Pat Cleburne: Arresting a General, Becoming a General

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Civil War regiments were the products of a democratic society. Many officers were elected, not appointed, at least early in the war. When the 15th Alabama elected its first commander, they chose Irish immigrant Pat Cleburne. The unit was part of General Thomas Bradley’s Arkansas command.1

General Bradley sent Cleburne and his men on a wild goose chase against a perceived Union threat in northern Arkansas. Bradley’s mission was so poorly planned and executed that the useless march led to the loss of men, supplies, and equipment. 2

When Col. Cleburne returned from the misbegotten expedition, he had General Bradley placed under arrest. Cleburne was convinced that Bradley was so incompetent that he was a danger to the lives of the men in the ranks. When he was finally released, Bradley charged Cleburne with mutiny, but it was Bradley who was forced to leave the army. Cleburne, instead of being court martialed,  was promoted to command a brigade. A few months later he was commissioned a brigadier general.3

Pat Cleburne’s first big battle was at Shiloh in April, 1862. His brigade saw hard fighting there, losing 38% of its men. Cleburne’s superior, General Hardee, commended him for conducting “his command with persevering valor. [He] was conspicuous for his gallantry.” From Shiloh onward, Cleburne would craft a record of accomplishment in the Army of Tennessee.4

 

shiloh-battleShiloh was the first massive battle of the Civil War

While Cleburne displayed strong leadership qualities and great personal bravery at Shiloh, it was only after his first experience of a major battle that he began innovating to adapt 1860s military tactics to the rough battlefields of the west. He recognized that the Napoleonic tactics used in Virginia were not appropriate for mountainous Tennessee. He created specialized sharpshooter companies that stressed small unit tactics and maneuverability in broken terrain. These soldiers could scurry along mountainsides or penetrate swamps to attack Union troops in ambush. They took advantage of the difficult geography of the region and of the longer-range accuracy of rifled weapons.5

In August, 1862, Cleburne led two brigades at the Battle of Richmond in Kentucky. His outnumbered men defeated a a force twice as large and helped capture 4,300 prisoners. Cleburne himself was shot in the mouth at the climax of the fighting.6

Two months later, Cleburne put in another outstanding performance at the Battle of Perryville. Afterwards, he was hailed by the army’s commander Braxton Bragg as “exceedingly gallant…and the admiration of his command” in a letter he wrote to Jefferson Davis, the Confederate President. In December 1862, Cleburne was promoted to major general and he was given command of a division.7

As 1862 came to an end, Cleburne was ordered to launch a desperate attack on the Union army at Stones River, Tennessee. Even though the division that was supposed to support him went off in the wrong direction, Cleburne’s 6,000 men pressed the attack. In eight hours of fighting, they overran five Union defensive lines. Cleburne’s division nearly cut the Union army’s supply line, but when no reinforcements arrived to support him, the opportunity to defeat the Unionists slipped away.8

Mistakes and miscommunications had become commonplace in the Confederate Army of Tennessee. Officers had been calling for the removal of the army’s commander Braxton Bragg for months. After the problems at Stone’s River, Pat Cleburne joined the ranks of the disaffected. Cleburne was remarkably frank when the lives of his men were at risk. When Bragg asked Cleburne if he still had the support of the men, Cleburne replied “you do not possess the confidence of the army.” Bragg would seek to punish Cleburne for his honesty.9

Pat Cleburne’s early rise had been remarkable. In two years he had become the highest ranking Irish immigrant in the Confederate army. His fellow officers may have jokingly called him their “Wild Irishman,” but they respected him for his intelligence, his coolness in battle, and his bravery, and his soldiers admired him. In General Bragg, however, Cleburne now had an enemy.10

VIDEO: A Very Short Introduction to the Leading Confederate Generals, Including Pat Cleburne

Sources:

1. Meteor Shining Brightly: Essays on Major General Patrick R. Cleburne by Mauriel Phillips Joslyn Terrell House Publishing (1998); Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War by Craig L. Symonds published by University Press of Kansas (1997) pp. 50-51; Biographical Sketches of Gen. Pat Cleburne and Gen. T.C. Hindman by Charles Nash published by Tunnah & Pittard (1898); Biographical Sketch of Major-General P.R. Cleburne by Gen. W.H. Hardee Southern Historical society Papers Vol. XXXI edited by R.A. Brock 1903 pp. 151-164
2.Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War by Craig L. Symonds published by University Press of Kansas (1997) pp. 50-51.
3.Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War by Craig L. Symonds published by University Press of Kansas (1997) pp. 50-51.
4.Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War by Craig L. Symonds published by University Press of Kansas (1997) pp. 78-79.
5.Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War by Craig L. Symonds published by University Press of Kansas (1997) p. 81.
6.Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War by Craig L. Symonds published by University Press of Kansas (1997) p. 89-91.
7.Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War by Craig L. Symonds published by University Press of Kansas (1997) pp. 96-98.
8.Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War by Craig L. Symonds published by University Press of Kansas (1997) pp. 108-111.
9.Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War by Craig L. Symonds published by University Press of Kansas (1997) p. 115.
10.Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War by Craig L. Symonds published by University Press of Kansas (1997) pp. 123-125.

The Immigrants’ Civil War is a series that examines the role of immigrants in our bloodiest war. Articles will appear twice monthly between 2011 and 2017. Here are the articles we have published so far:

1. Immigrant America on the Eve of the Civil War – Take a swing around the United States and see where immigrants were coming from and where they were living in 1861.

2. 1848: The Year that Created Immigrant America – Revolutions in Europe, famine and oppression in Ireland, and the end of the Mexican War made 1848 a key year in American immigration history.

3. Carl Schurz: From German Radical to American Abolitionist– A teenaged revolutionary of 1848, Carl Schurz brought his passion for equality with him to America.

4. Immigrant Leader Carl Schurz Tells Lincoln to Stand Firm Against Slavery.

5. …And the War Came to Immigrant America -The impact of the firing on Fort Sumter on America’s immigrants

6. The Rabbi Who Seceded From the South

7. The Fighting 69th-Irish New York Declares War

8. The Germans Save St. Louis for the Union

9. New York’s Irish Rush to Save Washington

10. Immigrant Day Laborers Help Build the First Fort to Protect Washington-The Fighting 69th use their construction skills.

11. Carl Schurz Meets With Lincoln To Arm the Germans

12. Immigrants Rush to Join the Union Army-Why?– The reasons immigrants gave for enlisting early in the war.

13. Why the Germans Fought for the Union?

14. Why Did the Irish Fight When They Were So Despised?

15. The “Sons of Garibaldi” Join the Union Army

16. The Irish Tigers From Louisiana

17. Immigrant Regiments on Opposite Banks of Bull Run -The Fighting 69th and the Louisiana Tigers

18. The St. Louis Germans Set Out To Free Missouri

19. Wilson’s Creek Drowns Immigrant Dream of Free Missouri

20. English-Only in 1861: No Germans Need Apply

21. After Bull Run: Mutineers, Scapegoats, and the Dead

22. St. Louis Germans Revived by Missouri Emancipation Proclamation

23. Jews Fight the Ban on Rabbis as Chaplains

24. Lincoln Dashes German Immigrants Hopes for Emancipation

25. When Hatred of Immigrants Stopped the Washington Monument from Being Built

26. Inside the Mind of a Know Nothing

27. The Evolution of the Know Nothings

28. The Know Nothings Launch a Civil War Against Immigrant America

29. The Know Nothings: From Triumph to Collapse

30. The Lasting Impact of the Know Nothings on Immigrant America.

31. Lincoln, the Know Nothings, and Immigrant America.

32. Irish Green and Black America: Race on the Edge of Civil War.

33. The Democratic Party and the Racial Consciousness of Irish Immigrants Before the Civil War

34. The Confederates Move Against Latino New Mexico

35. Nuevomexicanos Rally As Confederates Move Towards Santa Fe—But For Which Side?

36. The Confederate Army in New Mexico Strikes at Valverde

37. The Swedish Immigrant Who Saved the U.S. Navy

38. The Confederates Capture Santa Fe and Plot Extermination

39. A German Regiment Fights for “Freedom and Justice” at Shiloh-The 32nd Indiana under Col. August Willich.

40. The Know Nothing Colonel and the Irish Soldier Confronting slavery and bigotry.

41. Did Immigrants Hand New Orleans Over to the Union Army?

42. Did New Orleans’ Immigrants See Union Soldiers As Occupiers or Liberators?

43. Union Leader Ben Butler Seeks Support in New Orleans-When General Ben Butler took command in New Orleans in 1862, it was a Union outpost surrounded by Confederates. Butler drew on his experience as a pro-immigrant politician to win over the city’s Irish and Germans.

