As published in the Murfreesboro Post, October 29, 2006
By Mike West, Managing Editor
Just like their Union counterparts, the Confederate Army of Tennessee had its own share of interesting characters:
Maj. Gen. Daniel S. Donelson
Donelson had an impressive mix of military and political connections.
Born in Tennessee in 1802, Daniel S. Donelson had a famous warrior uncle, President Andrew Jackson. Fort Donelson was named in his honor.
A West Point graduate, Donelson served in the U.S. Regular Army and was a brigadier general in the Tennessee Militia from 1829 to 1834. Elected to the general assembly, he rose to the house speakership in 1855.
Following Tennessee’s secession, Donelson was made a brigadier general. At Stones River, he commanded the 1st Brigade of Cheatham’s Division and was in the charge that collapsed the Federal’s right wing. Following Stones River, he was reassigned to East Tennessee as Gen. Kirby Smith’s successor. Following his promotion to major general, Donelson died in Knoxville on April 17, 1863. “The regret with which his death is announced will be felt by the army and his country. He was an educated soldier, of great purity of character, singleness of purpose, and goodness of heart. Conspicuous for gallantry on the field, after the excitement had passed he was foremost in providing for the wants of his command, and devoted to the sick and wounded. His comrades in this army, and those who served under his orders, will long remember his deeds and virtues,” said Gen. Braxton Bragg following Donelson’s death.
Maj. Gen. William J. Hardee
A hero of the Mexican War, William Hardee was a West Point graduate who had served in the Second Seminole War in Florida. While there he was stricken with illness, fell in love and was married. After he recovered, Hardee was sent to France of study military tactics.
After his wife’s death in 1853, he turned to West Point where he was a tactics instructor and served as commandant of cadets from 1856 to 1860. Just before the outbreak of war, Hardee was lieutenant colonel of the 1st U.S. Cavalry. He was the author of “Hardee’s Tactics,” the best-known drill manual of the Civil War.
Brig. General Gideon Pillow
A shameless self-promoter, Pillow had been the law partner of President James K. Polk. During the Mexican War, he attempted to take credit for Winfield Scott’s victories at Contreras and Churubusco. Discredited, he was discharged from the army in 1848. He unsuccessfully failed to win the nomination for vice president in 1852 and 1856. Union Gen. U.S. Grant had known Pillow in Mexico and his personal knowledge caused Grant to rush his assault on Fort Donelson.
” I had known General Pillow in Mexico, and judged that with any force, no matter how small, I could march up to within gunshot of any entrenchments he was given to hold. I said this to the officers of my staff at the time. I knew that Floyd was in command, but he was no soldier, and I judged that he would yield to Pillow’s pretensions,” Grant said in his memoirs.
At Stones River, Maj. Gen. John Breckinridge was to accuse Pillow of cowardice after discovering him hiding behind a tree.
Gen. Patrick Cleburne
A native of County Cork, Ireland, Patrick Cleburne was one of the most capable and beloved Confederate field officers. A failed medical student, Cleburne was a British Army veteran, who emigrated to the U.S. with two brothers and a sister.
He settled in Helena, Ark. where he became a naturalized citizen by 1860. He sided with his adopted home state and joined the Yell Rifles as a private. Rising quickly through the ranks, he was promoted to brigadier general in March 1862.
At Stones River, Cleburne commanded a division that routed the Union right wing driving it to its final line of defense at the Round Forest.
Cleburne’s outspokenness endeared him to his troops but angered his superiors.
As the war progressed, his division became known as one of the most feared of the Confederacy. His use of tactics earned him the nickname, “Stonewall of the West.” During the waning days of the war, Cleburne began to push the emancipation and enlistment of slaves in the Confederate army. President Jefferson Davis personally suppressed this concept.