry to brigadier general in command of Lane’s brigade. He would never lead the brigade in battle once he was promoted. While scouting the Federal lines at Deep Bottom, a Federal sharpshooter shot the newly appointed brigadier in the hand which caused him to lose two fingers and remain out of action for the rest of the year. Lee was forced to ask the war department to cancel the promotion which it did.
Barry as a major

       He would return to duty and again command the brigade in early 1865, but was soon transferred back to North Carolina. After the war he became a newspaper editor. Just two years after the war, Barry would die in Wilmington, North Carolina at the age of twenty-six. The man was noted for his bravery. He rests today in Wilmington’s Oakdale Cemetery.
       It was said that he returned from the war with his health broken, but his friends told a different story about the man’s early death. It was said that Barry felt responsible for Stonewall’s death and couldn’t live with the fact that he may have cost the Confederacy the war that night at Chancellorsville. His friends often said that John Decatur Barry died of a broken heart.
John Decatur Barry’s grave

The inscription reads, “I found him a pygmy and left him a giant.”
This is in reference to his rise from private to general.

The Death of another Stonewall

 John Stevens Bowen


       Anyone who knows anything about the Civil War will quickly identify “Stonewall” Jackson. Most people with a little Civil War knowledge can identify Patrick Cleburne as the “Stonewall of the West.” Very few people know that there was a third “Stonewall” in the Confederate Army during the war.
       John Stevens Bowen was the other man nicknamed “Stonewall” and lost that nickname due to his death. He is not as famous as Jackson or Cleburne and the reason is simple. Despite being a great commander and well loved by his men, Bowen didn’t die in combat. His death was a lot less glorious as the other two “Stonewalls.”
       Bowen was born in Georgia in 1830 and attended the University of Georgia. He left before graduating and entered the United States Military Academy. He was suspended a year because he had refused to tell on another student he’d caught out after hours. He returned to the academy and graduated in the class of 1853.
       Bowen would spend three years in the U.S. Army before resigning to become an architect back in Georgia. He became a lieutenant colonel in the Georgia Militia before moving to Missouri just three years before the Civil War began.
       Bowen was initially captured in Missouri by Federal General Nathaniel Lyon. Upon his exchange he was quickly given command of a brigade in Leonidas Polk’s corps. When Confederate Major General George Crittenden was dismissed from service for drunkenness, the logical choice to replace him was John Bowen. Sidney Johnston chose John Breckinridge instead because Breckinridge was the ex-vice president of the United States and a more popular man among the public. Bowen was relatively unknown.
       Bowen remained in command of a brigade at the Battle of Shiloh where he was severely wounded and out of action for quite some time. Upon his recovery, Bowen took command of a division under John Pemberton at Vicksburg. He would be Pemberton’s most trusted subordinate.
Bowen: The hero of Port Gibson
       During the siege of Vicksburg, Pemberton became extremely sick with dysentery. Dysentery was a deadly disease during the Civil War. It was a combination of bloody diarrhea, fever and extreme pain. Bowen was paroled after the surrender of Vicksburg and was travelling with his wife when he was forced to stop near Edwards, Missis Bowen delayed Grant’s approach to Vicksburg at Port Gibson despite being outnumbered and because of his action there he was promoted to Major General. He continued to serve under the inept Pemberton, fighting at Champion Hill and served as Pemberton’s rearguard afterwarsippi. On July 13, 1863 just nine days after he was surrendered at Vicksburg, John Bowen died.
Walton House, death site of John Bowen

       John Stevens Bowen, the other “Stonewall” of the Confederate Army was thirty-two years old. He is not as well known as the other two for several reasons. The way he died helped contribute to this, but also because he died just as he was reaching the best part of his career. He is another Civil War officer that we must ask ourselves the question. Had he lived, what might he have accomplished?
Cedar Hill Cemetery, Vicksburg Mississippi

Bragg’s Light

General Braxton Bragg
       Braxton Bragg was born in Warrenton, North Carolina in 1817. His father was a carpenter and many people in Warrenton looked down on Bragg’s family because they were middle-class. He was often teased as a child because of the rumor that his mother had killed a free black man. Rumors were also circulated that Braxton Bragg had been born in prison because of this. Braxton often spoke of his father throughout his life, but never made mention of his mother.
Bragg’s father secured his son an appointment to West Point and the young officer graduated fifth in the class of 1837 and secured a commission in the artillery. Bragg saw action in the Seminole War, but became a hero in the Mexican War. Upon his return from Mexico to his hometown of Warrenton, the citizens presented him with a sword and cheered his heroism. Many have speculated how Bragg might have felt being cheered by the very people who had made his childhood life so miserable.
Braxton wasn’t loved by his men. He was known to be a strict disciplinarian and while in Mexico, one of his men tried to kill him by rolling a lit cannonball under his cot. The cot was destroyed by the blast, but Bragg escaped without injury. Ulysses Grant loved to tell a story about the time on the frontier when Bragg was post commander and quartermaster. Bragg had gotten into an argument with himself over supplies. When he notified his immediate superior of the problem, his commander had remarked, “My God, Mister Bragg, you have argued with everyone in the army and now your arguing with yourself!”

Braxton made a trip to Louisiana where he met Eliza Brooks Ellis. She was the daughter of a rich sugar planter and the two soon fell in love. Bragg tried to take Eliza to the frontier with him, but things didn’t work out. She had been raised on a plantation where she had everything a girl could possibly want. On the frontier, the living conditions were rather rough. She soon protested. Braxton tried to please his wife by asking Secretary of War Jefferson Davis to have his artillery battery assigned to Louisiana. When Davis refused, Bragg resigned his commission and moved to Thibodaux, Louisiana with his young bride.
He then bought a sugar plantation which consisted of 1,600 acres and 105 slaves. Bragg wasn’t a cruel master, but he ran his plantation like a military unit. It didn’t take long before Bragg started showing a profit.
When the Civil War began, Bragg was commissioned a major general. He would become one of the most controversial generals of the war. He first saw action at Shiloh leading a corps. After Shiloh, when Beauregard fell out of favor with President Davis, Bragg was promoted to general and given command of the Army of Tennessee. He proved to be a great organizer, though not a great military leader.
Kirby Smith would talk him into invading Kentucky. Bragg’s first major battle as army commander would occur at Perryville. Bragg had pushed the Federal army back almost a mile by the time the first day was over. He then realized he faced a much larger enemy force than he had initially believed. Kirby Smith begged Bragg to stay and fight and Braxton promised he would, only to retreat during the night.
At Murfreesboro, he surprised the Federal army under General Rosecrans and bent it back like a hair pin. He failed to destroy Rosecrans’ army or cut off their supply line and therefore ordered a retreat. By this point of his career, his subordinates were growing frustrated with his lack of leadership.
At the Battle of Chickamauga, Bragg won the greatest victory of the war for the Confederate army in the west. He failed to believe the enemy forces were defeated and refused to pursue. Once he finally realized he had won it was too late. He then went on a head hunting mission with his subordinates. He fought with Bedford Forrest, got rid of Hindman and D.H. Hill, then sent Longstreet to Knoxville which further weakened his army. Although his men had lost confidence in him, Davis kept him in command.
When the Federal army struck his force at Chattanooga and caused his army to practically break he offered to resign. The man was truly surprised when Davis accepted his resignation. Davis then made Bragg his military advisor. It wouldn’t be the last field command for Braxton Bragg though. At the end of the war, Davis placed Bragg in command of Wilmington, North Carolina. He also bungled this assignment by not taking the Federal force serious. He had a major disagreement with General William Whiting and as a result, Fort Fisher fell and Whiting was mortally wounded.
Bragg’s life began to spiral downward after the loss. Robert E. Lee was placed in command of all Confederate forces which cost Bragg his job as military advisor. One of his enemies, John C. Breckinridge was made Secretary of War. President Davis felt sorry for his friend and attempted to transfer him to Kirby Smith’s Trans-Mississippi command. The politicians in the west wanted no part of Bragg and that plan fell apart.
During the Carolina’s Campaign, Davis made Bragg a corps commander under Joseph E. Johnston. He would again make major mistakes at the Battle of Bentonville and Johnston would never forgive the man.
After the war, Bragg was broke, his plantation had been confiscated by the Federal government. His friend Jefferson Davis was made president of a life insurance company. Davis offered him a job as an insurance agent. He worked there over a year before becoming frustrated with the low pay and a job he believed was below him. He then went to work as an engineer for the city of Mobile. He soon got into an argument with his superiors and quit that job. He then moved to Texas where he became chief engineer for a railroad. Within a year he got into an argument with the board of directors and then resigned.
In September of 1876, Bragg was walking down a Galveston street with a friend (if you can believe he had one), when he collapsed on the sidewalk in front of a drug store. He was carried into the drug store where he was pronounced dead within ten minutes. Braxton Bragg was 59 years old. The cause of death has been listed as heart disease, but we will probably never know for sure. He rests today in Mobile’s Magnolia Cemetery.

Bragg’s grave in Mobile, Alabama

       It is only fitting that a man as controversial as Braxton Bragg would leave behind some sort of unexplained legacy. The spot on the street at Galveston where Bragg collapsed has been the sight of some unexplained phenomena. There is a ghost light that appears there from time to time over the years. The locals have nicknamed it ‘Bragg’s Light’. I have attempted to locate the exact spot where this occurs for this blog, but haven’t been able to find it online. I have written a guy who gives ghost tours in Galveston, Texas, but he never replied. Maybe I can update this mystery later. One has to wonder if the light appears as a result of this controversial commander arguing with himself over which direction he should go to spend eternity.


A Knight Without Fear

James Holt Clanton

       James Holt Clanton was born in 1827 in Georgia, but his family moved to Alabama in 1835. After finishing school, Clanton went to the University of Alabama. He served as a private in the Mexican War and returned to become an attorney in Montgomery, Alabama. Though he opposed secession, he raised a company of cavalry at the outbreak of the war and quickly was made colonel of the 1st Alabama Cavalry. He would prove to be a man without fear, always leading his charges, pistol in hand.
       Clanton would see his first action at the Battle of Shiloh. According to General James Chalmers, Clanton was “constantly exposed to the most dangerous fire, exhibited the most fearless and exemplary courage, cheering on those who seemed inclined to falter or grow weary.”
       He saw action at Farmington and at Booneville drove the enemy from the field. Like most officers in the army, he had a disagreement with General Bragg and resigned his commission as colonel of the 1st Alabama Cavalry. General Bragg had little use for officers without  proper military training and this probably was what caused them to have the disagreement.
       Clanton returned to Montgomery and raised one infantry regiment and three cavalry regiments. He would receive a commission to brigadier general in late 1863. General Leonidas Polk called Clanton “an experienced cavalry officer, very efficient and enterprising.”
Another wartime picture of Clanton

       For some reason, General Joseph Johnston, who was always begging for troops refused to accept Clanton’s brigade into his army. He stated that Clanton was incompetent. Why he believed this is still unknown, but probably stems from a mutiny in one of his regiments at one point earlier in the war. Clanton had been cleared of any wrong doing in the affair.
       At Greensport, Alabama, he was outnumbered six to one by Federal troops, but the brave man decided to attack at dawn. He charged around the bend, personally leading his 200 troops. Pistol in hand and charging on foot. He was only twenty paces away when the Federal opened fire, armed with Spencer repeating rifles. His clothes were riddled with bullets, his entire staff killed or wounded.
       During the fighting, a large black soldier named Griffin a member of his command approached General Clanton and asked, “General, where is Marse Batt?”
       Clanton was as calm as could be, pointed toward the Federal line and said, “There he is, dead.”
       Griffin charged forward, amid cries to stay back, through the smoke and bullets and picked up the young soldier and returned with him in his arms.
       “Is he dead?” Clanton asked.
       “I don’t know, sir,” he replied, “My Mammy was his nurse and I’m older than he is. I promised to take care of him and bring him to her. I’m carrying him home now.”
       The Confederate troops were compelled to retreat before the terrific Federal fire.
       In March, 1865, he was wounded in a fight at Bluff Spring, Florida. He fired his pistol at a Federal officer and spun his horse to ride away when a bullet slammed into his lower back. The bullet passed through his intestines and then exited the body. Doctors informed him the wound was mortal, so he called his chief of staff and had him write out Clanton’s will. Captured by the Federals, they paroled him, believing he would die. He was told if he survived the wound, he was to report to a prison camp.
       After the war, Clanton returned to his law practice. Representing Alabama in a case against the Chattanooga and Alabama Railroad, he was forced to travel to Knoxville, Tennessee. He understood that Knoxville had sided with the Union during the war and believed the railroad had the case moved to Knoxville in an attempt to have him murdered.
Another surviving photograph of General Clanton

       On September 27, 1871, after leaving the courtroom, Clanton was walking back to his hotel room with a Colonel Prosser. Tomlinson Fort later testified that he was walking down the sidewalk across the street with David Nelson who had served as a colonel in the Federal army during the war.
       Tomlinson Fort walked across the street and shook Clanton’s hand because they were also friends. He then introduced Clanton to Nelson, saying, “Nelson fought against us, but had been very kind to his late enemies.”
       Nelson was already intoxicated. He asked Clanton to come have a drink with him. Clanton agreed to enter a saloon with the two men. On the way to the establishment, Nelson asked Clanton, “I’ll show you something if your not a coward.”
       Clanton, known to as a knight without fear, answered, “Do you think I’m a coward?”
       “I’m not sure,” Nelson repeated. He then began to insult Clanton, becoming very excited. Clanton as was his nature during the war remained extremely cool. This seemed to make Nelson even more excited because he couldn’t intimidate the man.
       Tomlinson Fort placed his hand on Nelson’s shoulder and said, “Keep cool, Dave. You are in the wrong and there is no use in fighting.”
       Nelson ignored him. He said to Clanton, “I don’t know whether you’re a coward or not.”
       “You can try me anytime or place,” Clanton replied.
       Nelson said, “This is as good a place as any.”
       Fort stood talking to Clanton, telling him they were both his friends and there was no use in fighting. Nelson disappeared inside the saloon and returned a few moments later carrying a double-barreled shotgun.
       Nelson fired without taking careful aim, trying to kill Clanton before he could arm himself, but missed. Clanton drew his pistol and fired back, but missed also. Nelson then fired again, hitting Clanton in the shoulder and chest with over fifteen pellets of buckshot. Clanton immediately went to the ground, landing on his hands and face.
       The buckshot had gone into his lungs, torn his shoulder from the socket and shredded several arteries in his chest. They carried him to the Lamar Hotel where he would die a few moments later. Clanton left a widow and six children, some very young.
Lamar House Hotel
       The case went to trial in 1873 and was highly publicized. A Judge Trigg also witnessed the incident and testified that Nelson fired the first shot at Clanton, who was not prepared or armed.
       Nelson’s defense attorneys claimed the murder was in self-defense. The jury took five minutes to acquit Nelson of the murder charge. The entire state of Alabama became furious over the trial. Newspapers called the trial a big sham.
       Interestingly, David Nelson’s father Thomas Nelson was a prominent politician and judge in Knoxville, Tennessee. He resigned his seat as judge to help defend his son’s murder charge. After his son was found not guilty, Thomas Nelson would spend the remainder of his life teaching Sunday school. Today, Thomas Nelson rests in an unmarked grave. David Nelson has long since been forgotten about, unlike the brave man he unjustly murdered.
Thomas Nelson, father of the murderer

       James Holt Clanton rests today in Greenwood Cemetery, Montgomery, Alabama.
Me standing beside the grave of General Clanton

Alfred Holt Colquitt: A man of many talents

Alfred Holt Colquitt before his 1862 promotion

       Alfred Holt Colquitt became many things during his sixty-nine years on this earth. He was born in Georgia in 1824, the son of a United States Senator. Young Alfred graduated from Princeton and became a lawyer. He served in the United States Army during the Mexican War being commissioned a major. Returning from the Mexican War, Colquitt began to dabble in politics becoming a United States Congressman and serving in the Georgia State Legislature.
       When the Civil War began, Colquitt became a captain in the 6th Georgia Infantry. By the time the regiment saw action at Seven Pines, Colquitt had become colonel. He led the regiment throughout the Seven Days and was promoted to brigadier general before Lee’s army invaded Maryland. He would command a brigade at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. His brigade was so under-strength following the latter battle that General Lee sent Colquitt and his men back to Georgia to recruit.
Colquitt sometime after his promotion in 1862

       Colquitt and his brigade would next see action in Florida. They were sent there and placed under the command of Brigadier General Joseph Finegan. They were sent there to stop and invasion of 5,000 men under Federal Brigadier General Truman Seymour. Against orders, the Federal general began his invasion meeting Colquitt and Finegan at the Battle of Olustee. Both forces were about equal, but the Federal army lost over 2000 men, while the Confederate’s lost less than a thousand. It was one of Colquitt’s best days as a commander. Not only had they stopped the invasion, but had defeated the famed 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry.
       During the Siege of Petersburg, Colquitt’s brigade would again be sent to Virginia to serve under General Lee. Despite having seen some of the war’s fiercest fighting, especially at Antietam, Colquitt came through the war without a scratch. He returned to Georgia and eventually became governor of the state for two terms and was elected to two terms in the United States Senate. He would die while serving there.
Colquitt in his later years
       During the Civil War, he was called a competent and inspiring commander. He suffered a stroke in 1893 and was paralyzed on one side of his body for the last six months of his life. Unable to speak, he suffered another stroke on March 26, 1894 and died. He rests today in Rose Hill Cemetery, Macon, Georgia. He’d accomplished a lot in his life, fighting in two wars, serving in both houses of congress, the Georgia legislature, a lawyer, governor and at one point in his life he became a preacher.
Colquitt’s grave

 

 

 

 

 

DEATH OF CONFEDERATE GENERAL COBB: A CONSPIRACY THEORY

        Confederate Brigadier General Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb was born on April 10, 1823 in Jefferson County, Georgia. Incredibly, he weighed twenty-one and one-half pounds at birth.
He attended college at what is now the University of Georgia and finished first in the class of 1841. He became a lawyer in the state of Georgia before his nineteenth birthday. By the time the Civil War began, he had accumulated a fortune worth 120,000 dollars and owned 23 slaves.
Thomas Cobb was known for his mercurial temper. During the war, he constantly complained about his superiors especially Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. He was always faultfinding and finding reasons to argue with others. Elijah H. Sutton, one of his soldiers, declared that his own men despised him. W.R. Montgomery claimed that his men admired him because he was brave and gallant.
        The brigadier seemed to be paranoid, once writing about General Lee, “Lee hates me and sneers whenever my name is mentioned.” After meeting Lee, he wrote, “Lee is haughty and boorish and supercilious in his bearing and is particularly so to me.”
He missed all major combat until December, 1862. He was present with his brigade at Fredericksburg. Ironically, his first major battle would also prove to be his last. Cobb’s brigade held the Stone Wall at the Battle of Fredericksburg. He was seen waving his hat over his head and crying to his men, “Get ready, boys, here they come.”
As to what happened next remains a mystery. According to historian Robert K. Krick, a piece of artillery shrapnel struck General Cobb in the left thigh and severed his femoral artery. General Cobb collapsed in the sunken road about two in the afternoon and bled to death.
        In 1901, an anonymous veteran announced that General Cobb had been killed by a Confederate soldier who lived at Lost Mountain. According to this veteran, General Cobb had berated several men for stopping on a march to fill their canteens with water. Cobb had then ordered them to pour out the water, but one soldier had refused. He then told the others that he would kill Thomas Cobb when the first opportunity presented itself.
According to this anonymous veteran, General Cobb was killed by a shot from Phillip’s Legion, the same unit that this man served with. This veteran approached the man who had made the threat against the general and asked, “Sam, did you shoot General Cobb?”
(Sam was later identified as Samuel Drake of Phillip’s Legion.) Sam replied, “Well, I got him.”
         Later in the battle, Samuel Drake was shot in the chest and carried to the field hospital. The anonymous veteran went there and asked him, “Sam, you are going to die and I want you to tell me did you kill General Cobb?”
“I did,” Sam replied, “I always do what I say I will.”
According to this anonymous veteran, he had spoken to General Cobb’s descendants after the war and they told him they had always known that Thomas Cobb was killed by one of his own men.
Historian Robert K. Krick writes, “That story cannot be substantiated and in fact is clearly inaccurate, its calm assertion lends credence to the other negative declarations about Cobb.”
Doctor Gilmore, chief surgeon of McLaws division stated that Cobb was hit by a bullet that passed through a plank fence and a tourniquet would have saved his life. He stated that N.H. Hammond of Flippen, Georgia was within thirty feet of Cobb and can substantiate that the general died in this way.
According to Derek Smith, author of The Gallant Dead, General Cobb was hit by either artillery shrapnel or a Federal sharpshooter. He fails to mention the friendly fire theory at all.
        General Joseph Kershaw reported that Cobb was killed by Federal sharpshooters posted near his left flank. Colonel Porter Alexander reported that Cobb was killed by a Union sniper about one hundred and fifty yards from his front.
        It seems fitting that a man that was so paranoid would be surrounded by controversy as to who killed him following his death. There were several Confederate generals hit by friendly fire, Stonewall Jackson being the most famous. Micah Jenkins and James Longstreet were also hit by friendly fire. Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb seems to be the only one that a witness has come forward and claimed that it was intentional. Was Cobb shot by Samuel Drake? The story seems a little far fetched and we will probably never know.

The Ghost of Thomas Cobb

Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb

       The very first blog I wrote was on Thomas R.R. Cobb. I wrote about the conspiracy theory surrounding his death. Some said he was killed by artillery shrapnel, others say a bullet, and yet another claimed it was friendly fire. Recently, I have learned of another Cobb story.
       Thomas Cobb built his house in 1830. In 1850 he added octagonal wings. It was still on its original site in 1984, when the city decided it needed to be torn down. The house was in a state of disrepair. The home was then moved to Stone Mountain Park where it was to be restored. The restoration never occurred. In 2004, a non-profit organization had it brought back to Athens and restored to its original condition. It opened for tours in 2007.
Cobb House today in Athens, Georgia

       The present staff have some very strange stories to tell about the place. According to them, two priests have visited the home and asked who the ghost is. Both priests said they saw a man dressed in gray descend the stairs and walk into General Cobb’s library where he stood by the fireplace. They also tell a story of some newspapers catching fire in the house while no one was there. The papers were found the next morning completely burned, but none of the house was touched. One of the priests said that the house was being protected by Cobb.
       The staff also claims to hear footsteps and a little girl laughing when there are no visitors in the home. The Cobb’s had three children die inside the home. The staff believes the girl laughing is one of Cobb’s deceased children. There is also an armoire that belonged to General Cobb. The doors on the cabinet are very difficult to open. Often times the staff will arrive in the morning to find the doors wide open. The staff believes Cobb’s spirit is there looking for something.
       There is a part of this story I find a bit difficult to believe. According to the priests and the staff, General Cobb’s ghost is benevolent and appreciates what is occurring at his old home. I’ve studied Confederate Generals all my life and there is one thing that is certain. In life, General Cobb was not a benevolent person. The man had a violent temper and often seemed paranoid. During the war he constantly complained about his superiors. He didn’t agree with Davis’s policy and even labelled Robert E. Lee as being haughty and crude.
       Maybe Cobb haunts his old home place. If I’m ever in Athens, Georgia, I would like to tour the house. Regardless, if ghosts are real, it would be a man like Thomas Cobb who would have a restless spirit.

A Sad Tragic End

Philip St. George Cocke

       Philip St. George Cocke was born in 1809 in Virginia. His father had served as an officer in the War of 1812 and secured Philip with an appointment at the United States Military Academy. He graduated from West Point in 1828, ranking sixth out of forty-five cadets. He would serve in the artillery for six years before resigning to return to Virginia where he would become a planter. He would devote the rest of his life to the management of his plantation in Powhatan County, Virginia and other plantations he owned in Mississippi.
       The same year he resigned, he married Sallie Elizabeth Courtney Bowdoin. Cocke became very interested in agriculture and believed in trying new techniques with his crops. As a result, he wrote numerous articles about planting and eventually rose to become president of the Virginia Agricultural Society. He also served on the board of visitors at the Virginia Military Institute.
       When Virginia seceded, Cocke was made brigadier general in the Virginia militia and ordered to protect the area just south of the Potomac River. He reported to Robert E. Lee that he had just three hundred men to protect Alexandria, Virginia with against what he thought were over 10,000 enemy troops. Lee implored Cocke to not abandon the town even if it meant fighting against overwhelming numbers. Despite Lee’s pleas, Cocke abandoned the town without a fight.
Cocke around the time the war began

       Despite this failure in the eyes of Lee, Cocke had studied the terrain around Manassas and it seems he was the first to conceive of that place as the ideal place to make a defensive stand. When Cocke’s troops were merged into the Provisional Army of the Confederate States, he was made a colonel in that army. Cocke was dejected and may have considered resigning, but General Lee must have convinced the man he was needed.
       Beauregard took command of the army at Manassas and placed Cocke in command of a brigade. The man saw minor action at Blackburn’s Ford and was praised for leading his brigade into combat during the Battle of Manassas, although his was a minor engagement. After the battle, President Davis promoted Cocke to brigadier general in the Confederate army.
       At this point, General Cocke’s life began to spiral downward. He seemed to have been suffering from what would later be called a nervous breakdown. When Eppa Hunton’s regiment was assigned to Cocke’s brigade, he was invited to eat dinner with the man. While he and Cocke rode back to the general’s tent, he suddenly blurted out, “My God, my God, my country!”
       This shocked Hunton and he was of the opinion from that moment forward that Cocke’s mind was a little off. The man had been in the field for eight months with huge responsibilities resting on him. Responsibilities that he didn’t seem capable of coping with. A few weeks later he returned home and as one Confederate noted, he was “shattered in body and mind.”
Belmead Plantation

