Confederate generals and their ties to Williamson County

Confederate generals and their ties to Williamson County


Part of the compelling history of the Battle of Franklin is the overwhelming sacrifice of talented men and their unrealized potential to a future reunited country.

This story is amplified by the horrendous waste of high-ranking officers, including more Confederate general officers killed than any battle of the war.

Generals Pat Cleburne, John Adams, Hiram Granbury, States Rights
Gist and Otho Strahl were all killed Nov. 30, 1864. And John Carter passed from wounds from Franklin days later. Their stories have often been told, their future ability to help rebuild a post war nation ended.

Several others were wounded that terrible day including:

  • Gen. Daniel Reynolds, an Ohio native and later Arkansan, who recovered and fought weeks later at Nashville. After the war he practiced law in Arkansas.
  • John C. Brown was seriously wounded, survived and went on to be elected Governor of Tennessee in 1870.
  • South Carolina’s Zachariah Dees survived and in peace time owned a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.
  • Georgian Thomas Scott was grievously wounded at Franklin and endured no further action in the conflict. Post war, Scott returned to farming only to die from alcohol poisoning in 1876.
  • Arthur Manigault was born in Charleston, South Carolina, and like many of his colleagues, fought in the Mexican War. After receiving a commission as a Confederate colonel at Shelbyville, Tennessee, he worked his way to brigadier general only to receive severe injuries at the November Battle of Franklin. While not often listed as a fatality from the battle, it is said he died of wounds that plagued him until his death in 1886.

The stories of Williamson County coincidental to the war from both sides are much too numerous for this column. So we focus on some additional Confederate general officers with local ties.

  • confederate
    George Maney

    Gen. George Maney was born in Franklin in 1826, educated in Nashville and served in the 1st Tennessee Volunteer Regiment during the Mexican War. Upon the war’s end he returned to Franklin to open a law practice and was elected to the Tennessee State Legislature. At the start of the Civil War Maney became colonel of the 1st Tennessee regiment, which included soldiers from Davidson, Maury, Rutherford and Giles counties. This regiment also included Company D
    known as the Williamson Grays. He fought in many of the conflicts major battles including Perryville and Chickamauga where he suffered a bad hand injury in late 1863. Maney surrendered at the end of the conflict with the rank of brigadier general. Post war he served as president of Tennessee Pacific Railroad and became active in the “reconciliation” movement working to improve relations between the former enemies. Gen. Maney died in 1901 and is buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.

  • confederate
    Gideon Johnson Pillow

    Gideon Johnson Pillow was born in Williamson County, attended the University of Nashville and practiced law in Columbia. He and James K. Polk were friends and he supported Polk’s presidential election. Serving as a brigadier general in the Mexican war, he was involved in a dispute with commanding Gen. Winfield Scott over battle accolades. Before the Civil War he resided in Alabama and was a delegate to the Nashville Convention of 1850, where representatives of Southern States debated a strategy for the future of slavery. When the Civil War started he was commissioned a brigadier general in the CSA. Pillow had a controversial career and was harshly criticized for surrendering Fort Donelson without much resistance. His military reputation never recovered from the Donelson debacle which resulted in the eventual capture of Nashville. Pillow died in 1878 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis.

  • confederate
    John Kelly

    John Kelly was born in Alabama in 1840. After graduating from West Point he eventually became a colonel with the 8th Arkansas Infantry Regiment. Kelly witnessed intense fighting at Perryville and commanded a large brigade at Chickamauga even having a horse shot out from under him. His leadership was recognized with a promotion to brigadier general, the youngest of this rank in the Confederate army. At age 24, he was killed during a September 1864 raid south of Winstead Hill, near Franklin. He was initially laid to rest at the Harrison House which stands today just south of Winstead Hill on Columbia Pike. He was reinterred at Mobile in 1866.

  • confederate
    John Whitfield

    John Whitfield was born in Williamson County in 1818. He served in the Tennessee Legislature and later as an Indian agent in Missouri. He also represented the Kansas Territory in the U.S. Congress. During the Civil War he served with the Texas cavalry and promoted to brigadier general in 1863. Wounds received at the Battle of Iuka forced him to resign later that year.
    Post war he was active in Texas education and advocated for the establishment of a university for Texas with a branch for black students.

  • Matthew Fontaine Maury was born in 1806 and moved to Franklin with his parents in
    Matthew Fontaine Maury

    1811. Later, in spite of their objections, he became a U.S. Navy officer. He earned fame as an explorer, oceanographer, author, geologist and educator among many other endeavors. When the Civil War started he resigned his commission as a naval commander to join the Confederacy with the same rank. An innovator, he perfected an electric torpedo and worked with transatlantic communication cables in a long and remarkable career. Post war he authored articles on ocean currents, trade routes and a series of works on geography for young people. He also was a professor at the Virginia Military Institute.

  • James Hagan was born in Ireland and immigrated with his parents to the U.S. where he became a successful businessman and planter at Mobile, Alabama. During the Mexican War he served with the Texas Rangers. After that conflict he married the daughter of Alabama’s attorney general and resumed his life in the family business. During the Civil War Hagan signed up with a Mississippi cavalry regiment and was promoted to colonel of the 3rd Alabama Cavalry as part of Gen. Joe Wheeler’s command. In late 1862 he was wounded in a fight near Franklin. He would be wounded two more times and eventually served as an “acting” brigadier general although he was never officially appointed to that rank. He died in 1901 in Mobile.
  • James Camp Tappan was born in 1925 in Franklin. After several moves with his family, he wound up in Helena, Arkansas, where he practiced law and served in the state legislature. Despite having parents from Massachusetts, he joined the Confederate Army as a colonel and was soon promoted to brigadier general of an Arkansas infantry regiment. He participated in several major battles including Shiloh, Perryville and Richmond, Kentucky. Post war he practiced law and served again in the Arkansas General Assembly. He died in 1906, buried in Helena near the graves of fellow generals Thomas Hindman and Patrick Cleburne.

The coincidences and connections of history are what makes our local past so fascinating. And we haven’t touched upon the countless soldiers from both sides whose lives were incredibly impacted by our small part of Middle Tennessee.

Gregory L Wade is a local author and preservationist. He founded the Franklin Civil War Round Table in 2007.

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