Monday, November 18, 2013

The Death Of General Patrick Cleburne - The Cotton Gin

  The Cotton Gin was to the right and in an advanced position from the Carter House across the Columbia Pike. Being that the Pike passed between the gin and the house made this a vulnerable position. Because of Wagner's men the Confederates were able to break through this gap in the line. There were soldiers designated to carry cannon primers in the event that enemy cannon were captured. Men were trained on both sides to take the primers so captured guns could not be turned on them. The Confederates captured a four gun battery but were unable to use them against the retreating Union soldiers because nobody thought to bring primers with them. This was a lost opportunity for the Confederates because with those primers the Battle of Franklin might have been a crushing defeat for the Union. The Cotton Gin was where General Patrick Cleburne was killed. The following are accounts of his death taken from an article called Irish In The Civil War.

  "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".

  General Govan had also corresponded with Captain Dinkins for an article in the New Orleans Picayunewhere he added further detail to Cleburne’s experience at Franklin. When Cleburne’s first horse was killed under him Govan was nearby, and he noted that the mortally wounded animal’s momentum carried the horse and rider nearly to the ditch on the outside of the Federal entrenchments. The second horse was struck by a cannonball from the direction of the cotton gin while Cleburne was in the act of mounting. At this point the Irishman moved forward towards the enemy works on foot, waving his cap and encouraging his men to advance. According to Govan Cleburne’s body was eventually found some twenty yards from where he had last seen him. Another officer to comment on Cleburne’s whereabouts was C.W. Frazer who had served in Cleburne’s Division up to the Battle of Murfreesboro, and who wrote a history of the 5th Confederate Regiment after the war. This unit was principally made up of Irishmen from Memphis, and Frazer maintained that the General sought out the Regiment at Franklin, ‘charged in with it, and died with it’.

Cleburne's sword

Cleburnes Pistol
Uniform that Cleburne was wearing when he died

Cleburne's Kepi

  The following morning the death of Patrick Cleburne was confirmed. Mr. John McQuade of Vicksburg, Mississippi takes up 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’. McQuade approached an ambulance picking up wounded men and dead officers under the charge of Reverend Thomas Markham. Cleburne’s body was placed beside that of Brigadier-General John Adams and taken to the McGavock residence at the nearby Carnton Plantation. There Generals Cleburne, Adams, Strahl and Granbury would lie side by side on the porch prior to their burial.

  Earlier in the year Cleburne had become engaged to Susan Tarleton of Mobile, Alabama. On 5th December 1864 Susan was walking in the garden in Mobile where she and Patrick had become engaged. A boy on the street selling papers shouted out the days headline ‘Reports from Tennessee! Cleburne and other Generals killed’. She promptly fainted. Major-General Patrick Ronanyne Cleburne was initially interred at Rose Hill near Franklin. His body was moved to St.John’s Church, Ashwood, Tennessee thereafter; Cleburne had passed the cemetery a few days earlier during the advance into Tennessee and had remarked that it was ‘almost worth dying for, to be buried in such a beautiful spot’. In 1870 he would be moved once again, this time returning to his adopted State in Arkansas, where he remains in Maple Hill Cemetery, Helena. The impact of the death of Major-General Patrick Cleburne was keenly felt. No less a personage than Robert E. Lee described him as ‘A meteor shining from a clouded sky’.

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Susan Tarleton
Grave of Patrick Cleburne

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