|Patrick Ronayne Cleburne, 1864|
"We can control the negroes. . . and they will still be our laborers as much as they now are; and, to all intents and purposes will be our servants, at less cost than now.”
|Bride Park Cottage|
Birthplace of Patrick Cleburne in County Cork
The Cleburnes were a Protestant, middle-class family that included the children William, born in 1824, Anne, who was born in 1826, and and Joseph. born in 1829. Their mother died when "Ronayne,” as his family called him, was eighteen months old. His father hired Isabella Stewart to be his children's governess. A year later, Joseph Cleburne married Isabella. They had three more children: Isabella, Robert, and Christopher.
Ronayne was described by a cousin as, “. . . full of mischief and fun, somewhat shy and dreamy with strangers,” He preferred solitary pursuits and enjoyed fishing and hunting. When Ronayne was eight, the family moved to Grange Farm, near Ballincollig. He and his siblings were educated by a private tutor. At age twelve, Ronayne was sent to a local boarding school, where he enjoyed drafting, drill, history, geography and literature, but found Latin, Greek, French, and mathematics difficult.
However, he repeatedly failed the entrance exam. Humiliated, he joined the British
|Private in the |
41st Regiment of Foot
In Ireland, the Great Famine was a period of mass starvation, disease and emigration between 1845 and 1852. It is sometimes referred to, mostly outside Ireland, as the Irish Potato Famine because one-third of the population was then solely reliant on this cheap crop. During the famine, approximately 1 million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland, causing the island's population to fall by between 20% and 25%.
The proximate cause of the famine was a potato disease commonly known as potato blight. Although the potato crop failed, the country was still producing and exporting more than enough grain crops to feed the population. Records show during the period Ireland was exporting approximately thirty to fifty shiploads per day of food produce. As a consequence of these exports and a number of other factors such as land acquisition, absentee landlords and the effect of the 1690 penal laws, the Great Famine today is viewed by a number of historical academics as a form of either direct or indirect genocide.
The famine was a watershed in the history of Ireland; its effects permanently changed
the island's demographic, political and cultural landscape. The famine became a rallying point for various Home rule and United Ireland movements, as the whole island was then part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. The massive famine soured the already strained relations between many of the Irish people and the British Crown.
Ronayne's regiment was assigned to assist local police in evicting tenants that could not pay. He found himself in the position of guarding food from his fellow countrymen to protect the oppressive English government. The famine continued to worsen; thousands died in their homes, workplaces, by the roadside and in the city streets. As many as 500 people died in Cork City each week, and food riots and stealing increased.
For three and a half years, he was posted at barracks around famine-stricken Ireland.
He returned home in the summer of 1849 for a visit, and found the family farm in arrears for rent. His stepmother suggested the oldest four children emigrate. Ronayne's older brother, William, wrote to a cousin in July 1849, “It is the wish of all my brothers and sister, to quit this country for America.” It was decided that the four oldest would go.
On September 22, 1849, he paid ₤20 from an inheritance he had received on his 21st birthday for a discharge from the army. On November 5, 1849, Ronayne, his older sister Anne, and brothers William and Joseph boarded a ship sailing for America.
|1849 Map of the United States|
|Cincinnati, Ohio 1850|
A few months later he learned that two young physicians in Helena, Arkansas―Hector Grant and Charles Nash―needed a druggist to manage a drugstore they had purchased. Patrick Cleburne arrived in Helena in April 1850.
|Cleburne as a young man in Helena|
In late 1851, Grant decided to sell his interest in the drugstore and Patrick Cleburne was able to make a cash down payment of $350, with a deed of trust on his half interest in the store as security for payment of the $1,150 balance within twelve months. On January 1, 1852, the store became Nash and Cleburne. That year, Cleburne became a member of the Lafayette Lodge 16, Ancient York Masons. He attended every meeting and applied himself to the study of Masonry. A year later, he was elected Worshipful Master of the lodge. In June, 1853 Cleburne made his first appearance in a Helena newspaper, The Southern Shield, receiving praise for a speech he made during a Masonic celebration.
In April 1854, he and his partner Charles Nash sold the drugstore; Cleburne used his profits to enter into the study of law. He studied under attorneys Mark W. Alexander and Thomas B. Hanley, spending two years at their firm. In February 1855, weeks before his twenty-seventh birthday, Cleburne became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
|Thomas C. Hindman|
Cleburne was admitted to the bar in January 1856 and joined his mentor, Mark Alexander, in the firm of Alexander and Cleburne. That same year, he helped his stepmother, half-sister Isabella, and half-brothers, Robert and Christopher, immigrate to the United States. Their sister, Anne, had married James Sherlock and settled in Cincinnati; Isabella Cleburne and her sons lived with the Sherlocks.
On May 14, 1856, Hindman asked Cleburne come with him to dinner at a Helena hotel; Hindman had heard that one of their former colleagues, W.D. "Dorsey" Rice, was angry about Hindman's reference to him as a "mulatto" for having changed his allegiance from the Democrats to the Know-Nothings. Cleburne got a pair of pistols and walked down the street with Hindman. They met Rice and two others; Rice demanded that Hindman apologize. When Hindman responded with more verbal abuse, Rice drew a gun, shooting Hindman in the chest. At the same time, one of the men with Rice fired at Cleburne, also hitting him in the chest. Cleburne fired at Rice's brother-in-law, James Marriott. The three men lay wounded in the street.
Cleburne's friend, Charles Nash, examined him and found that the bullet had passed through Cleburne's right lung and lodged near his spine. Rather than operate when Cleburne was so weak, they waited for him to recover. Cleburne was near death for ten days; the bullet was later safely removed. Years later Cleburne told his brother Robert that "my lungs have never been well since I was wounded. I catch cold on the smallest provocation and an hour's excited debate in the Court House will sometimes fill my mouth with blood."
Marriott died; Cleburne and Hindman were exonerated by a grand jury. They were back on the campaign within a month. The Democrats were victorious in the 1856 election. Cleburne was Hindman's best man at his wedding in November.
Hindman was elected to Congress in 1858, and called for strict enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law and the unlimited expansion of slavery into the West. He also hoped to expand slavery into Mexico and Central America. He soon had a reputation as "the apostle of dis-union."
After his law partner was elected Circuit Court Judge, Cleburne went into partnership with two young attorneys, M.G. Berry Scaife and Leonard H. Mangum. The partners advertised themselves as "collecting and land agents" for eastern Arkansas, and were busy filing claims and counterclaims over disputed land titles. As a circuit lawyer, Cleburne traveled to eight counties on various cases.
In April 1860, Cleburne served as a delegate to the state Democratic convention in Little Rock, where Hindman sponsored a resolution requiring Arkansas delegates to leave the national convention in protest unless the party adopted a platform plank for a national slave code. When northern Democrats refused to accept the plank, half the Arkansas delegates joined fire-eater William Lowndes Yancey in a walkout of the convention in Charleston, North Carolina. The party split: southern Democrats nominated their own candidate, John Breckenridge, at a convention in Richmond, Virginia, while northern Democrats nominated Stephen Douglas. The Republican part nominated Abraham Lincoln, and a fourth party, the Constitution Union Party, nominated John Bell of Tennessee.
Hindman campaigned for Breckenridge, called Douglas a traitor, and said that Lincoln's election should be the signal "for immediate disruption of the union."
I hardly know what to say to you about politicks. The fever of revolution is very contagious. . . My own opinion is that the first blood shed on Southern soil in a collision between the Federal troops and the State authorities of any Southern state will be the signal for civil war. . . . I am with Arkansas in weal or woe. . . . I have been elected captain of the volunteer Rifle Company of this place, and I can say for my company that if the stars and stripes become the standard of a tiranical majority, and ensign of a violated league, it will no longer command our love or respect but will command our best efforts to drive it from the state.Cleburne's brothers in the North, William in Wisconsin and Joseph in Indiana, were for Lincoln in the Union; Robert in Kentucky hoped his state would be neutral; Patrick in Arkansas was for states' rights.
In February, 1861, the Yell Rifles with other Phillips County militia units traveled to Little Rock with plans to seize the Federal Arsenal. Federal troops abandoned the Arsenal without a fight on February 8.
Arkansas seceded on May 6 and joined the Confederate States of America. Patrick Cleburne wrote to his brother, Robert, from Camp Rector, “I am with the South in life or death, in victory or defeat.” The Yell Rifles became part of the First Arkansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Cleburne was elected colonel. The First Arkansas was attached to the Army of Tennessee, the main Confederate army in the western theater.
Cleburne was promoted to brigadier general on March 4, 1862. His former law partner Learned Mangum, wrote, "Although he was rigid in the enforcement of discipline, the soldiers whom he commanded loved him as a man, and trusted him implicitly."
Cleburne's brigade participated in the Battle of Shiloh in April and the 1862 Kentucky Campaign that summer.
Cleburne remained away from the army until his recovery six weeks later, when he returned to duty for the Battle of Perryville on October 8, where he was wounded twice, but stayed in command during the battle.
Cleburne commanded a division at the Battle of Murfreesboro in east Tennessee. On Bragg's left as the Army of Tennessee wheeled to the right, Cleburne's division drove Union troops Corps back five different times over rocky terrain and nearly routed the Army of the Cumberland.
In early September, Cleburne was ordered to support Daniel Harvey Hill's attack against 5,000 Union troops that were crossing McClemore Cove. Hill's attack failed to materialize, so Braxton Bragg gave Cleburne the order to attack the Union force as it crossed Chickamauga Creek. Shortly after the engagement began, Hill's men joined the battle. Bragg wavered on his commitment and ordered the forces to withdraw.
In November, Union General Sherman planned to attack Bragg's flank on the northeast end
of Missionary Ridge. After taking most of the morning to gain control a hill from Cleburne's men, Sherman realized he had taken Billy Goat Hill instead of Missionary Ridge. Cleburne's men held the right flank on Missionary Ridge, repelling General Sherman's attack in spite of being outnumbered 10 to 1, forcing a dangerous frontal assault on the mountain from Orchard Knob. Stephen Foster, a Confederate captain commanding a company of the Texas Brigade, later recalled the assault:
They are now coming in a run, stooping low to the ground. .. some are killed in 20 ft. of our works. . . See how they do fall, like leaves in the fall of the year. Oh this is fun to lie here and shoot them down and we not get hurt.Unfortunately, Bragg had not placed his men to defend against such an assault and the attack pierced the Confederate line at the center of the mountain. On November 27, 1863, Cleburne's division made a stand at Ringgold Gap, Georgia, as the rearguard protecting the retreating Confederate army. His 4,000 men held back 15,000 of General Joseph Hooker’s Union troops.
|Battle of Ringgold Gap|
Cleburne's strategic use of terrain, his ability to hold ground where others failed, and his talent in foiling the movements of the enemy earned him fame, and gained him the nickname "Stonewall of the West." General Robert E. Lee referred to him as "a meteor shining from a clouded sky."
By late 1863, it had become obvious to Cleburne that the Confederacy was losing the war because of the growing limitations of its manpower and resources. In December, his adjutant, Captain Irving Buck, noticed that Cleburne was spending many hours alone in his tent at winter quarters near Dalton, Georgia, "preoccupied and engaged in writing." Cleburne invited Buck to read the document and asked for his opinions: it was a proposal that the South recruit black slaves into the Confederate army and grant them their freedom in exchange. Buck said the proposal would be controversial; Cleburne replied that because of the crisis, it was his duty to do whatever he could to avert the loss of the war and independence, "irrespective of any result to himself." If no other officer was willing to command them, Cleburne said that he would assume command of "a Negro division" himself.
Cleburne, who had never owned slaves, focused on three points. First, the North had an insurmountable three-to-one manpower advantage among whites. Second, since the Union started enlisting African-Americans the previous year, blacks from the South would increasingly be fighting against the Confederacy if they were not encourage to fight for it. Third, slave liberation would remove the chief obstacle to international diplomatic recognition.
Thirteen fellow officers from Cleburne’s division, including three generals, had already endorsed the plan. In the meeting, however, the proposal met with resistance. Defending slavery was, after all, the chief reason the Confederate had been formed; most of the seven original rebel states cited protection of slavery as a prime motivation for secession. The division commanders at the meeting were cold to the proposal, and many were appalled—one division commander, Patton Anderson, called it “revolting to Southern sentiment, Southern pride, and Southern honor.” One officer wrote to a friend, "If this thing is once openly proposed to the army, the total disintegration of that army will follow in a fortnight." William Bate later wrote that Cleburne's proposal was "hideous and
Brigadier General Clement H. Stevens told another officer of Cleburne's proposal; when the officer responded that he thought it was a good idea, Stevens exploded in an outburst:
If slavery is to be abolished than I take no more interest in fighting. The justification of slavery in the South is the inferiority of the negro. If we make him a soldier, we concede the whole question.According to Craig L. Symonds' biography of Cleburne, Stonewall of the West:
Cleburne's assumption that "every patriot will freely give up . . . the negro slave rather than be a slave himself" failed to take into consideration the fact that many southerners viewed the loss of slavery as virtually synonymous with their own liberty. As James McPherson has asserted . . . "most Confederate soldiers believed that they were fighting for liberty and slavery. . . "In his written plan outlining the proposal, which became known was "Cleburne's Memorial:, Cleburne said:
Moved by the exigency in which our country is now placed we take the liberty of laying before you, unofficially, our views on the present state of affairs.
The subject is so grave, and our views so new, we feel it a duty both to you and the cause that before going further we should submit them for your judgment and receive your suggestions in regard to them . . .
We have now been fighting for nearly three years, have spilled much of our best blood, and lost, consumed, or thrown to the flames an amount of property equal in value to the specie currency of the world. Through some lack in our system the fruits of our struggles and sacrifices have invariably slipped away from us and left us nothing but long lists of dead and mangled.
Instead of standing defiantly on the borders of our territory or harassing those of the enemy, we are hemmed in to-day into less than two-thirds of it, and still the enemy menacingly confronts us at every point with superior forces. Our soldiers can see no end to this state of affairs except in our own exhaustion; hence, instead of rising to the occasion, they are sinking into a fatal apathy, growing weary of hardships and slaughters which promise no results . . . There is a growing belief that some black catastrophe is not far ahead of us, and that unless some extraordinary change is soon made in our condition we must overtake it. The consequences of this condition are showing themselves more plainly every day; restlessness of morals . . . manifesting itself in the army in a growing disregard for private rights; desertion spreading. . . our supplies failing; our firesides in ruins.
If this state continues much longer we must be subjugated. Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late. We can give but a faint idea when we say it means the loss of all we now hold most sacred — slaves and all other personal property, lands, homesteads, liberty, justice, safety, pride, manhood. It means that the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern school teachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by all the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision. It means the crushing of Southern manhood, the hatred of our former slaves, who will, on a spy system, be our secret police. The conqueror's policy is to divide the conquered into factions and stir up animosity among them, and in training an army of negroes the North no doubt holds this thought in perspective.
We can see three great causes operating to destroy us: First, the inferiority of our armies to those of the enemy in point of numbers; second, the poverty of our single source of supply in comparison with his several sources; third, the fact that slavery, from being one of our chief sources of strength at the commencement of the war, has now become, in a military point of view, one of our chief sources of weakness.
The enemy already opposes us at every point with superior numbers, and is endeavoring to make the preponderance irresistible. . . . In addition, the President of the United States announces that "he has already in training an army of 100,000 negroes as good as any troops," and every fresh raid he makes and new slice of territory he wrests from us will add to this force.
Every soldier in our army already knows and feels our numerical inferiority to the enemy. Want of men in the field has prevented him from reaping the fruits of his victories, and has prevented him from having the furlough he expected after the last reorganization, and when he turns from the wasting armies in the field to look at the source of supply, he finds nothing in the prospect to encourage him. Our single source of supply is that portion of our white men fit for duty and not now in the ranks.
The enemy has three sources of supply: First, his own motley population; secondly, our slaves; and thirdly, Europeans whose hearts are fired into a crusade against us by fictitious pictures of the atrocities of slavery, and who meet no hindrance from their Governments in such enterprise, because these Governments are equally antagonistic to the institution.
. . . Slavery has become a military weakness. . . the time has come when it would be madness not to look at our danger from every point of view, and to probe it to the bottom. . . .
It is our most vulnerable point, a continued embarrassment, and in some respects an insidious weakness.
. . . The fear of their slaves is continually haunting them, and from silence and apprehension many of these soon learn to wish the war stopped on any terms. . . . All along the lines slavery is comparatively valueless to us for labor, but of great and increasing worth to the enemy for information. It is an omnipresent spy system, pointing out our valuable men to the enemy, revealing our positions, purposes, and resources, and yet acting so safely and secretly that there is no means to guard against it. Even in the heart of our country, where our hold upon this secret espionage is firmest, it waits but the opening fire of the enemy's battle line to wake it, like a torpid serpent, into venomous activity.
In view of the state of affairs what does our country propose to do?
. . . If all the exempts capable of bearing arms were enrolled, it will give us the boys below eighteen, the men above forty-five, and those persons who are left at home to meet the wants of the country and the army, but this modification of the exemption law will remove from the fields and manufactories most of the skill that directed agricultural and mechanical labor, and, as stated by the President, "details will have to be made to meet the wants of the country," thus sending many of the men to be derived from this source back to their homes again. Independently of this, experience proves that striplings and men above conscript age break down and swell the sick lists more than they do the ranks.
. . . We propose, in addition to a modification of the President's plans, that we retain in service for the war all troops now in service, and that we immediately commence training a large reserve of the most courageous of our slaves, and further that we guarantee freedom within a reasonable time to every slave in the South who shall remain true to the Confederacy in this war.
As between the loss of independence and the loss of slavery, we assume that every patriot will freely give up the latter — give up the negro slave rather than be a slave himself . . .
Our country has already some friends in England and France, and there are strong motives to induce these nations to recognize and assist us, but they cannot assist us without helping slavery, and to do this would be in conflict with their policy for the last quarter of a century. . .But this barrier once removed, the sympathy and the interests of these and other nations will accord with our own, and we may expect from them both moral support and material aid. . . .
This measure will deprive the North of the moral and material aid which it now derives from the bitter prejudices with which foreigners view the institution, and its war, if continued, will henceforth be so despicable in their eyes that the source of recruiting will be dried up. . . Knock this away and what is left? A bloody ambition for more territory, a pretended veneration for the Union, which one of their own most distinguished orators (Doctor Beecher in his Liverpool speech) openly avowed was only used as a stimulus to stir up the anti-slavery crusade, and lastly the poisonous and selfish interests which are the fungus growth of the war itself. . . . The measure we propose will strike dead all John Brown fanaticism, and will compel the enemy to draw off altogether or in the eyes of the world to swallow the Declaration of Independence without the sauce and disguise of philanthropy. This delusion of fanaticism at an end, thousands of Northern people will have leisure to look at home and to see the gulf of despotism into which they themselves are rushing.
The measure will at one blow strip the enemy of foreign sympathy and assistance, and transfer them to the South. . . It would instantly remove all the vulnerability, embarrassment, and inherent weakness which result from slavery. The approach of the enemy would no longer find every household surrounded by spies; the fear that sealed the master's lips and the avarice that has, in so many cases, tempted him practically to desert us would alike be removed. . . .The chronic irritation of hope deferred would be joyfully ended with the negro, and the sympathies of his whole race would be due to his native South. . . .It would remove forever all selfish taint from our cause and place independence above every question of property. The very magnitude of the sacrifice itself, such as no nation has ever voluntarily made before, would appal [sic] our enemies, destroy his spirit and his finances, and fill our hearts with a pride and singleness of purpose which would clothe us with new strength in battle.
Apart from all other aspects of the question, the necessity for more fighting men is upon us.
We can only get a sufficiency by making the negro share the danger and hardships of the war.
. . . It is politic besides. For many years, ever since the agitation of the subject of slavery commenced, the negro has been dreaming of freedom, and his vivid imagination has surrounded that condition with so many gratifications that it has become the paradise of his hopes. . . .