       He perceived imaginary slights from General Beauregard on his conduct at the Battle of Manassas. (In fact Beauregard had nothing but praise for Cocke’s performance there.) The man was mentally exhausted having placed too much pressure on himself and his actions. On December 26, 1861, he shot himself in the head at “Belmead” mansion, Powhatan, Virginia and was buried on the grounds there. In 1904, he would be reinterred in  Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia which is known at “the Arlington of the Confederacy.”
       Eppa Hunton may have summed it up best when he had the following to say about General Philip Cocke, “he was a brave man, a good man, an earnest patriot, but he was not a military man.”
Cocke’s grave in Hollywood Cemetery

No Braver Soldier

Brigadier General James Deshler

       James Deshler was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama in 1833. He obtained an appointment to West Point and graduated seventh out of forty-six cadets in the class of 1854. He served in the United States Army until the Civil War began, fighting Sioux Indians and putting down the Mormon uprising in Utah. He received a leave of absence when the war began and never returned. Instead of resigning his commission, the government dropped his name from the rolls.
       President Davis commissioned Deshler a captain and placed him in command of an artillery battery in western Virginia. He later served as an aide on the staff of Edward Johnson. In an engagement at the Greenbrier River, Deshler was shot through both thighs as he rode along the front lines. He refused to leave the field until the fighting ended.
       Upon his recovery, he was promoted to colonel and assigned to the staff of Theophilus Holmes in North Carolina. He was chief of artillery under Holmes during the Peninsula Campaign and saw action at Malvern Hill. Holmes labeled Deshler as his best staff officer saying he couldn’t afford to lose the man.
       After the Seven Days Campaign, Holmes was transferred to Arkansas. Deshler would be sent with him, but relieved of duty as a staff officer and assigned a brigade of Texas infantry under General Hindman. His first action as infantry commander was at Arkansas Post, a fort on the Arkansas River. Deshler was spectacular there. He commanded his men to hold their fire until the Federals were within a hundred yards, breaking two enemy charges. Someone raised a white flag in the fort during the fighting, although General Churchill in command of the fort denied he authorized a cease fire. The Federal line in front of Deshler again came forward thinking the fort had surrendered. Deshler shouted that unless they pulled back, he would open fire again because he was without orders to cease firing.
Battle of Arkansas Post
       Sherman and Churchill together rode to Deshler’s position. Sherman attempted to dress Deshler down, saying, “What is the meaning of this? You’re a regular officer and know better.”
       Deshler replied in an angry tone that he didn’t have orders to cease fire. Churchill explained to Deshler that he hadn’t ordered the surrender, but the fort was overwhelmed because of the display of the white flag from an unknown person. Deshler then ordered his men to stack their arms.
       Sherman decided that he might disarm Deshler’s attitude by a friendly conversation, but he didn’t know Deshler very well. Deshler’s parents had been born in Pennsylvania, but moved to Alabama before he was born. Sherman asked, “Are you related to the Deshler family in Columbus, Ohio?”
       Deshler, who was still irritated about being captured, replied, “I’m not related to anyone north of the Ohio River anymore.”
       Sherman said he believed he gave Deshler a piece of his mind, but couldn’t remember for sure.
       Deshler was held prisoner for five months before being exchanged. He was promoted to brigadier general in July, 1863 and placed in command of Churchill’s brigade of Texas troops who had lost faith in him as a commander following the surrender of Arkansas Post. The brigade was then assigned to Cleburne’s Division in the Army of Tennessee under General Braxton Bragg.
       It would be September of 1863 before Deshler would see his first action as a general officer. On September 20, he was waiting to enter the battle when Cleburne approached. Cleburne made mention to the fact that Deshler’s men had yet to see action in this battle. Deshler replied, “Well, its not my fault!”
       Cleburne laughed and ordered Deshler forward. Colonel Mills soon sent word that his men were running low on ammunition. He fully expected to see one of the general’s staff officer’s coming to check the ammo boxes. He looked around and was surprised to see Deshler himself coming in his direction. Before he reached Mills, an artillery shell struck him in the chest without exploding and passed all the way through his body, taking his heart with it. Brigadier General James Deshler was dead before he hit the ground.
Spot where Deshler fell at Chickamauga

       Mills reported that Deshler was “brave and generous, and kind even to a fault…Refusing to permit a staff officer to endanger his life in going to examine the cartridge boxes to see what amount of ammunition his men had…when he fell as he would wish to fall…surrounded by the bodies of his fallen comrades.”
Grave of James Deshler

       James Deshler would be removed to Oakwood Cemetery in Tuscumbia, Alabama. He was loved by the men of his brigade and they would gain fame later as Granbury’s Texas brigade. Deshler was 30 years old. The high school in Tuscumbia is named Deshler High School in his honor. The Dixie Station in downtown Tuscumbia sits on the site where his parents lived and he spent his childhood.
Me standing beside the monument to Deshler beside his grave

       General Robert E. Lee wrote, “There was no braver soldier in the Confederacy than Deshler.”

Thomas Pleasant Dockery: The Volunteer

Thomas Pleasant Dockery

       Few people realize that one of the finest brigade commanders in the Confederate Army was Thomas Pleasant Dockery. One reason for this lack of recognition is because he served most of the war in the Trans-Mississippi Department. The man was said to have received his energy from his father Colonel Thomas Dockery who’d served in the U.S. Army during the removal of the Indians.
       The younger Dockery was born in 1833 in North Carolina, but his family moved to Tennessee and then on to Arkansas while he was young. It was there that his father would establish a large plantation and bring the first railroad to the state.
       When the Civil War began, Dockery organized the 5th Arkansas State Troops and was commissioned colonel. He was soon made colonel in the Confederate Army and assigned to the 19th Arkansas Infantry. The young officer would see his first action at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. He would then see action at Elkhorn Tavern and move across the Mississippi River with Earl Van Dorn. There he would lead his men in the Battle of Corinth and command a brigade during the Vicksburg Campaign. At Vicksburg his brigade was placed in a very exposed position to enemy gunboat fire, but bravely held their ground. He was surrendered there with the rest of Pemberton’s army on July 4, 1863.
       After being exchanged, Dockery’s men moved across the Mississippi River where they would stay for the remainder of the war. There he was commissioned a brigadier general and ordered to reorganize his command and collect troops to bring his brigade back up to strength. For some reason Kirby Smith didn’t think the man was capable of handling this assignment. He would eventually bring the brigade up to just over 900 men. He saw action again during the Camden Campaign in early 1864. He was assigned command of Arkansas’s Reserve Corps for the last six months of the war.
       Many men wrote about the brave and gallant leader. One called him a “broad-gauged man.” He had the reputation of being an extremely aggressive commander. One of Dockery’s Infantryman said, “It was one of Colonel Dockery’s hobbies to volunteer to take some battery or storm some difficult stronghold.”
The Brave Brigadier
       The war cost him everything he owned. Following the war he became a civil engineer and moved to Houston, Texas. He seems to have been visiting New York City in 1898 at the age of 64 when he died. His body was sent to Natchez, Mississippi where his two daughters lived. He rests there in the city cemetery. A simple Confederate marker serves as his tombstone and that’s probably the way General Dockery would have wanted it.
“Reserve Corps of Arkansas” a position he held briefly

       Had he served in Lee’s Army, Thomas Dockery may have received the recognition that he deserves. It is also highly probable that such an aggressive commander would have never survived the war. Reading about the man, you are reminded of another aggressive brigadier general named William Barksdale who was shot nine times at Gettysburg.

The Other Roll Tide General

William Henry Forney

       I wrote a blog over a year ago about the Confederacy’s Roll Tide General. The story was about Brigadier General John Caldwell Calhoun Sanders who was attending the University of Alabama when the Civil War began. He fought in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and was killed at the Battle of the Weldon Railroad south of Petersburg.
       For some reason I had forgotten about William Henry Forney, who also attended the University of Alabama and graduated there in 1844. Since we are just days away from my favorite team kicking off the football season against the Michigan Wolverines, I thought this would be the perfect time to write a blog about this Crimson Tide Confederate General.
       Forney was born in North Carolina in 1823, but moved to Alabama with his family at the ripe old age of eight. He fought in the Mexican War and then returned to Alabama where he practiced law. He also served as a Trustee of the University of Alabama from 1851 until 1860. In 1859 he was elected to the state legislature.
       When the war began, he became captain of Company G, 10th Alabama Infantry. His brother John Horace Forney commanded the regiment. William would be shot in the shin at his first engagement at Dranesville. He was wounded and captured at the Battle of Williamsburg, being shot in the right arm near the shoulder, his arm was broken. Following his exchange, he was promoted to colonel of the 10th. His brother Henry had been promoted to brigadier general.
       He commanded the regiment at Salem Church, one of the battles in the Chancellorsville Campaign. Again, he was wounded, but only slightly in the leg. At Gettysburg, he led the regiment in the assault on Sickles’s line near the Peach Orchard. He was wounded twice, but continued to remain with his men when a third bullet broke his right arm again. Still, he pressed on with his men until a bullet took away his left heel. The wound was severely painful and again, he was left behind and captured by the Federals.
The only know photographs are post-war sittings.

       Upon exchange, Forney was promoted to brigadier general and took command of Wilcox’s brigade. Wilcox had been promoted to major general and given command of a division. He joined his brigade in the trenches at Petersburg. He served in command of the brigade during the Petersburg campaign and surrendered with his men at Appomattox.
       Following the war he returned to practicing law and eventually served in the United States Congress. He died in 1894 and was buried in the City Cemetery, Jacksonville, Alabama. His brother Major General John Forney and Major John Pelham are both buried in this cemetery.
       Major General Cadmus Wilcox said Forney was “intelligent, energetic, and gallant in commanding, directing, and leading his men.”
       General Robert E. Lee said of Forney, “An excellent officer and worthy ofpromotion,” and he is “an officer of intelligence, energy and bravery and of long and faithful service.”
Forney’s Grave Site

       William’s brother John was not a Roll Tide General because John who was six years younger than William obtained an appointment to West Point. This also explains why his younger brother was ranked above William throughout the war. I was having a conversation the other day with the Tuscumbia City Historian John McWilliams. He asked me if I knew why southerners loved football so much. I knew he was about to drop something good on me, so I took the bait and asked why. He said “It’s because those damned Yankee’s can only put eleven men on the field unlike the Civil War. So just five days from kickoff, all I have to say is “Roll Tide” General Forney!

Who is Richard Brooke Garnett

Long believed to be a photo of Richard Brooke Garnett

       Richard Brooke Garnett came from a famous Virginia family. His cousin Robert Selden Garnett was the first Confederate general to die in the Civil War. Like his cousin Robert, Richard attended West Point and was serving in the United States Army when the war began. When Virginia seceded from the Union, he immediately resigned his commission and entered Confederate service.
       He is now known as a hero because of his bravery at Gettysburg, but that wasn’t always the case. Being a Virginian, he rose to take command of the famed “Stonewall Brigade” and his career took a turn for the worse after the Battle of Kernstown. Jackson had received bad intelligence and attacked a Federal force twice the size of his own. Garnett’s brigade found itself being overwhelmed and running low on ammunition. In order to save his men, he ordered a retreat.
       General Jackson was so infuriated by the action that he had Garnett arrested, accusing him of cowardice in the face of the enemy and neglect of duty. The entire episode is a black mark on the career of Stonewall Jackson. Garnett had undoubtedly done the right thing, but Jackson had accomplished his goal. None of his subordinates would ever retreat again without orders. (Ironically, Garnett didn’t hold a grudge against Jackson. He believed the entire incident was a huge misunderstanding and after Jackson was killed at Gettysburg he served as a pallbearer in his funeral.)
       General Robert E. Lee released Garnett from arrest and placed him in command of George Pickett’s brigade of Virginians. All  General Garnett wanted was a chance to redeem his honor. In command of his new brigade, he saw minor action at Antietam, was held in reserve at Fredericksburg and missed Chancellorsville entirely.
       Needless to say, Richard Garnett wasn’t a happy man when he arrived at Gettysburg. He had been kicked by a horse a few days earlier and was unable to walk. He was running a high fever, wearing a coat in the hot July sun because of chills. Lee ordered all officers to walk during “Pickett’s Charge” because of the target a man on horseback would make. Garnett couldn’t walk and refused to miss the battle for fear he would be called a coward again.
       Richard Garnett would ride his large black horse “Red Eye” to just in front of the clump of trees. Garnett never pulled his sword, but cheered his men forward with the black felt hat he wore. At some point    he was hit by canister fire, some say in the waist. His blood covered horse was seen galloping toward the rear.
Death site of Richard Garnett
       Richard Brooke Garnett was never seen again. Years later, his sword was found in a Baltimore pawn shop by Confederate General George Hume Steuart.
Garnett’s sword

