Tuesday, July 5, 2011

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment