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.”
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