       The mystery of General Garnett only began with the finding of his sword. There is a picture long thought to be that of Richard Brooke Garnett, but many believe that picture is of his cousin Robert Selden Garnett who was killed at Corrick’s Ford. According to a family member Garnett was the opposite of his cousin, having blonde hair, blue eyes and no beard. This family member wrote this description in 1908 and many historians believe he never met Richard Garnett. Interestingly, the family of Richard Garnett identified the original photograph as that of the general at the time of the war. Why would they identify the original photograph as Richard if the photograph is indeed Robert.
Robert Selden Garnett

       To further complicate the matter, many believe that a photograph labeled as Confederate Major General Franklin Gardner is actually a picture of Richard Garnett. The matter became even more complicated a couple of years ago when a photograph surfaced with Richard Garnett’s name on the back. It shows a blonde haired gentleman that looks nothing like Robert Selden Garnett. Another historian believes this photograph is actually Confederate congressman Muscoe Russell Hunter Garnett of Virginia.
Confederate General Franklin Gardner

Photograph labeled Franklin Gardner that many believe is that of Richard Garnett

Mystery Photograph with Richard Garnett’s name on the back

       Prior to the Civil War, Garnett had a son by an Oglala Souix woman. They named the boy William “Billy” Garnett and there are several photographs of him in existence. Many historians try to take this photograph and compare them to the three photographs claimed by many to be Richard in order to figure out which is the famed general.
Billy Garnett

       Garnett’s body was never found following the grand charge and many believe he was probably reinterred with the Confederate dead of Gettysburg in Hollywood Cemetery. The question still remains, which of these three are Richard Brooke Garnett or is it possible he never had a photograph taken that survived. We may never know.
Monument in Hollywood Cemetery for Richard Brooke Garnett

A Vision Across The Miles

Confederate Brigadier General States Rights Gist

       Confederate Brigadier General States Rights Gist was standing on Winstead Hill just south of the town of Franklin on November 30, 1864. He was busy trying to convince his servant Wiley to saddle his horse “Joe Johnston” for the coming charge because his other horse “Kitty“ was broken down. Wiley tried his best to persuade Gist not to ride this particular horse, saying, “Marse States, you ain’t got no business riding Joe. Joe ain’t got no sense when the bullets come around.”
       Gist had no choice because “Kitty” was stumbling as she walked. He replied, “He’ll just have to get used to the bullets.”
       Gist also realized the danger the frontal assault would present. He told his servant, “Wiley, you take charge of my money, my watch and ring. I might get tripped up this evening. Use what money you need, and if anything happens, take the watch and ring to my wife.”
Photo of Gist in the South Carolina Militia

       At that same moment almost four hundred miles away, General Gist’s brother Nathaniel lay of his deathbed with a fever. Their sister Sarah sat next to the bed attempting to make him as comfortable as possible. Nathaniel Gist had gotten typhoid fever while bringing the body of a dead relative from the front lines home for burial.
       Nathaniel appeared to be getting delirious from his high fever. He stared at the ceiling as if he were seeing something happening far away. Suddenly, he announced, “Sarah, States has been killed in battle this afternoon.”
       Everyone present in the room became unnerved by the announcement. There was no reason to believe States Gist had even been in a battle, much less killed. He’d made it through three years of war with only a few minor wounds. Sarah attempted to calm Nathaniel. She was sure it was only the fever.
       She said, “No, States is all right, your only dreaming.”
       Nathaniel refused to be comforted. He continued in his delirium, determined that his younger brother was dead. Finally, he announced, “I know that States is dead.”
       Back in Tennessee, States Rights Gist was leading his brigade of South  Carolina troops forward in one of the bloodiest assaults in the history of this country. Gist’s horse “Joe” was shot through the neck and began to plunge so wildly that the general was forced to dismount.
       States then charged forward on foot leading his men. As they approached the Federal line, Gist was hit in the thigh by rifle fire. He refused to leave the field and was determined to share the fate of his men. As they reached the Federal breastworks, Gist was hit in the chest, a bullet passing through his left lung. He was in intense pain and as he was carried from the field, his last words were to one of his staff officers, “Lieutenant Trenholm, take me home to my wife.”
Janie Gist

       He died at a field hospital at 8:30 p.m. His servant Wiley heard that Gist had been wounded and went in search of him. He asked a local lady if he could bury Gist in her yard and she was only too happy to provide a place for the great man. His wife, Janie Gist had his body brought back to South Carolina in 1866 and he rests there today in Trinity Episcopal Church Cemetery, Columbia, South Carolina.
       Nathaniel survived his brother by only nine days. He rests in Fair Forest Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Jonesville, South Carolina. How he could possibly know his brother was dying in battle is a mystery. Perhaps when one is that close to death, he can sense things about those he loves so much.
Grave of States Rights Gist

Civil War ego’s: Grant and Banks

Nathaniel Prentiss Banks

       Ever wonder why certain generals of the Civil War were more loved by their men than others? I have a theory. First, let me set the stage.
       When Nathaniel Prentiss Banks ordered his second assault on Port Hudson against Franklin Gardner’s entrenched Confederate troops, he suffered over 1500 casualties in a very short time. His wounded lay suffering in the hot July sun and when the Southern troops attempted to go assist these poor men, they were fired on by the Federals on Banks’ orders. Gardner sent a flag of truce to Banks asking for a truce that his men may go out and bury Banks’ dead, Banks replied that he had no dead on the field.
       One of Banks’ subordinates, General William Dwight had several Confederate officers send him messages asking for a truce to bury the dead and tend the wounded. Dwight replied, “No, sir, it is a strategem of the enemy to get the dead carcasses carried away from their works. No sir. I’ll stink the rebels out of the citadel with the dead bodies of these damned volunteers. If I cannot make the cowards take it by storm, as I have ordered them to do.” Surprisingly, Dwight wasn’t very loved by his troops either. The bodies of his troops lay on the field as the bones were picked clean by vultures until the siege ended.
Ulysses Grant

       Many present day historians have attempted to re-write history by attempting to show what everyone during Civil War times knew about the man. Grant was nicknamed the “butcher” and apparently for good reason. More importantly, it wasn’t the people of the southern states who gave Grant this nickname, but his own people.
       After Grant’s assault at Vicksburg, hundreds of dead and wounded lay between the lines in the Mississippi sun. The cries of the wounded caused Confederate troops to venture out in the night to give these poor men water. Confederate General James Pemberton asked Grant for a truce so Grant could bury his dead and recover the wounded. Pemberton even told Grant the southern troops would do this for Grant if he didn’t want to care for his own men. Grant refused citing that it would appear a weakness on his part to call a truce. The Confederate soldiers complained that Grant was attempting to stink them out of Vicksburg because he couldn’t take it. Finally, Grant’s own medical staff warned Grant that the bodies were bound to cause health and sanitation problems if not buried. Grant then relented.
       After the bloody assaults at Cold Harbor which inflicted 9000 casualties on Grant’s army, he found himself again with hundreds of dead and wounded between the lines. Lee’s men had been entrenched and therefore had no bodies between the lines. Hancock asked his commander to ask for a truce to care for the wounded and bury the dead.
       Grant understood that to ask Lee for a truce was the same as admitting he had been defeated in the climactic battle of his first campaign in the east. Therefore, he wrote Lee saying it has been reported to me there are wounded between the lines of both armies. If it was alright with Lee, anyone along the line could call a truce to attend these men. The wording of the note to Lee made it appear that Grant had been too busy to notice there were wounded men between the lines.
       Lee worried about misunderstandings with anyone along the line calling temporary truces replied to Grant that he would agree to a truce if Grant desired one, but it should be done by the commanders, not individual soldiers. Grant decided to pretend he misunderstood Lee. He wrote Lee saying he understood Lee wanted a flag of truce and would send the men out at noon the next day.
       Lee was forced to write Grant again apologizing that he had not made himself clear. He stated that for a truce to be made it should be sent from one army commander to another in the proper military way. Grant finally conceded and requested the truce, but by the time he did so it was too late and the wounded lay between the lines another night.
       It is interesting to note, that while Lee was eventually defeated by Grant, it is Lee who was more respected by his men. Although, some modern historians want us to think Grant was not what history labeled him, one can understand how he earned his nickname. His ego certainly ruled his decision making at times, where a commander who loved his men would have realized his mistake and asked for a truce right away. Of course there were commanders who cared too much for their men. Two such generals were McClellan and Joe Johnston who often refused to fight for fear of losing any men. These type men are poor commanders also. There is a fine line between a general who cares for his men and yet is able to send them to their deaths. Lee is an example of just that type commander.

John Gregg: The Confederate General who kept sticking his neck out

John Gregg

       John Gregg was born in Lawrence County, Alabama in 1828. He obtained a college education at Lagrange College in Franklin County (now Colbert County), Alabama. He studied law in Tuscumbia and then moved to Fairfield, Texas where he practiced law and became a district judge at the age of 28.
       In 1858, Gregg returned to Alabama, traveling to Morgan County where he married Mary Francis Garth. Mary’s father was Jesse Winston Garth, who owned hundreds of slaves and his personal property was worth 150,000 dollars. It would be equal to 3.9 million dollars in todays money. Jesse Garth was a strong Unionist and stated that he would gladly give up all his wealth to maintain the Union.
       John Gregg returned to Texas with his new bride and continued his law practice. When the war began, Gregg was worth over 13,000 dollars. It was equal to 355,000 dollars in todays money.
       He and his father-in-law would never agree on the secession issue. Gregg would serve as a member of the Texas secession convention and voted to take the state out of the Union.
       Gregg would be elected to the Confederate Congress and travel to Montgomery, Alabama and later to Richmond, Virginia when the capital was moved there. Longing for active duty, he resigned his seat in congress in August of 1861 and returned to Texas. He organized the 7th Texas Infantry Regiment and was made the colonel commanding the unit.
John Gregg’s piercing eyes

       The 7th Texas was sent across the Mississippi River and stationed at Fort Donelson. Gregg and his men were surrendered there in February of 1862. He was sent to Fort Warren in Boston, Massachusetts. He was held there for six months until exchanged in August of 1862.
       Upon his release, President Davis promoted Gregg to brigadier general. He was sent to Mississippi where he commanded a brigade consisting of his 7th Texas, 1st, 30th, 41st, and 50th Tennessee Infantry regiments. He and his brigade helped repel the assault made by Sherman at Chickasaw Bayou. Sherman lost over 1100 men compared to less than 200 Confederate casualties.
       At the Battle of Raymond, Gregg’s brigade faced a Union force under McPherson that was about 12,000 strong. Gregg’s brigade had 4,000 men engaged. He was then pulled back to Jackson, Mississippi by General Joseph E. Johnston where he saw action before Johnston retreated from the town.
Raymond battlefield

        After the fall of Vicksburg his brigade was sent to Braxton Bragg’s army in Georgia. At the battle of Chickamauga, Gregg’s brigade was assigned to Longstreet’s Corps. His men were part of the force that broke the Federal army. During the fighting there, Gregg was shot in the neck and left for dead. His body was robbed by Federal soldiers. He recovered despite the severe wound and was rewarded by Longstreet for his part of the battle. Longstreet placed Gregg in command of Hood’s old Texas Brigade.
Brigadier General John Gregg

       He was a perfect fit for this brigade. The man even favored John Bell Hood in appearance. He was repeatedly commended for his bravery under fire from the Wilderness to Petersburg. During the siege of Petersburg, General Robert E. Lee sent Gregg north of the James River to drive the Federals from in front of Richmond. On October 7, 1864, he led his men against a Federal position fortified with abatis. The Union soldiers were armed with Spencer repeating rifles. Gregg’s men actually penetrated the Federal lines, but Gregg was shot in the neck again and killed. His second in command was shot in the shoulder and wounded. The attack quickly fell apart.
       John Gregg’s body lay in state in the Confederate Capital. His men loved him so much that Lee granted their request to escort his body to Hollywood Cemetery for burial. His wife traveled to Richmond to retrieve his body and upon reaching the Confederate Capital she suffered a nervous breakdown. She recovered a month later and carried her husband back to Aberdeen, Mississippi where her father owned land. He was buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery there.
Grave of John Gregg

Inscription on Gregg’s Tombstone

Headstone at Gregg’s Grave

       John Gregg was described as a rugged and unrelenting fighter, without personal fear. He was also called pugnacious in battle. The man was a very capable brigade commander and probably would have made a bold division commander if given the chance. He was 36 years old. Gregg County, Texas was named in his honor.
John Gregg bust at the courthouse in Gregg County, Texas