We can give the negro not only his own freedom, but that of his wife and child, and can secure it to him in his old home. To do this, we must immediately make his marriage and parental relations sacred in the eyes of the law and forbid their sale. . . . Satisfy the negro that if he faithfully adheres to our standard during the war he shall receive his freedom and that of his race. Give him as an earnest of our intentions such immediate immunities as will impress him with our sincerity and be in keeping with his new condition, enroll a portion of his class as soldiers of the Confederacy, and we change the race from a dreaded weakness to a position of strength. . . .
We will briefly notice a few arguments against this course. It is said Republicanism cannot exist without the institution. Even were this true, we prefer any form of government of which the Southern people may have the molding, to one forced upon us by a conqueror.
It is said the white man cannot perform agricultural labor in the South. The experience of this army during the heat of summer from Bowling Green, Ky., to Tupelo, Miss., is that the white man is healthier when doing reasonable work in the open field than at any other time.
It is said an army of negroes cannot be spared from the fields. A sufficient number of slaves is now administering to luxury alone to supply the place of all we need, and we believe it would be better to take half the able-bodied men off a plantation than to take the one master mind that economically regulated its operations. Leave some of the skill at home and take some of the muscle to fight with.
It is said slaves will not work after they are freed. We think necessity and a wise legislation will compel them to labor for a living.
It is said it will cause terrible excitement and some disaffection from our cause. Excitement is far preferable to the apathy which now exists, and disaffection will not be among the fighting men.
It is said slavery is all we are fighting for, and if we give it up we give up all.
Even if this were true, which we deny, slavery is not all our enemies are fighting for. It is merely the pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties.
We have now briefly proposed a plan which we believe will save our country. It may be imperfect, but in all human probability it would give us our independence. No objection ought to outweigh it which is not weightier than independence. If it is worthy of being put in practice it ought to be mooted quickly before the people, and urged earnestly by every man who believes in its efficacy. Negroes will require much training; training will require much time, and there is danger that this concession to common sense may come too late.
Deeming it to be injurious to the public service that such subject [the employment of slaves as soldiers in the army] should be mooted or even known to be entertained by persons possessed of confidence and respect of the people, I have concluded that the best policy under the circumstances will be to avoid all publicity, and the Secretary of War has therefore written to General Johnston requested him to convey to those concerned my desire that it should be kept private. If it be kept out of the public journals its ill effects will be much lessened.Suppression of any opposition to slavery had been a hallmark throughout the south for thirty years prior to the Civil War. In his book, The People's Darling Privilege, historian Michael Curtis described the campaign in the antebellum South to stamp out any public discussion of ending slavery: the gag rule in the Senate, the prohibition on sending antislavery materials through the mails, state and local laws prohibiting antislavery agitation, and lynch mobs ensured that and all rational discussions of the subject were halted. As the reaction to Cleburne's plan shows, even in 1864 when the Confederacy was on the brink of losing its newly-declared independence, southern leaders would not tolerate any public consideration of the soundness of slavery.
Cleburne may have been naive about the possibility of emancipation, but not in the importance of slave labor to the Confederacy. Cleburne’s vision was for black soldiers, not black citizens in the Confederacy. On the contrary, their “emancipation” was to be a limited one. While family relationships would be legalized, “wise legislation” would be needed to “compel [former slaves]. . . to labor for a living.” Somewhat ironically, Cleburne drew on the Irish experience he had fled from, concluding in one letter that “writing a man ‘free’ does not make him so, as the history of the Irish laborer shows.” Cleburne understood clearly then that the subordination of blacks would be a key element of the independent Confederacy that he continued to fight for with such gusto. Through his proposal, he believed that “we can control the negroes. . . and they will still be our laborers as much as they now are; and, to all intents and purposes will be our servants, at less cost than now.” To let the North win and the Confederacy be destroyed would, instead, lead to the dreaded racial “equality and amalgamation.”
A year later, in January 1865, Lee put his opinion in writing, and the Confederate Congress passed the act to enlist slaves in the Confederate Army. However, it came too late to avert losing the war.
The wedding was at the Bleak House plantation near Demopolis, Alabama on the evening of January 13, 1864. Cleburne met twenty-four year old Susan Tarleton of Mobile, who was maid of honor to her best friend, “Mollie” Lewis. The wedding guests left the next morning on a steamboat for Mobile, where Cleburne spent the rest of his furlough. The Hardees and their wedding party were hosted at several dinners in the city. At the Tartleton home, the friends talked or sang while Sue played the piano in the parlor. On Sunday, January 23, the Mobile garrison held a formal review of the troops in his honor. Cleburne wore his best uniform, and the local paper described him as "a tall and rather slender officer, with erect form. . . a finely shaped head, with features prominent and striking - the firm set lip, betokening resolution and will."
Cleburne proposed to Sue Tarleton only days after meeting her. She hesitated in giving him
After keeping me in cruel suspense for six weeks she has at length consented to be mine and we are engaged. I need not say how miserable this has made me.
His youngest half-brother, Christopher "Kit" Cleburne, was killed in a skirmish in Kentucky in May. Kit, who was 23 years old, had been a lieutenant in the 5th Kentucky Confederate Cavalry, part of John Hunt Morgan's command.
As the summer progressed, Hood's situation continued to
deteriorate as Sherman tightened the noose around the city. In late August, Cleburne and the rest of Hardee's Corps saw heavy fighting at the Battle of Jonesboro. A cemetery near the depot bearing Cleburne's name contains the graves of hundreds of unknown Confederate soldiers who died in the battle. Beaten, the defeat led to the fall of Atlanta, and Hood withdrew to regroup.
In September 1864, Cleburne, under the command of General Hood, proceeded north to Nashville to attack the Union army under General George H. Thomas. Cleburne's chief of staff, Major Calhoun Benham, resigned in despair and left for Mexico. His aide, Captain Irving Buck, had been wounded at Jonesboro and was taken to a military hospital in George.
‘After receiving his final orders we were directed to advance, which was about 2 o’clock in the afternoon. We had to advance across an old open common, subjected to the heavy fire of the Federal forces. We met the enemy in a short space of time and carried the first line commanded by General Wagner [this force had foolishly been holding a position well in advance of the main Union line]. When that line was broken, General Cleburne’s object seemed to be to run into the rear line with the fleeing Federal’s from Wagner’s division. About that time General Cleburne’s horse was killed. His courier brought him another, and as he was in the act of mounting, this horse was killed. He then disappeared in the smoke of battle, and that was the last time I ever saw him alive. I spoke to his aide-de-camp, Mangum, and told him I was sure the General would be killed, as I did not see how he could escape with his life under such terrific fire, and as he never again appeared in the lines, confirmed my opinion that he was dead’.
One of Cleburne's soldiers, John McQuade of Vicksburg, Mississippi, continued the story:
I and two others were the first to discover his dead body at early dawn the next morning. He was about 40 or 50 yards from the works. He lay flat upon his back as if asleep, his military cap partly over his eyes. He had on a new gray uniform, the coat of the sack or blouse pattern. It was unbuttoned and open; the lower part of his vest was unbuttoned and open. He wore a white linen shirt, which was stained with blood on the front part of the left side, or just left of the abdomen. This was the only sign of a wound I saw on him, and I believe it is the only one he had received. I have always been inclined to think that feeling the end was near, he had thus laid himself down to die, or that his body had been carried there during the night. He was in his sock feet, his boots having been stolen. His watch, sword belt and other valuables were all gone, his body having been robbed during the night.
|Porch of McGavock home at Carnton Plantation|
In early December 5, Susan Tarlteton was walking in the garden in Mobile where she and Cleburne had become engaged. A boy on the street selling papers shouted out the headline "Reports from Tennessee! Cleburne and other Generals killed." She fainted.
In Helena, the body lay in state at St. John’s Church. The city, decorated in black crepe, closed for the day. A quarter-mile-long procession went from the church to Confederate Hill where Cleburne’s body was buried.
For twenty-one years, the small headstone brought from Tennessee marked Cleburne’s grave. The Ladies’ Memorial Association erected a monument which was dedicated on May 10, 1891.