Thursday, April 14, 2011

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