Old Bench-leg

Roger Weightman Hanson
       Roger Weightman Hanson was born in Winchester, Kentucky in 1827. After finishing school, he volunteered for the Mexican War. He was made a 1st lieutenant in John Williams Kentucky company and earned a reputation for his fearlessness in combat. Despite his reckless actions in battle, he came home without a scratch.
       That would change in Lexington, Kentucky when he and a fellow law student had a disagreement they decided to settle by dueling. In this duel, Hanson would be shot in the leg just above the knee causing him to walk with a limp for the rest of his life. It would also earn him the nickname “Bench-leg”.
       Roger Hanson decided to travel to California during the gold rush. En route, his horse died and he was forced to limp the last 200 miles on foot. The “gold fever” didn’t last a year and he returned to Lexington, Kentucky. There he earned another reputation for his defense in criminal cases as an attorney.
       When the Civil War began, he agreed with Kentucky about remaining neutral. He changed his mind soon after the war began because he believed a Union victory would greatly reduce the power of the state governments.
       He was commissioned a colonel in the Confederate army and took command of the 2nd Kentucky Mounted Infantry. Hanson was a strict commander who insisted his regiment have discipline and lots of drill. Most men would despise a commander like Hanson, but he had a great sense of humor and his men loved him.
       His regiment was soon sent to Fort Donelson where they fought well but became prisoners when the fort fell. Called “the best colonel in our service”, the Confederates worked hard for Hanson’s exchange. He was exchanged too late to join the Bragg’s army in Kentucky. General Breckinridge was soon promoted to command the division and this resulted in Hanson being promoted to brigadier general of the “Orphan Brigade” on October 26, 1862. The brigade earned the nickname because they were all Kentuckians isolated from their home state.
       Roger Hanson wasn’t at all pleased with the condition of his brigade. The Kentuckians were great in soldiers, but were extremely lax around camp. Hanson was extremely active in the short time he was commander of the brigade, but wasn’t very satisfied with the results. The men just didn’t care about policing their camp and keeping their area clean.
       On the final day of the Battle of Murfreesboro, Bragg ordered Breckinridge to take his division and charge the Federal lines on high ground across a field and behind Stones River. Not only would Breckinridge be attacking a Federal division in a strong position, but the Federals had 60 cannons lined up hub to hub.
Hanson’s men would be forced to ford Stones River under fire

       Breckinridge begged Bragg not to send his men into what was certainly going to be a slaughter. Bragg wasn’t listening. He simply replied, “I believe, sir, you have your orders.”
       When Breckinridge told his brigade commanders what they were ordered to do, Hanson became furious. He went so far as to threaten the life of General Bragg and had to be restrained. (He wouldn’t be the last Confederate to threaten Bragg.)
       As Hanson formed his men for the attack, his anger subsided and he became melancholy. He remarked to one of his staff officers, “I believe this will be my last battle.”
Position of the Federal cannons
       The 4500 man division surged across the field into the fierce artillery and rifle barrage. Shrapnel from an exploding artillery shell struck Hanson near the knee severing his femoral artery. (Some say it struck him in the hip. General Breckinridge rode to Hanson’s side. Despite the shells bursting overhead, he tried to stem the blood gushing from his brigadier’s leg. Breckinridge’s eyes were filled with tears.
       The Confederate assault soon stalled after having lost 1800 men in less than an hour. As Hanson was being treated by a surgeon, he never complained about the pain, but insisted the man go treat his wounded men. Back in Murfreesboro, Breckinridge’s wife and Hanson’s wife both tried to nurse him back to health. A surgeon said the leg needed to be amputated, but Hanson was too weak to survive the surgery.
The general’s wife, Virginia Peters Hanson

       Two days later, Hanson would die from loss of blood. He admitted that it was glorious to die for ones country and have died in a just cause and done my duty. He would pass away in the company of his wife and friends. Originally buried in Nashville, today he rests beside his wife in Lexington Cemetery, Lexington, Kentucky.
Grave of Roger and Virginia Hanson

Benjamin Hardin Helm and wife: The Lincoln Connection

Confederate General Ben Hardin Helm

       Benjamin Hardin Helm, called Ben, was born in Kentucky in 1831. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1851, finishing ninth out of forty-two cadets. His high class ranking managed to obtain him a commission in the cavalry. After six months of service he was forced to resign his commission because of poor health and returned to Kentucky where he became an attorney. He eventually was elected to the Kentucky State Legislature.
       In 1856, Helm married Emilie Todd, the half-sister of Mary Todd, who became Mary Todd, wife of Abraham Lincoln. Emilie was eighteen years younger than Mary Todd Lincoln and was just a child when the two married. For the rest of his life, Abraham Lincoln referred to Emilie as “Little Sister”.
Emilie Todd

       Helm was an officer in the Kentucky militia when the Civil War began. He was commissioned colonel of the 1st Kentucky Cavalry Regiment after refusing an offer to be made a major in the United States Army by his brother-in-law Abraham Lincoln.
       Ben Helm was promoted to brigadier general just before the Battle of Shiloh, although he missed that engagement. At the Battle of Baton Rouge he was severely wounded when his horse reared and fell backward onto him, shattering his left leg. His wife’s brother Aleck was killed in the same action. The entire affair occurred because of troops blundering around in the darkness, nervous and too ready to open fire, expecting the enemy to be everywhere.
Wartime photo of Benjamin Helm

       He spent the next three months recovering from his wound. After Roger Hanson was killed at Murfreesboro, Helm received command of the “Orphan Brigade” of Kentucky infantry. Helm believed in drill, but was a more approachable man than Hanson had been. Thus, his men loved him and no other commander of the brigade was ever loved as much as Ben Helm.
       At the Battle of Chickamauga he lead the brigade in a disjointed attack. Three separate charges were made and during the last charge Helm was hit in the left side by rifle fire. His brigade had lost 500 of the 1400 men engaged and were forced to fall back. He was carried to the rear and the wound was inspected by a surgeon. Helm asked the doctor, “Is there any hope?”
       The surgeon replied, “My dear General, there is no hope!”
Monument marking the site where Helm received his fatal wound
       He lay there for several hours waiting for the inevitable. After dark, he heard cheering coming from the front. When he asked what it meant, he was told the Confederate Army had carried the day. Helm repeated to himself over and over again, “Victory!” They were his last words.
Benjamin Helm, Lincoln’s favorite brother-in-law

       Benjamin Hardin Helm was buried in Atlanta, Georgia, but twenty years after the war was over his remains were removed to Kentucky. He rests today in the Helm Family Cemetery, Elizabethtown, Kentucky.
Military marker with Helm’s last words
Helm’s original marker

       After Lincoln heard of Helm’s death, Illinois Senator David Davis wrote: “I never saw Lincoln more moved than when he learned of the death of his young brother-in-law Ben Hardin Helm, only thirty-two years old, at Chickamauga. I called to see him…finding him in the greatest grief so I closed the door and left him alone.”
       Lincoln invited Helm’s widow Emilie to the White House to spend the winter. The trip was very peaceful, there was no fighting or blaming the other over the sides each had taken. Emilie’s daughter Katie and Mary’s son Tad often argued over who was president. Tad insisted that his father was the president and Katie insisted it was Jefferson Davis.
       On another occasion New York Senator Ira Harris was visiting the White House and entered a room with Emilie and Mary sitting together. Harris stared at Emilie and said, “Well, we have whipped the rebels at Chattanooga and I hear, madam, that the scoundrels ran like scared rabbits.”
       Emilie immediately replied, “It was the example, Senator Harris, that you set them at Bull Run and Manassas.”
       The senator realized that he had met his match, so he turned on Mary Lincoln, asking, “Why isn’t Robert (the Lincoln’s oldest son) in the army? He is old enough and strong enough to serve his country. He should have gone to the front some time ago.”
       Mary turned the tables on him at once, saying, “It is my fault. He is desperate to join up, but I told him an educated man can serve his country with more intelligent purpose than an ignoramus.”
       She was basically calling Harris an ignoramus and this infuriated him even more.
       “I have only one son and he is fighting for his country,” Harris then turned to Emilie and said, “and Madam, if I had twenty sons they should all be fighting the rebels.”
       “And if I had twenty sons, Senator Harris, they should all be opposing yours,” Emilie replied.
       Senator Harris realized when he had been bested and immediately left the room. General Sickles, a fellow citizen of New York and friend of the senator witnessed the entire scene. He went straight to President Lincoln and told him to get that rebel out of the White House. Lincoln told Sickles that he and his wife would choose their guests without any input from others.
       Abraham Lincoln pardoned Emilie and allowed her to return to Kentucky. She then sent a request to send clothing to freezing Confederate prisoners at Camp Douglas Prison in Chicago. Lincoln thought this was a disloyal act and ordered that she be arrested if she was indeed aiding the Confederacy. She would never speak to her brother-in-law or sister Mary again.
       Emilie Todd would survive her husband by sixty-six years, dying at the age of 93 in 1930 of a heart attack. Just before her death, her daughter found her burning her diary and asked why she would do such a thing. Emilie replied, “There is just too much bitterness in it.”
Emilie in old age

       She rests today in Lexington Cemetery, Lexington, Kentucky with other members of the Todd family. One wonders why she wasn’t buried beside her husband who she loved so dearly.
Grave of Emilie Todd Helm

Alfred Iverson: A General and His Burial Trench

Alfred Iverson, Jr.

       Alfred Iverson was born in 1829 in Clinton, Georgia. Iverson’s father was a United States Senator, but decided on a military career for his namesake. He enrolled young Alfred in Tuskegee Military Institute in Alabama. Iverson left school at the age of seventeen to fight in the Mexican War. His father raised a regiment of Georgia volunteers and Alfred served as a second lieutenant.
       Iverson would leave military service in 1848 to become an attorney, but he decided to return to the military in 1855, being commissioned a first lieutenant in the United States cavalry. He would resign from the Federal army when the Civil War began and because of his father’s friendship with President Davis, he would be commissioned colonel of the 20th North Carolina Infantry.
       He would be severely wounded in his first action at the Battle of Gaines’ Mill, but was distinguished for his action there. This would be one of his best battles. It seems he was snake bit for much of the rest of the war. He recovered from his wound in time to see action in the Maryland Campaign. At South Mountain when Brigadier General Samuel Garland was killed, the entire brigade broke and fled the field. At Antietam, Iverson’s regiment ran from the field, but he managed to reform them and lead them back into the fray.
       Following the battle, Iverson was promoted to brigadier general. Senior Colonel Duncan Kirkland McRae of the 5th North Carolina Infantry resigned his commission in disgust. The new brigadier would be held in reserve at Fredericksburg.
       Following the battle, Iverson attempted to bring an old friend in as colonel of the 20th North Carolina Infantry. Twenty-six officers protested to the action and Iverson attempted to have all of them arrested. When he failed to promote his friend, he childishly refused to promote anyone else to the position of colonel in the regiment.
       Iverson led his brigade into battle at Chancellorsville, suffering heavy casualties and being hit in the groin by a piece of shell fragment. During this time, he continued to argue with his subordinates. Many in the brigade began to complain that he was a coward because he had gone to the rear during the battle to seek reinforcements.
       On the first day at Gettysburg, Iverson sent his brigade against an entire Federal corps alone. Most historians believe that Iverson was intoxicated. When he ordered the brigade forward, he shouted, “Give them hell!” He then watched them advance alone while he stayed in the rear. The brigade advanced against the line of Federals who were crouched behind a stone wall. They lost 900 men in a very short period of time. The brigadier then cursed his men as cowards after the attack failed. Iverson had only 500 men left in his brigade, but Lee relieved him from command of the brigade for the remainder of the battle.
       The men fell in a nearly straight line and were buried on the spot. After the battle, once the bodies decayed, the ground sank and locals called these spots ‘Iverson’s Pits’. A veteran returned after the war and dug into these pits finding buttons, bullets and teeth. It was all that remained of Iverson’s men.
Iverson’s Pits
       General Lee later made Iverson the temporary provost marshall of his army, which removed him from combat command. Lee then sent Iverson back to Georgia to organize a cavalry brigade. Iverson then took command of a division of Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry during Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign.
       Iverson did manage to defeat a larger command of Federal cavalry at this time. Major General George Stoneman and a large portion of his command were captured by Iverson. This meant that Iverson captured the highest ranking Federal officer captured during the war.
George Stoneman

       Iverson became a business man in Macon, Georgia following the war, but soon moved to Florida where he began to farm oranges. He moved back to Atlanta to live with his daughter and died there in 1911. He rests today in Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia.
Alfred Iverson years after the war

       Numerous stories have been written about Alfred Iverson. One is about a soldier who seeks revenge on Iverson for the murder of so many North Carolina soldiers at Gettysburg. There are several stories surrounding the burial trench that became known as Iverson’s Pits. One colonel who was lay mortally wounded after the assault at Gettysburg stated that he would make sure that his men would never have to serve under the imbecile Iverson again. One North Carolina soldier wrote that Iverson sent his brigade ahead “Unwarned, unled as a brigade, went forward Iverson’s deserted band to its doom.”
Iverson’s Grave in Atlanta, Georgia

Who killed Albert Sidney Johnston

Albert Sidney Johnston

       There is a mild controversy among historians as to who actually killed Albert Sidney Johnston at Shiloh. The Kentucky born general had adopted Texas as his home state and because of his friendship with Jefferson Davis was made the highest ranking field general in the Confederate Army. Davis had once said, “If Johnston is not a general, then we have no general.”
       What is known about Johnston’s death is that he led a charge against the Peach Orchard sector of the battlefield. He was struck in the back of the knee, the bullet slicing his popliteal artery and he bled to death on the field. There is more to the story, however.
Johnston led his men from the far tree line

       On February 7, 1837, Johnston fought a duel with Texas General Felix Huston. He was struck in the hip by a pistol ball. The wound damaged a nerve in Johnston’s right leg and he lost a good bit of sensation as a result. When he was struck by the bullet at Shiloh, he had no idea that he’d been wounded.
Popliteal Artery located behind the knee

       Johnston wore high riding boots and the blood poured into his boot and as a result was unnoticed by members of his staff. It wasn’t until moments later that he was observed under a tree slumping in the saddle. His staff took him off his horse and carried him into a nearby ravine and searched for the wound. When they removed his boot, they found it filled with blood. Ironically, Johnston carried a tourniquet with him, but none of his staff understood how to use it. Johnston soon lapsed into unconsciousness and died.
Site where Johnston was noticed to be wounded
Ravine where Johnston died

       The story gets even murkier at this point. A surgeon dug the bullet out of the back of Johnston’s leg and announced that it was an Enfield bullet. Federal soldiers in that section of the battlefield weren’t carrying Enfield’s. The Confederate soldiers that Johnston was leading in the charge were carrying Enfield Rifles. That would mean in all probability that Johnston was shot by his own men by accident.
       One account states that Johnston, Harris and Breckinridge placed themselves about forty paces in front of the line of about 5,000 men and led the charge. It was the highest ranking charge in American history. Johnston was the ranking field general in the Confederate Army, Breckinridge was the ex-vice president of the United States, and Harris was the current governor of Tennessee. As a side note, the Confederate governor of Kentucky George Johnson was killed at Shiloh on another part of the field while serving as a volunteer private on line with men from his state.
Albert Sidney Johnston in C.S. Uniform

       It can be argued that Johnston was hit in the back of the knee by a Confederate bullet during the charge. It could also be argued that his surgeon misidentified the bullet. One could also argue that Johnston was killed by Felix Huston in the duel 25 years before that fateful day. Had he not had the nerve damage in his leg, he would have felt the wound when it occurred. Regardless, Sidney Johnston remains one of the great what-ifs of the war. I plan on doing another blog on his generalship in the future.
       It is a strong possibility that Johnston was the first Confederate general to be shot by his own men, but he certainly would not be the last. Stonewall Jackson (Chancellorsville), Micah Jenkins (The Wilderness) and James Longstreet (The Wilderness, but survived) would be other Confederate’s hit by friendly fire.


THE GENERAL WITH THE LONG NAME: JEAN JACQUES ALFRED ALEXANDER MOUTON

Brigadier General Alfred Mouton

       Alfred Mouton was born on February 18, 1829 in Opelousas, Louisiana. His father would become governor of the state in 1843. The younger Mouton would eventually receive an education at West Point, graduating 38th in the class of 1850. He immediately resigned his commission and returned to Louisiana to become a planter. After managing his fathers plantation for two years, he then purchased a plantation of his own.
Mouton’s father’s plantation called Ile Copal
        He received an appointment as brigadier general in the Louisiana State Militia in 1855. When the Civil War arrived, Mouton was commissioned a captain in the Confederate army by President Jefferson Davis. He would help raise the 18th Louisiana Infantry and was elected colonel of the unit.
      The regiment would be placed in Daniel Ruggles brigade and sent to Corinth, Mississippi. From there, the unit would see action at Shiloh. On the first day, Mouton led a brave charge which resulted in heavy casualties. The colonels clothes and saddle had dozens of bullet holes and his horse was killed beneath him in the assault. On the second day of the battle, Mouton was wounded in the face. The wound became infected and he was forced to return home to recover.
       For the gallantry he demonstrated at Shiloh, President Davis promoted Mouton to brigadier general. Upon recovery, he was placed under Richard Taylor in Louisiana. Because of an attack of rheumatism, he would miss his first battle with his new command. He repulsed Federal attacks at the Battle of Bisland in April of 1863, but would see no more action for the remainder of the year.
       Taylor gave Mouton command of a division although it didn’t result in a promotion to major general. In other words, Mouton had more responsibility, but with the same pay. He would lead the division in the Battle of Mansfield on April 8, 1864 and helped Taylor’s army defeat Federal General Banks. Sadly, this battle would be Mouton’s last.
       Taylor had nothing but praise for Mouton’s brave charge at Mansfield. Despite heavy casualties, Mouton’s men pressed on across an open field, through a ravine and up a hill. They captured several Federal guns and caused the enemy line to break. Thirty-five Federal soldiers threw down their rifles to surrender. Mouton watched as his men raised their rifles to fire on the defenseless enemy soldiers. He immediately rode his horse in front of his men and ordered them to hold their fire. Five of the surrendering enemy soldiers reached down and grabbing their rifles opened fire on the man who had just saved their lives.
       Mouton was hit by several bullets and fell from the saddle, killed almost instantly. The act so enraged Mouton’s men that they immediately opened fire killing all thirty-five of the enemy troops. One Confederate soldier said the dead enemy soldiers lay around the body of General Mouton looking like a guard of honor pulled from the Federal ranks to honor such a brave man.
Death site of General Mouton at Mansfield
       Mouton was buried on the field and his division marched past the grave, many with tears filling their eyes. Some were said to have thrown themselves on the ground in sorrow at the loss of their brave commander. His men were so angered at the act, that many captured Federals begged for mercy for fear of vengeance.
      Richard Taylor admitted to being deeply affected at the loss of his division commander. Mouton had been loyal to his commander. Kirby Smith in overall command had been feuding with Taylor over strategy. Smith wanted to fight on the defensive and react to the enemy’s moves. Taylor had learned his warfare under Jackson and believed in taking the initiative against the enemy. With Mouton gone, Taylor lost an ally in his personal battle with Smith.
Mouton’s statue in Lafayette, Louisiana
       Alfred Mouton’s body would eventually be removed and buried in the Mouton family plot in Saint John Cemetery, Lafayette, Louisiana. The only bad thing that was ever said about Mouton was written by one of his soldiers. The man complained that Mouton didn’t like to carry out executions of his men for desertion. The general with the long name was not only respected by his men, but he seemed like a genuine good person. He certainly didn’t deserve the sad fate that he suffered.
The grave of Alfred Mouton

 

Brigadier General Abner Monroe Perrin


       Part of the problem of living with a sleep disorder is finding yourself wide awake at five in the morning and wishing you were asleep. Of course falling asleep about four yesterday afternoon and waking up at midnight has something to do with it. I thought I would use this time writing about one of my favorite Confederate generals. 

       Abner Perrin was born in 1827 in South Carolina. He fought in the Mexican War at the age of 19 and earned promotion to lieutenant while there. Following that war, he returned to South Carolina where he became an attorney. When the Civil War began, Perrin was elected captain in the 14th South Carolina Infantry.

       They would see their first action in the Seven Days battles around Richmond in the summer of 1862. Perrin and his men were heavily engaged at both Gaines’ Mill and Frayser’s Farm during the now famous Seven Days Campaign. 

       They fought at Cedar Mountain, Second Manassas, Sharpsburg (Antietam), and Fredericksburg. Perrin was slightly wounded at Fredericksburg where his brigade commander Maxcy Gregg was killed. Perrin received a promotion to colonel in January of 1863. At Chancellorsville when all the senior officers were killed or wounded, Perrin was placed in charge of the brigade. He would travel to Gettysburg in command of the brigade, but still only ranked colonel. He lost almost half his brigade in the attack on the first day there, but he led the brigade forward and broke the Federal line in his front. 

       Perrin was promoted to brigadier general in September of 1863. When his former commander Samuel McGowan returned to duty in February of 1864 after his long recuperation from Chancellorsville, Perrin took command of Wilcox’s Alabama Brigade. He led his new brigade at the Wilderness, again proving himself to be a great leader. 


 

The “Mule Shoe” at Spotsylvania

 

       At Spotsylvania on May 12, 1864, Perrin was ordered to lead his brigade of Alabamians into the breach when the Federals overran the “Mule Shoe.” He said, “I shall come out of this fight a live major general or a dead brigadier.” He led his men into the breach and helped close the gap, stopping the Federal advance. Perrin didn’t live to see his men triumph. He fell from his horse struck by several bullets. His body would be carried back to Fredericksburg, Virginia and buried in the City Cemetery. Although he didn’t receive his desired promotion to major general, he was deserving of such rank. He’d proven himself on many battlefields and the wonder is that such a brave man lived as long as he did. 


 

Grave of Abner Monroe Perrin

Carolina Cavalier: James Johnston Pettigrew

Brigadier General James Johnston Pettigrew

       One of my all time favorite generals is James Johnston Pettigrew of North Carolina. He was born in 1828 in Tyrrell County at Bonarva, the family plantation. The slim boy suffered health problems growing up in the swampy region and as a result was forced to spend a great deal of time indoors. He was tutored at the plantation and learned so fast that he enrolled at the University of North Carolina at the age of fifteen. Pettigrew is considered one of the finest scholars to ever attend the university.
       He graduated first in the Class of 1847 at the age of 18 and held the record of highest grade  point average at the school until just a few years ago. Upon graduation, Pettigrew was appointed an assistant professor at the United States Naval Observatory. He studied law, dabbled in politics and finally decided to travel the world. He would eventually write a book about his travels, but it was considered a dull work.
       At this point in his life, Pettigrew was considered a serious man, always thoughtful, but never wasting his time uselessly. He was described as slender built, olive complexioned and  possessing dark piercing eyes.
       When the war began, Pettigrew had very limited military experience. He had served briefly as a colonel of a militia regiment in 1859. He was in Charleston when the war began and captured Castle Pinckney. Frustrated about not seeing any action, he resigned his commission and joined Hampton’s Legion as a private.
Pettigrew early in the war

       Just hours before the Battle of Manassas, Pettigrew was commissioned colonel of the 22nd North Carolina Infantry and missed the battle. He was extremely frustrated about not having combat experience. President Davis attempted to promote Pettigrew to brigadier general, but the man would have none of it. He claimed he didn’t have the experience necessary for the promotion. Two weeks later, he would cave in to the pressure and accept the promotion.
       Upon hearing of Pettigrew’s promotion, a member of his family asked to be placed on his staff because he assumed it would be a place of safety. Pettigrew responded, “I assure you that the most unsafe place in the brigade is about me. By all means, get rid of this idea of a safe place, which you will regret after time. The post of danger is certainly the post of honor.”
       Pettigrew would see his first action at the Battle of Seven Pines. Just as his brigade advanced against the enemy, Pettigrew was struck in the neck by a bullet. The projectile passed through his throat, slicing artery’s, damaging nerves, muscles and his windpipe. The wound was thought to be mortal. Pettigrew refused to allow any of his men to leave the ranks to carry him to the rear. He soon passed out. Sometime during the night he would receive another gunshot wound and a bayonet slash to one of his legs. He would awake the next morning a prisoner of war.
       Pettigrew was exchanged in August of 1862 and sent home to recuperate from his wounds. He would then take command of a brigade of North Carolina Infantry and see action at New Berne. Though the battle was lost, Pettigrew was praised for gallantry.
       In May of 1863, Pettigrew’s brigade was sent back to Virginia to join Robert E. Lee’s army on its invasion of Pennsylvania. His command saw some of the fiercest fighting there on July 1, 1863. Despite losing a lot of good men and a large portion of his staff, Pettigrew was lucky to be unharmed. When Henry Heth was wounded early in the action, Pettigrew took command of the division.
       On July 3, Lee ordered Pettigrew to lead Heth’s division in Pickett’s Charge against the Federal center. The division advanced under a galling fire. Portions of his left flank gave way and fell back, but the center and right advanced on across the field. Pettigrew’s horse was killed beneath him, but he continued to advance on foot with his men. He advanced to within a hundred yards of the Federal line when his hand was severely wounded by canister fire. (Canister is hundreds of small round balls fired at close range from cannons.)
       He stayed on the field and watched his division charge further than Pickett’s Virginians before being one of the last to leave the field. He slowly walked to the rear and met General Robert E. Lee. Lee said, “General, I am sorry to see you wounded; go to the rear.” Despite the pain, Pettigrew saluted and continued on his way.
Brigadier General Pettigrew

       During the retreat to Virginia, Pettigrew continued to command Heth’s division. At Falling Waters, Maryland, Pettigrew was receiving orders from Heth about being the rearguard, a group of forty drunken Union cavalrymen charged through the Confederate lines. The General’s horse was shot beneath him. He immediately came up with his pistol in his hand and began to stalk one of the troopers through a garden. It was at this point that he was hit in the stomach by a pistol ball. All forty of the Federal cavalrymen were killed in the fight.
Site of Pettigrew’s mortal wounding

       There was a chance the general could be saved if he would allow himself to be captured again. Pettigrew refused saying he would rather die than be a prisoner again. He was carried across the Potomac River and placed in the Boyd House where he died three days later. He had just turned thirty-five two weeks earlier.
Boyd House

       The death of Johnston Pettigrew was extremely hard on his family. Although he had no prior military training, he was extremely intelligent and quickly learned to command men.
Pettigrew’s frock coat

       Robert E. Lee said of the man, “The army has lost a brave soldier and the Confederacy an accomplished officer.”
       One staff officer noted, “Pettigrew’s brigade would have followed him wherever he led, or gone wherever he told them to go, no matter how desperate the enterprise.”
Pettigrew’s grave

       North Carolina held a day of mourning for General Pettigrew. A large crowd gathered for his funeral. A friend wrote, “More than anything, he loved liberty, but he felt that to love liberty was an empty mockery unless that love was exhibited in sacrifice which its acquisition requires.”
       James Johnston Pettigrew rests today in the Pettigrew Family Cemetery, Tyrrell County, North Carolina. He was possibly the most intelligent general in the Confederate army.

