Monday, March 25, 2013

Confederate General's with ties to Colbert and Lauderdale Counties

Brigadier General James Deshler

       I was recently reading a local history book about the Confederate general's with ties to Colbert and Lauderdale County. The author left a few out and I just thought it would be fun to list some that he missed. Of course, most people around the area are familiar with James Deshler who attended West Point and was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga just after his promotion to brigadier general. Another local boy was Brigadier General John Gregg who was born in Leighton and graduated from Lagrange College. He then moved to Texas and soon commanded a brigade of infantry. He was killed in the fighting around Richmond, Virginia late in the war.

Brigadier General John Gregg

       Both of those generals were born in Colbert County, but Lauderdale County also was the home to two Confederate general officers. Brigadier General Edward Asbury O'Neal was born in Madison County, Alabama but soon made Florence his home. He would fight under Lee in Virginia until he made a mess of his attack at Gettysburg and was eventually returned to the west where he continued to serve. 

Brigadier General Edward Asbury O'Neal

       Brigadier General Sterling Alexander Martin Wood (nicknamed Sam because of his initials) was born in Florence. He would fight at Shiloh and later served in Cleburne's hard hitting division beside of James Deshler. After losing control of his brigade during the night assault he resigned his commission and moved to Tuscaloosa where he practiced law. Ironically, Wood Avenue in Florence is named after his brother who was an attorney there. 


Brigadier General S.A.M. Wood

       Brigadier General Thomas Neville Waul moved to Florence from South Carolina and taught school at the Florence Male Academy. He would teach here a couple of years before moving on to Vicksburg and eventually on to Texas. He would spend his Civil War service in the Trans-Mississippi Department (everything west of the Mississippi River was called the Trans-Mississippi). 

Brigadier General Thomas Neville Waul

       Major General William Wirt Allen had no prior ties to the area until after the war. He was born in New York and graduated from Princeton. During the war he rose to Major General in Joseph Wheeler's cavalry. He moved to Sheffield, Alabama in 1893 and died there a year later in 1894. First buried in Florence, he was eventually exhumed and buried in Birmingham's Elmwood Cemetery (the same place where Coach Bear Bryant rests today). 

Major General William Wirt Allen

       Another cavalry officer who had ties to the area was Brigadier General Lawrence Sullivan Ross (nicknamed Sul) who fought under Nathan Bedford Forrest. Ross was a Texan who traveled to the area to attend college at Wesleyan University in Florence, Alabama. The school eventually became the University of North Alabama. The building he took classes in is still there (in fact its where I took all my Political Science classes) and is called Wesleyan Hall today. 

Brigadier General Lawrence Sullivan Ross

       Brigadier General Edmund Winston Pettus also lived in Colbert County for a brief period of time. After finishing college he studied law in Tuscumbia, Alabama. He is most likely related to the Winston's who lived in Tuscumbia at the time. Sadly, the bridge named in his honor is recognized today more than he is. 

Brigadier General Edmund Winston Pettus

       Another Confederate General I thought I would include was Brigadier General Gideon Johnson Pillow although he never lived in the area. He was a Tennessean who fought in the Mexican War where he was laughed at because of having his soldiers dig their breastworks facing the wrong direction (if we're to believe Ulysses Grant). He was a self proclaimed military genius and was mostly responsible for the loss of Fort Donelson. He would be accused of cowardice at the Battle of Murfreesboro and there his career basically ended. 

Brigadier General Gideon Johnson Pillow

       At the insistence of his aide Sergeant Robert Patton, Pillow used the Sweetwater mansion in Florence as his headquarters. It was the fall of 1864 and Hood's army was poised to march into Tennessee. General Pillow was at this point given the position of commanding the Volunteer and Conscription Bureau of Hood's army (a fancy title given him after he failed as a field commander earlier in the war). 

Fountain in front of the Sweetwater Plantation

       According to the daughters of future Alabama governor Robert Patton, Pillow was pacing up and down the walk in front of the fountain in deep thought when he tripped and fell into the fountain, bruising himself and scaring the fish. The truth would be a lot different than that told in the Victorian Era. According to former slaves, there was a party at Sweetwater that night and General Pillow was intoxicated when he fell into the fountain. It was also reported that he broke his arm in the fall. One thing I'd be willing to bet about the incident, if he was indeed drunk, I bet he sobered up in a hurry hitting that cold water on a November night.

1 comment:

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