44. Union General Ben Butler Leverages Immigrant Politics in New Orleans

45. Thomas Meager: The Man Who Created the Irish Brigade

46. Thomas Meagher: The Irish Rebel Joins the Union Army

47. Recruiting the Irish Brigade-Creating the Irish American

48. Cross Keys: A German Regiment’s Annihilation in the Shenandoah Valley

49. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Richmond-The Irish brigade in the Peninsula Campaign from March 17 to June 2, 1862.

50. Peninsula Emancipation: Irish Soldiers Take Steps on the Road to Freedom-The Irish Brigade and Irish soldiers from Boston free slaves along the march to Richmond.

51. Slaves Immigrate from the Confederacy to the United States During the Peninsula Campaign

52. The Irish 9th Massachusetts Cut Off During the Seven Days Battles

53. Union Defeat and an Irish Medal of Honor at the End of the Seven Days

54. Making Immigrant Soldiers into Citizens-Congress changed the immigration laws to meet the needs of a nation at war.

55. Carl Schurz: To Win the Civil War End Slavery

56. Carl Schurz: From Civilian to General in One Day

57. Did Anti-German Bigotry Help Cause Second Bull Run Defeat?

58. Immigrant Soldiers Chasing Lee Into Maryland

59. Scottish Highlanders Battle at South Mountain

60. Emancipation 150: “All men are created equal, black and white”– A German immigrant reacts to the Emancipation Proclamation

61. The Irish Brigade at Antietam

62. Private Peter Welsh Joins the Irish Brigade

63. Preliminaries to Emancipation: Race, the Irish, and Lincoln

64. The Politics of Emancipation: Lincoln Suffers Defeat

65. Carl Schurz Blames Lincoln for Defeat

66. The Irish Brigade and Virginia’s Civilians Black and White

67. The Irish Brigade and the Firing of General McClellan

68. General Grant Expells the Jews

69. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Its Destruction At Fredericksburg.

70. Fredericksburg: The Worst Day in the Young Life of Private McCarter of the Irish Brigade

71. Forever Free: Emancipation New Year Day 1863

72. Private William McCarter of the Irish Brigade Hospitalized After Fredericksburg

73. The Immigrant Women That Nursed Private McCarter After Fredericksburg

74. Nursing Nuns of the Civil War

75. The Biases Behind Grant’s Order Expelling the Jews

76. The Jewish Community Reacts to Grant’s Expulsion Order

77. Lincoln Overturns Grant’s Order Against the Jews

78. Irish Families Learn of the Slaughter at Fredericksburg

79. Requiem for the Irish Brigade

80. St. Patrick’s Day in the Irish Brigade

81. Student Asks: Why Don’t We Learn More About Immigrants in the Civil War?

82. Missouri’s German Unionists: From Defeat to Uncertain Victory

83. Missouri Germans Contest Leadership of Unionist Cause

84. German Leader Franz Sigel’s Victory Earns a Powerful Enemy

85. Immigrant Unionists Marching Towards Pea Ridge

86. German Immigrants at the Battle of Pea Ridge: Opening Moves

87. Pea Ridge: The German Unionists Outflanked

88. German Immigrants at the Battle of Pea Ridge

89. The Organization of the “German” XI Corps

90. The Irish Brigade on the Road to Chancellorsville

91. The “German” XI Corps on the Eve of Chancellorsville

92. The “Germans Run Away” at Chancellorsville

93. The New York Times, the Germans, and the Anatomy of a Scapegoat at Chancellorsville

94. An Irish Soldier Between Chancellorsville and Gettysburg

95. Lee’s Army Moves Towards Gettysburg: Black Refugees Flee

96. Iron Brigade Immigrants Arrive at Gettysburg

97. Iron Brigade Immigrants Go Into Battle the First Day at Gettysburg

98. The “German” XI Corps at Gettysburg July 1, 1863

99. An Irish Colonel and the Defense of Little Round Top on the Second Day at Gettysburg

100. A Prayer Before Death for the Irish Brigade at Gettysburg: July 2, 1863

101. The Irish Regiment that Ended “Pickett’s Charge”: July 3, 1863

102. Five Points on the Edge of the Draft Riots

103. Before the Draft Riots: The Cultivation of Division

104. The New York Draft Riots Begin

105. Convulsion of Violence: The First Day of the New York Draft Riots

106. The Draft Riots End in a Sea of Blood-July 14-15, 1863.

107. Pat Cleburne: The Irish Confederate and the Know Nothings

108. Killing Pat Cleburne: Know Nothing Violence

109. Pat Cleburne: Arresting a General, Becoming a General

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