• Foreign born officer attains rank of General in Confederacy

    One of only two foreign born officers to attain the rank of major general in the Confederacy, Patrick Ronayne Cleburne was born on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1828, in Bridepark Cottage, ten miles west of Cork, Ireland. After not being accepted to medical school and a three year enlistment with Her Majesty’s 41st Regiment of Foot, Cleburne purchased his discharge and immigrated to the United States in 1859.

    He studied apothecary, working in Cincinnati before taking up residence in Helena, Arkansas, where he became a partner in a drugstore and began studying law. His law practice was successful as well as his real estate holdings.

    He was elected colonel of the 15th Arkansas in 1861, and promoted to brigadier general in March of 1862. He commanded a brigade at the Battle of Shiloh Church (Pittsburgh Landing), Tennessee, in early April 1862, where he lost nearly 38% of his men. The Battle of Shiloh resulted in a Confederate defeat as well as the loss of the overall Confederate commander in the west, Albert Sidney Johnston.

    Cleburne was assigned to Major General Edmund Kirby Smith forces in the 1862 invasion of Kentucky. Cleburne commanded his men superbly at the Battle of Richmond, Kentucky, on August 29/30, 1862, only to be felled by a bullet to the left jaw fairly early in the conflict. After Richmond, he always wore a beard to hide the scars of this severe wound. His subordinates were able to carry out his battle plan and completely decimate the Federal forces after a day long fight. Federal losses at Richmond were nearly 90% of men and materials. Cleburne was wounded again at the Battle of Perryville where a shell also killed his horse. He was promoted to Major General in December 1862, and earned the moniker “Stonewall of the West”. He was also one of the first Southerners to suggest arming the slaves as a condition for their release after the war.

    Cleburne’s units served with distinction at the battles of Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, and the Atlanta campaign. He joined Lt. General’s John Bell Hood in Hood’s ill-fated invasion of Tennessee in November of 1864.

    Commanding a division under Confederate General Frank Cheatam, Cleburne was killed leading his men near the Carter Cotton Gin at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30, 1864, and was initially buried in Columbia, Tennessee. He remains were re-interred in Helena, Arkansas, in 1870. “Cleburne Park” was dedicated near the place where he fell at Franklin in 2006, within site of the Carter House. A statue of Cleburne was unveiled in 2009 in Ringgold, Georgia, and another will be dedicated in Helena, Arkansas in 2013.


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