Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy Birthday Patrick Cleburne

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that along with this new praise Gen. Cleburne is receiving, the new Museum of the Confederacy branch opening at the Appomattox will have General Cleburne's Frock coat on display. 

Today is St. Patrick's Day in remembrance of a terrific man doing terrific things. That all powerful know-it-all Wikipedia has this to say of the momentous holiday.
a cultural and religious holiday celebrated on 17 March. It commemorates Saint Patrick (c. AD 387–461), the most commonly recognized of the patron saints of Ireland, and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. It is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church and Lutheran Church. Saint Patrick's Day was made an official feast day in the early seventeenth century, and has gradually become a celebration of Irish culture in general. The day is generally characterised by the attendance of church services, wearing of green attire and the lifting of Lenten restrictions on eating, and drinking alcohol, which is often proscribed during the rest of the season.
Saint Patrick's Day is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland,Newfoundland and Labrador and in Montserrat. It is also widely celebrated by the Irish diaspora, especially in places such as Great Britain, Canada, the United States, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand, among others. Today, St. Patrick's Day is probably the most widely celebrated saint's day in the world.[1]
As I write I have friends that are currently roaming the streets of Savannah, GA engaging in this "Irish diaspora" celebration. Today is also a day to for remembrance of yet another great man. I am talking of course about Confederate Maj. General Patrick R. Cleburne.

Today is Patrick Ronayne Cleburne's 184th birthday. Cleburne hailed from Corke County, Ireland and after a brief stint in the British army, a Corporal in the 41st Regiment of Foot, immigrated to America. Cleburne settled in Helena, Arkansas where he began work as a pharmacist. The town accepted him as one of their own. By 1860 Cleburne was a naturalized American citizen. Because of the acceptance the town of Helena had given him, and because of the close personal friendships he made with residents in the town, Cleburne sided with the state of Arkansas and the southern states during the secession crisis. Cleburne joined the local militia and was admired amongst the men. They quickly voted him up the ranks from Private to Captain of the "Yell Rifles." When Arkansas left the Union, the "Yell Rifles" became the 1st Arkansas Infantry and Cleburne the men elected him Colonel. From here Cleburne set himself apart from other military commanders and rose to the  rank of Major General on December 13th 1862. This was the final promotion Cleburne received in Confederate service.

Cleburne excelled in command. He served with distinction at the battles of Shiloh, Richmond, Perryville, and Stones River. In 1863 Cleburne set himself apart yet again at the battles of Missionary Ridge, opposing General Sherman, and Ringgold Gap opposing Gen. John Hooker. At both battles Cleburne was outnumbered 4 to 1 yet still took the day. He received an official thanks from the Confederate Congress and was dubbed Stonewall of the West. Yet it is his proposition in the Winter of 1863-64 that he is most noted for.

In the winter of 1863 it was becoming obvious that the war was not far from over. The South had been checked in every Northern invasion. Turned back after the battle of Sharpsburg and then turned back again in '63 at Gettysburg, the South was unable to reach a decisive victory to convince the North to stop fighting. It is at this point that Cleburne issued a controversial proposal. Due to the depleted nature of the Confederacy's resources and man power, Cleburne called together the leadership of the Army of Tennessee and presented his plan of emancipating slaves and enlisting them into the Confederate army as arms carrying soldiers. Basically, let slaves fight for Southern Independence and give them freedom in return. "Pat Cleburne's Negro Enlistment Proposal" can be found here. Cleburne believed that with this 'high reward' of freedom that the slaves would face the fears of war with their masters leading them on. The proposal met some harsh resistance from certain Confederate Generals. Some would argue that due to this proposal Cleburne never ascended beyond the rank of Major General. Of course, one cannot overlook that he was in fact an Irishman.

The legacy of Cleburne is somewhat complex. He has incredible military accomplishments during the five years in which the Civil War was fought. He only recently received a dedication statue in Ringgold, GA at the site of his most famous battle. With the statue dedication, Cleburne stepped a new era of praise. But why? Why has this general been so long overlooked and only recently been massively praised? For some, myself included, this praise has always been there. I grew up in Ringgold and heard Cleburne's name a lot. This made me curious enough to research Cleburne several times over. Yet that is where this praise is usually limited to;  historians and locals. Large scale public reverence was non-existent. Recently however Cleburne's legacy has began to soar in the years preceding the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. He has a Graphic Novel dedicated to him and for a while there were talks of a movie deal. On November 30th 1864, Cleburne died leading his men forward at the Battle of Franklin. Accounts state his body was found inside of Federal lines. Despite the reasons for his recent rise, Cleburne remains a figure of the past worth studying. From this Historian...I salute you sir.

Where this division defended, no odds broke its line; where it attacked, no numbers resisted its onslaught, save only once; and there is the grave of Cleburne.  - William J. Hardee on learning of Cleburne's

 Books Worth Reading for Information on Patrick Cleburne:

Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War by Craig L. Symonds
Invisible Hero: Patrick R. Cleburne by Bruce H. Stewart
A Meteor Shining Brightly: Essays on Major General Patrick R. Cleburne by Mauriel Phillips Joslyn
Cleburne and His Command by Irving Buck

[1] St. Patrick's Day



  2. I am just learning about Maj. Gen. Pat Cleburne. I live in Cleburne, Texas, a town named for the man.

    I am opening a Bed & Breakfast Inn on the Chisholm Trail here in Texas and I have decided to have a room dedicated to Cleburne. I am enjoying reading about him. He was truly loved by many people.

    Belle S.,
    Cleburne, TX

    1. He is a terrifically interesting figure.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Please check out my blog's new location


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