James Edward Rains: Knightly Soul

James Edward Rains

       James Edward Rains was born on April 10, 1833 in Nashville, Tennessee. His father was a Methodist minister. He spent his youth making saddle tack in his fathers saddle shop. He attended college at Yale and graduated in 1854. He then studied law and became the associate editor of the Daily Republican Bannerunder future Confederate Brigadier General Feliz Kirk Zollicoffer.
       Rains became an attorney in Nashville in 1858. He soon married Ida Yeatman and they had a daughter in 1859. Though opposed to secession, Rains joined a company in Nashville when the war began and was quickly elected lieutenant. It wasn’t long before he was made a Captain and then colonel of the 11th Tennessee Infantry Regiment.
       The ladies of Nashville presented the regiment with a nice flag before they departed. Colonel Rains made a short speech in which he promised they would bring the flag back or not come back at all. Rains and his regiment would see most of their action in east Tennessee serving around Cumberland Gap. He would soon be promoted to Brigadier General by President Jefferson Davis.
       They were attached to Bragg’s army following the Kentucky invasion in 1862. He would fight on the extreme left flank on the opening day of the Battle of Murfreesboro. Their job was to sweep north and then turn right toward the pike and cut off Rosecrans’ supply line to Nashville.
Rains in Confederate Uniform

       One soldier noted how the sounds of cannon and rifle fire seemed to inspire General Rains as ballroom music to a dance lover. He led his brigade forward and made the right wheel. They ran into stiff resistance in a cedar thicket. Colonel Vance latter reported that this was the worst fire they would encounter all day. The brigade suffered from intense artillery and infantry fire.
       General Rains was out front leading his men forward. He shouted, Forward, my brave men, forward!” At that moment a bullet struck him in the chest, pierced his heart and he fell dead. One of his men stated that Rains was pierced by a bullet that sent that knightly soul back to the God who gave it.
       The brigade soon ran out of ammunition and was forced to fall back. The pike was never taken. One soldier wrote that they watched a long black casket being carried back to Murfreesboro which contained General Rains remains. He talked about what a gloom it cast on the army. Most men believed that James Edward Rains was worth a thousand men in battle.
       Soon after the battle, a minister approached Rosecrans about carrying Rains body back through Federal lines to be buried in his home town at Nashville. Rosecrans allowed the body to be carried back, but refused the fallen officer to be buried with military honors.
Grave of James Edward Rains

       Today, General James Edward Rains rests in Nashville’s Mount Olivet Cemetery. He was twenty-nine years old. His daughter was only three at the time of his death. He is still remembered as a knightly soul. Prior to the war, there was nothing in Rains life to make one believe he would make such a great military leader.

A Brave Trans-Mississippi General

Horace Randal

       Horace Randal was born in 1833 in Tennessee, but his family moved to Texas when he was six years old. He was able to obtain an appointment to the United States Military Academy and graduated next to last place in the class of 1854. He would be commissioned a lieutenant in the infantry and spent the next six years in the west seeing action against Apache Indians.
       Randal married Julia Bassett in 1858. She would die in childbirth just before the Civil War began in 1861. The newborn wouldn’t survive either. He would marry Nannie Taylor in 1862 and they would have one son named Horace, Jr.
Randal and wife Julia
       When Texas left the Union, Randal resigned his commission and traveled to Montgomery, Alabama. Confederate President Davis promised Randal a commission as Captain in the Confederate army and ordered Randal to Pensacola, Florida. When Randal received a commission as 1st lieutenant, he returned to Montgomery where he ripped his commission to shreds.
       Randal then traveled to Virginia as a private citizen where he served on the staff of Gustavus Smith without pay. Smith asked President Davis to make Randal a captain. Davis admitted a mistake had been made, but there was nothing he could do about it now. He made Randal a 1st lieutenant in the Confederate cavalry.
       One Confederate soldier said of Randal, “Colonel Horace Randal, in some respects the most remarkable man I met during the war…He was a classmate of General Stuart at West Point, but had more physical dash than Stuart.”
       General John Bell Hood, another classmate of Randal, predicted that Randal would become the greatest cavalry leader of the war if given the chance. Others also mentioned how Randal never bragged on himself or his abilities, but always exhibited modesty.
       In the winter, Randal left the army in Virginia and traveled to Texas where he raised the 28th Texas Cavalry and became its colonel. They soon left Texas for Arkansas where they were dismounted and used as infantry. He was placed in charge of a brigade although he was only a colonel.
       Kirby Smith, the overall commander of the Trans-Mississippi department wrote Richmond seeking a promotion to brigadier general for Randal. The request was declined because Richmond was too far out of contact with the needs of the department west of the Mississippi River. Smith would have to appoint his own generals.
       After the battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, his immediate commander Richard Taylor had nothing but high praise for Randal. Kirby Smith decided to promote Randal to brigadier general on his own.
       Randal would only see action in one more battle. At the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry he would fall mortally wounded in a flank attack on the Federal’s position on April 30, 1864 and died on May 2. He was 33 years old. Randal rests today in Old Marshall Cemetery, Marshall, Texas. Randal County, Texas is named in his honor.
The grave of Brigadier General Horace Randal

The Bravest Man: Colonel William P. Rogers

Colonel William Peleg Rogers

William P. Rogers was born in 1819 in Georgia, but grew up in Alabama and later
Mississippi. His father wanted him to become a doctor. Rogers graduated medical
school and practiced medicine for a short time before becoming an attorney. He
joined the army during the Mexican War and was made a captain in the 1st
Mississippi Infantry. That regiment was commanded by Jefferson Davis, the future
president of the Confederacy.
Rogers proved to be an excellent leader, but he had trouble with Davis as his
commander. Davis had to control every part of his regiment down to the smallest
detail. Although Rogers had performed admirably during two battles, Davis
slighted the man in his reports. The war ended with both men having a strong
dislike of each other and ironically both would return home a war
hero.
Rogers moved to Texas and worked as an attorney and dabbled in politics until
the Civil War began. He was commissioned lieutenant colonel of the Second Texas
Infantry and saw his first action at the Battle of Shiloh. There the regiment
lost over one-third of its men. General Hardee called the regiment a “bunch of
cowards”. Rogers took offense to the statement and vowed to prove Hardee
wrong.
Rogers would be promoted to colonel and over the next few months the commanders
of over twenty regiments petitioned President Davis to make Rogers a general.
Rogers was pleased with the recommendation, but deep down he knew Davis would
never make him a general.
Battery Robinette

William Rogers most glorious moment would occur at the Battle of Corinth on
October 4, 1862. He was given the task of leading the assault on Battery
Robinette. Riding in front of his regiment, he shouted, “Forward,
Texans!”
He led the regiment from the tree line and across the field at a slow steady
march. The Federals described the sight of the Confederates slowly moving toward
them as nerve grating. Colonel Rogers rode in front of his line as cool as if he
were leading his men to dress parade. Within a hundred yards of the earthen fort
the Federals opened fire. Men went down by scores. Rogers ordered his regiment
to charge. They were forced to fight through abatis and over the dirt
walls.
Four of his color-bearers had been killed, so Rogers dismounted and picked up
the flag. With his pistol in one hand and the flag in the other, he climbed the
wall and planted his regiments colors on the parapet. Over half of his men were
shot down within minutes. William Rogers realized there was no way he could hold
the position. He shouted, “Men, save yourselves or sell your lives as dearly as
possible!”
Scene at Battery Robinette

Those would be his last words. Despite wearing a bullet proof vest, Rogers
would be killed. One of the bullets penetrated his body near the arm where the
vest didn’t cover. He was killed instantly.
Following the battle, General Rosecrans, the Federal commander would come to
Battery Robinette to see the brave colonel. Rosecrans would become known for
denying Confederates a burial with military honors, but not Colonel Rogers.
Rosecrans said, “He was one of the bravest men that ever led a charge. Bury him
with military honors and mark his grave, so his friends can claim him. The time
will come when there will be a monument here to commemorate his
bravery.”
Rogers Grave at Battery Robinette

Rosecrans would be correct in that prediction. Today there stands a large
obelisk just a few yards from Battery Robinette marking the grave of the brave
Texas colonel. Colonel John Daly of the Eighteenth Arkansas would also be killed
assaulting the fort. No one would ever accuse the Second Texas of cowardice
again.
William Rogers (L) and John Daly photographed after
the battle


The “Roll Tide” General

Confederate Brigadier General John Caldwell Calhoun Sanders

       When my Auburn fans are giving me a good ribbing, I like to ask them a trivia question. Which state university provided a Confederate general who gave his life for the Southern cause. Few people have heard of John Caldwell Calhoun Sanders. It may seem I’m desperate to go that far back, but then again, that’s the only era that I study.
       John Sanders was born on April 4, 1840 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He was twenty years old when Alabama seceded and a cadet at the University of Alabama. At the time, he was serving as orderly sergeant of the cadet corps and his commandant called him the best soldier and officer of the group. Despite the fact that his family wished he would stay and finish his education, Sanders withdrew from school and helped raise Company C, 11th Alabama Infantry. Because of his stellar record at the University of Alabama, he was elected captain of the company.
       The 11th Alabama would be rushed to Virginia, but failed to arrive in time to fight at First Manassas. After that battle, the 11th would be placed in Cadmus Wilcox’s all Alabama brigade. Sanders would see action at the battles of Seven Pines, Gaines’ Mill and Frayser’s Farm where he was wounded in the leg. The wound was severe enough to keep him out of action for a month.
       Because of the attrition in the 11th, Sanders would return to find himself the ranking officer. He would lead the regiment at the Battle of Second Manassas. He was then promoted to Major and led the regiment again at Antietam where he was slightly wounded in the face. After Antietam, Sanders would be promoted to colonel at the age of 22.
       He would next lead the regiment at the Battle of Chancellorsville where he received high praise from General Wilcox. At Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, Sanders would be hit in the knee by rifle fire while leading the regiment in an assault on Cemetery Ridge. The wound was serious enough to keep him out of action for five months. When he was able to return to command, he found that Wilcox had been promoted to Major General and he was the senior colonel of the brigade. He would lead the brigade in action during the Mine Run Campaign, but Lee felt he was too young to receive promotion to Brigadier General. The command was given to Abner Perrin.
       Sanders returned to command of the 11th Alabama and saw action at the Battle of the Wilderness. At Spotsylvania, when the Federal army overran the “Mule Shoe”, Perrin would be killed and Sanders took command of the brigade once again. He helped repulse the Federal onslaught and this time, Lee recommended him for promotion to Brigadier General. He led an impressive attack at the North Anna River and fought at Cold Harbor. His greatest day of the war would come at Petersburg during the Battle of the Crater. He personally led a counterattack that retook the crater. His men would take three Federal battle flags and capture over seven hundred prisoners.
       His worst day would come at the Battle of Globe Tavern. Leading his brigade in an attack on foot, he would be shot through the thighs, severing both femoral arteries. He didn’t collapse, but ordered his adjutant to take him to the rear. Losing blood rapidly, he would ask to be lain on the ground where he bled to death in a very few minutes. John Sanders was 24 years old.
       His men had nothing but praise for the gallant young commander. It was said there were none braver in the Confederate army than General Sanders. Others said he was born to command and possessed the first qualities of a soldier. A Charleston newspaper wrote that none were more beloved and no death more regretted that the young Alabama general.
General Sanders original burial site in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia
       His body would be carried back to Richmond and buried in Hollywood Cemetery, the “Arlington of the Confederacy.” There is a marker in Hollywood Cemetery to the young general, but the exact location of his grave has been lost to history. There is a marker for him in Greenwood Cemetery, Montgomery, Alabama.


The marker for John Sanders in Greenwood Cemetery, Montgomery, Alabama

William Booth Taliaferro: The man who couldn’t destroy a Stonewall

William Booth Taliaferro

William Booth Taliaferro (pronounced Tah-liver), was born in 1822 in Virginia.  The man came from a very prominent family.  He was the nephew of James A. Seddon, who would become a Confederate Secretary of War.  He earned a degree at William and Mary College and then attended Harvard Law School.  He would work as an attorney until the Mexican War began.  He then joined the Eleventh United States Infantry where he was made a captain.  He would eventually be promoted to major before he was mustered out following the war.  Taliaferro would then serve in the Virginia House of Delegates and became a major general in the Virginia State Militia.
When the Civil War began, Taliaferro would be made colonel of the Twenty-third Virginia Infantry Regiment.  The unit would see action at Rich Mountain and Corrick’s Ford under Robert S. Garnett (Garnett would be the first general killed during the war at Corrick’s Ford).  He was soon commanding a brigade consisting of Georgia, Arkansas and Virginia Infantry.  His subordinates hated him because he was a very strict disciplinarian.  He was assaulted by a drunken Georgia soldier under his command on one occasion.
A young Taliaferro before the war

He also proved to be a thorn in the side of his superiors.  He and William Loring petitioned Richmond to remove “Stonewall” Jackson from command in January of 1862.  Though they both failed, Taliaferro was promoted to brigadier general.  Jackson protested the promotion, but at the same time appreciated Taliaferro’s devotion to discipline.  Though neither man liked the other personally, they managed to serve together during the Valley Campaign and Seven Days battle’s around Richmond.
At Cedar Mountain, when General Charles Winder was killed, Jackson gave Taliaferro  command of the division.  He would command the division at the Battle of Groveton where he would be severely wounded.  The man would be absent recovering for three months.  He again commanded the division at the Battle of Fredericksburg where they were held in reserve, yet still suffered a slight wound.  Taliaferro felt he had earned a promotion to major general by this point.  He became frustrated thinking Jackson was blocking his promotion.  He would ask and be granted a transfer, both men happy to be rid of the other.
Another wartime view of Taliaferro

Taliaferro was sent to General Beauregard in Charleston, South Carolina.  Beauregard placed the man in command of Battery Wagner, a sand fort located on Morris Island.  Taliaferro and his thirteen hundred man command endured a week of heavy shelling from Federal gunboats.  Following the bombardment, over 5,000 Federal infantry assaulted the fort.  The assault would fail, the Union army losing over 1400 men including Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, while Taliaferro’s force lost less than 200.
Colonel Robert Gould Shaw

Colonel Shaw was the son of a prominent Boston family and led the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Colored Infantry.  The Confederate government considered leading black troops against Southern forces to be inciting servile insurrection.  Also, during that time in American history, it was a disgrace for a white man to be buried in the same area as a black man.  When Shaw’s father wrote the Confederate commanders at Charleston a request for the body of his son, the reply was, “We buried him with his niggers.”  It is still argued today who exactly replied to Shaw’s father. Some say it was Taliaferro, others claim it was General Trappier, while still others claim it was an unnamed Confederate major.  Regardless, it was meant as an insult.
Battery Wagner would never fall, despite being bombarded for another sixty days, it would eventually be abandoned for lack of supplies.  A month following the battle, Beauregard removed Talaiferro from command at Battery Wagner and placed him in command of an infantry division on James Island.  He would command a division for the remainder of the war, but saw very little actual fighting.  His command would be surrendered by Joseph E. Johnston to Sherman on May 2, 1865.  He would never receive his longed for promotion to major general.
After the war, Taliaferro would return to the Virginia State Legislature and serve as a judge.  He served on the boards of William and Mary College and the Virginia Military Institute.  William Booth Taliaferro would die in 1898 at the age of 75.  He rests today in Ware Church Cemetery, Gloucester, Virginia.  Who knows what he may have become had he not undermined “Stonewall” Jackson during the first year of the war.
Taliaferro’s resting place


The Mystery General: Brigadier General Robert Charles Tyler

Robert C. Tyler the mystery man of the CSA

       Very little is known of the life of Confederate Brigadier General Robert Charles Tyler. He was born around 1833, but that is also disputed among historians today. Most believe Robert Tyler was born in Baltimore, Maryland, but some claim his birthplace was Jonesborough, Tennessee.
       Little is known about his early life. No one is sure where he went to school or if he attended college at all. What is known about his life prior to the Civil War is that he went with William Walker in his attempt to overthrow the government of Nicaragua. The attempt was initially a success but was eventually defeated due to the lack of support from the U.S. government.
       He had gained valuable experience commanding troops in Nicaragua and this would help him during the Civil War. Another Confederate officer that served in the filibustering attempt was Louisiana’s Roberdeau Wheat. Tyler would leave Nicaragua and return to Baltimore before settling in Memphis, Tennessee. The only other information we have pertaining to Tyler’s life is the fact that he helped form the Knights of the Golden Circle.
       When the war began, Tyler raised a company and became a major in the 15th Tennessee Infantry. Other historians believe he was a major on the staff of General Frank Cheatham. Regardless, he would see action at Shiloh where he would be wounded. He recovered in time to be promoted to colonel of the 15th Tennessee. Confederate General Braxton Bragg liked something about General Tyler because he would make him the provost of the army.
Robert Charles Tyler

       Nothing else is known about Tyler until the Battle of Chickamauga. If he fought at Perryville or Murfreesboro the records have been lost. From his promotion to colonel in June, 1862 until September, 1863, nothing is known of his life or whereabouts. In November, 1863, Colonel Tyler would be shot in the leg during the Battle of Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga. The wound was bad enough to cause the leg to be amputated.
       Robert Tyler would be out of action for the winter. He would receive a promotion to brigadier general in the Confederate army in March, 1864. Many historians believe that General Bragg secured this promotion for Tyler. He was given William Bate’s brigade of Tennessee troops when Bate was promoted to major general. The brigade would be called ‘Tyler’s Brigade’ for the remainder of the war, but Robert Tyler would never recover from his wound enough to take command.
       He was sent to a military hospital in West Point, Georgia. The area there was guarded by a small redoubt which was named Fort Tyler in his honor. President Jefferson Davis ordered Tyler to take command of this redoubt until he recovered enough to take command of his brigade. He was still in this assignment when Federal cavalry approached on April 16, 1865. It was one week after Robert E. Lee had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia.
Fort Tyler

       The Battle of West Point, Georgia would be the only action where Robert Charles Tyler would command troops as a general officer. The units he commanded there were a few convalescents from the hospital and some Georgia militia. The total number he had to man the redoubt was about 120 men. The fort which was on top of a hill was only thirty-five square yards in size and had just three cannons.
       One of Tyler’s subordinates there looked over the incomplete redoubt and said, “Why, General, this is a slaughter pen!”
       “I know it,” Tyler replied, “but we must man and try to hold it.”
Artillery piece at Fort Tyler

       An entire brigade of Federal cavalry was on the scene by 10 a.m. and began to shell the redoubt. After two hours the bombardment stopped and the cavalry prepared to charge the fort. There were several houses near the redoubt and Federal sharpshooters took position in those homes. Ironically, Tyler had refused to allow his men to burn the houses because it would cause too much hardship on the family’s that lived there. It would prove to be his undoing.
Bombproof in the center of Fort Tyler

       When the bombardment stopped, General Tyler limped from the bombproof in the center of the fort to see what was occurring. A Federal sharpshooter from one of the houses shot him immediately. A second shot was fired at almost the same incident which clipped his crutch in two. Tyler collapsed on the ground. His men carried him to the flagpole and laid him beneath the Confederate flag. He would be dead within an hour. The flag had been presented to General Tyler by the ladies of West Point, Georgia and he had vowed to defend that flag to the end.
Grave of Robert Charles Tyler

       General Tyler and his second-in-command Captain Gonzales would both be buried near the fort where they both rest today. Robert Charles Tyler would be the last Confederate general killed in action and the most mysterious of all.

Leroy Pope Walker and his handkerchief

Leroy Pope Walker

       Leroy Pope Walker was born in 1817 in Huntsville, Alabama. His father was a United States Senator. He attended college at the University of Alabama, but left there to study law at the University of Virginia. He then returned to Huntsville where he began his profession as an attorney at the age of 21. Six years later he began his political career in the Alabama state legislature. He was a supporter of secession. By the time the war began Walker was one of the wealthiest men in the state.
Home of Walker in Huntsville

       Walker was a leader in taking Alabama out of the Union and then went to Tennessee to help that state prepare for secession. Davis made Walker the Confederacy’s first secretary of war, although the lawyer had no military experience whatsoever. Walker truly believed there would be no war, that there would be a peaceful separation. He is famous for making the statement that all the blood shed as a result of secession could be wiped up with a handkerchief.
       Walker was a very unpopular secretary of war. Men found him to be extremely aloof although he was a very considerate man, his quite manners caused him to be misunderstood. Davis constantly interfered with Walker’s job because of his own experience as secretary of war in the United States and also because a lack of experience on the part of Walker.
       Walker was actually attempting to accomplish something extremely important for the Confederate States when he was forced from office. He was trying to prevent Leonidas Polk from moving into Kentucky knowing that would throw Kentucky onto the Federal side of the war. He lost a lot of favor in the Confederate Congress and with Davis and his cabinet. He then resigned his seat. Polk moved into Kentucky and that state was lost forever to the Union side.
       President Davis was happy to see Walker go, but also understood that the man had powerful friends in Alabama. The Confederate president would commission Walker a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. He returned to Huntsville, Alabama where he took command of a brigade and they were sent to Mobile, Alabama under Braxton Bragg.
Braxton Bragg

       Bragg despised Walker as a political general and openly stated that he would make the man miserable. Bragg stayed true to his word. Walker only lasted five months as a soldier before resigning his commission without seeing any action at all.
       Following the war, Walker returned to his profession of lawyer. He would never be involved in politics again. His son once said that Walker was no politician. He wasn’t much of a soldier either having never gotten the chance to be. Walker is probably more famous for being the attorney of Frank James during his trial in the state. Walker County, Alabama is named in his honor.
Walker in his later years
       Walker died in 1884 and was buried in Maple Hill Cemetery, Huntsville, Alabama where he rests today.
Me at the grave of Leroy Pope Walker

 

Sterling Alexander Martin Wood


       S.A.M. Wood as he came to be called was born in Florence, Alabama on 17 March, 1823. There is a street in Florence today that is called Wood Avenue which is actually named for Wood’s brother, a prominent Florence lawyer. S.A.M. Wood would soon return to Florence and become his brother’s law partner. In 1857, Wood was elected to the Alabama state legislature and later become editor of the Florence Gazette

       When the war began, Wood organized Company K, 7th Alabama Infantry which was known as the Florence Guards. He would only remain a captain for a very short time. The unit was sent to Pensacola, Florida and Wood was there elected Colonel of the regiment. 


 

Flag of Company K, 7th Alabama Infantry


       On 7 January, 1862, Wood was promoted to brigadier general by Jefferson Davis. Braxton Bragg, Wood’s commanding officer fired off an angry letter to Richmond about Wood being promoted ahead of James Patton Anderson, one of Bragg’s favorite officers. 

       Just before the Battle of Shiloh, Wood’s brigade (which consisted of the 16th Alabama, 8th and 9th Arkansas, 27th, 47th, and 55th Tennessee, and the 3rd Mississippi Battalion, all infantry regiments, including an artillery battery) was placed into Hindman’s Division, William Hardee’s Corps. This brigade was credited with the opening shots of the Battle of Shiloh. Wood was wounded when he fell from his horse there and momentarily gave up command of his brigade, but soon returned to lead them through the rest of the battle. 

       General Hindman had nothing good to say about Wood’s leadership. There was a formal inquiry to Wood’s actions as brigade commander, but no wrong doing could be found. He then led his brigade in action at the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky and while his brigade helped to capture an artillery battery there, Wood was wounded by a artillery shrapnel. 


 

S.A.M. Wood (seated in dark uniform) with members of his staff


       Following the Kentucky Campaign, Wood’s brigade was placed into the elite division of Patrick Cleburne. Cleburne commended Wood for his performance at the Battle of Murfreesboro. It seemed Wood’s star was on the rise. 

       On the second day of the Battle of Chickamauga, General Wood lost control of his brigade which became separated and only one regiment got in the action. Wood then got the rest of his brigade into a field where they attacked alone and were repulsed with heavy losses. Cleburne was furious with Wood and ordered him to take the remainder of his brigade to the rear. 

       Cleburne failed to mention Wood in his report following the battle, which was considered an insult or a sign of failure in that time period. S.A.M. Wood saw the writing on the wall and resigned his commission on 17 October 1863. It would be the last time he would see action during the war. He moved his family to Tuscaloosa and continued his law practice. He later reentered politics and became a member of the faculty at the University of Alabama. He died there on 26 January 1891.


 

Timmy and I at the grave of S.A.M. Wood in Evergreen Cemetery less than a hundred yards from Bryant Denny Stadium

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