Friday, April 29, 2011

Georgians in Confederate Service

April 24, 2011

Civil War anniversary: Georgians in Confederate service: The generals
By Jim Burran Dalton-Whitfield Civil War 150th Commemoration Committee

Dalton Daily Citizen The Dalton Daily Citizen Sun Apr 24, 2011

Of the Georgians who supported the Confederate cause, the most noteworthy were not political figures like Alexander H. Stephens and Benjamin H. Hill. They were military officers like William J. Hardee and John B. Gordon. During the Civil War, some 120,000 Georgians took up arms for the Confederacy. From this number, 43 rose to the rank of general. Some of the 43 were West Point graduates with previous military experience. Others were political appointees or persons without military training who rose through the ranks on their own. Regardless of their backgrounds, fate and chance played a role in their wartime careers. A few achieved distinction during and after the war, some died heroically on the field of battle, and others faded into oblivion.

There existed four grades for general officers in Confederate military service.

Brigadier generals typically commanded brigades. A brigade was made up of several regiments. Next in line were major generals, who were responsible for divisions. A division consisted of two or more brigades. Lieutenant generals were usually responsible for a corps, which was comprised of three to five divisions. At the top of the pyramid stood the full general, that rare bird in charge of an entire army.

Of the Confederate generals appointed from Georgia, only William J. Hardee rose to the rank of lieutenant general. Hardee had compiled a distinguished military record in the US Army during the 1840s and 1850s, and in Confederate service the Camden County native catapulted to corps command in the Army of Tennessee before the end of 1862. When in November 1863 Braxton Bragg was relieved as commander of this army, Hardee was offered the job. For reasons that he did not fully explain then or later, Hardee declined the appointment and remained in command of his corps.

Nine Georgians became major generals at some point during the Civil War. Several of these achieved legendary status. Most noteworthy were John B. Gordon, Joseph Wheeler, William H. T. Walker, Howell Cobb, and Lafayette McLaws. Owing to a variety of circumstances, the others have largely been forgotten. This list includes David R. Jones, Ambrose R. Wright, Pierce M. B. Young, and David E. Twiggs. Of Georgia’s generals, Augusta native Joe Wheeler achieved the singular distinction of serving as a major general of volunteers in the US Army during the Spanish-American War of 1898. While fighting in Cuba, Wheeler commanded a cavalry division that included Theodore Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders.”

Georgia’s remaining 33 Confederate generals, about 77 percent of the total, were brigadiers. Like their higher ranking brethren, each was cast into a unique set of circumstances. Space does not permit a biographical sketch of each, so selected examples will illustrate their various fortunes.

One of the most distinguished records among this group was compiled by Edward P. Alexander. Born in Washington, Georgia, and educated at West Point, Alexander is best remembered as James Longstreet’s chief of artillery. Responsible for organizing the cannonade preceding Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, Alexander remained with Longstreet for the duration of the war.

The hand of fate was not as kind to Bryan M. Thomas. Born in Milledgeville, Thomas graduated from West Point. From the outbreak of hostilities in 1861, Thomas rose rapidly through the ranks but by 1863 found himself in a backwater post in Alabama. Later in charge of a brigade defending Mobile, Thomas suffered the ultimate indignity when on April 9, 1865, in one of the last engagements of the war, his outmanned forces defending Fort Blakely were overrun and he was captured. After the war Thomas settled in Dalton and became superintendent of schools. He is buried in West Hill Cemetery.

Perhaps the most star-crossed of Georgia’s brigadiers was Claudius C. Wilson, a native of Effingham County. A lawyer by training, Wilson entered the Confederate Army as a captain but soon won promotion to colonel. In 1863 his regiment was sent to the defense of Vicksburg not long before its surrender. Paroled, Wilson was sent to Georgia in time for the Battle of Chickamauga, in which he commanded a brigade under William H.T. Walker. For meritorious conduct in that engagement, he was promoted to brigadier general on Nov. 16, 1863. Eleven days later, Wilson died from camp fever.

Sources: Ezra J. Warner, Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders (Baton Rouge, 1959); Charles Edgeworth Jones, Georgia in the War, 1861-1865: A Compendium of Georgia Participants (Atlanta, 1909).

This article is part of a series of stories about Dalton and life in Dalton during the Civil War. The stories run on Sunday and are provided by the Dalton-Whitfield Civil War 150th Anniversary Committee. To find out more about the committee go to If you have material that you would like to contribute for a future article please contact Robert Jenkins at 706-259-4626 or


List of Georgia Generals in Confederate service

Lieutenant general

William J. Hardee

Major general

Howell Cobb

John B. Gordon

David R. Jones

Lafayette McLaws

David E. Twiggs

William H.T. Walker

Joseph Wheeler

Ambrose R. Wright

Pierce M.B. Young

Brigadier general

Edward P. Alexander

George T. Anderson

Robert H. Anderson

Henry L. Benning

William R. Boggs

William M. Browne

Goode Bryan

Thomas R.R. Cobb

Alfred H. Colquitt

Philip Cook

Alfred Cumming

George Doles

Dudley M. DuBose

Clement A. Evans

William M. Gardner

Lucius J. Gartrell

Victor J.B. Girardey

Henry R. Jackson

John K. Jackson

Alexander R. Lawton

Hugh W. Mercer

Paul J. Semmes

James P. Simms

William D. Smith

G. Moxley Sorrel

Isaac M. St. John

Marcellus A. Stovall

Bryan M. Thomas

Edward L. Thomas

Robert Toombs

Claudius C. Wilson

William T. Wofford

Gilbert J. Wright