Remembering "Old Pat" Cleburne

    Nearly 30 years after his death at the Battle of Franklin, the veterans of General Patrick Cleburne’s old division enjoyed sharing stories about their beloved commander. “General Cleburne was a gallant soldier, a hard fighter, always kind and courteous to his men, who almost worshipped him, and who believed "old Pat" could whip all creation,” remembered Private T.O. Moore of the 7th Texas Infantry who served under Cleburne’s command for the better part of a year. “Had he lived and the war continued, he was bound to have risen to great distinction as an officer. He and General Granbury were killed near the breastworks at the battle of Franklin, Tennessee, and the Confederacy lost two of her best officers.”

Private Moore’s reminiscences of General Cleburne first saw publication in the July 2, 1893 edition of the New Orleans Picayune

Comanche, Texas, June 12, 1893

Editor of The Picayune:

I send you a few incidents of the life of General Pat, Cleburne, which I have never seen in print, and which may be of interest to your many readers and the members of his old division. General Cleburne was a gallant soldier, a hard fighter, always kind and courteous to his men, who almost worshipped him, and who believed "old Pat" could whip all creation.

Major General Patrick R. Cleburne of Arkansas proved to be one of the finest combat soldiers in the Army of Tennessee and was connected with the army from its earliest services in the fall of 1861 until his death three years later on the field at Franklin. "Old Pat" was beloved by his men and even Federal troops who came into contact with the Irishman were touched by his kind demeanor and concern for the common soldier. "His eyes, a clear steel-gray in color, were cold and abstracted usually, but beamed genially in seasons of social intercourse and blazed fiercely in moments of excitement," recalled General William J. Hardee. "His hair, originally black, became gray under the care and fatigue of campaigning. His mind was of a highly logical class. Before expressing an opinion on a subject, he wore an expression as if solving a mathematical proposition." 

In the fall of 1864, Cleburne's division was thrown with a portion of the army across the Coosa River, above Rome, Georgia, and started across the mountains of the North Georgia to the railroad leading to Atlanta. We were cut off from our supply trains and had to live off the country through which we passed. Apples, chestnuts, and persimmons were plenty, so we did pretty well. Strict orders had been issued that we must not depredate upon private property. One morning on leaving camp, General Hiram Granbury's brigade led the column. I was badly crippled from sore feet and could not keep up with the command, so on this particular morning, I had special permission to march at the head of the brigade.

I was trudging along the best I could just in the rear of General Granbury's horse, when I saw down the road General Cleburne sitting on the top of a rail fence smoking a cob pipe. Below, on the ground, were five or six bushels of fine red apples. Near by stood one or two of his aides; also five or six "web-foot" soldiers, who looked as mean as they well could look. As we drew near, General Granbury saluted General Cleburne, who in his turn said: "General Granbury, I am peddling apples to-day." General Granbury said: "How are you selling them, General?" General Cleburne replied: "Those gentlemen (pointing to the web-feet, who had stolen the apples) have been very kind. They have gathered the apples for me and charged nothing. I will give them to you and your men. Now, you get down and take an apple, and have each of your men pass by and take one-only, one, mind you-until they are all gone." This was done. In the meantime, the boys were hurrahing for old Pat. When the apples gave out, General Cleburne made each man who had stolen the apples carry a rail for a mile or two. Old Pat enjoyed the thing as much as did his men.

The colors of the 7th Texas Infantry show their battle honors for Fort Donelson, Raymond, Chickamauga, Tunnel Hill, and Ringgold Gap. The 7th Texas was captured at Fort Donelson and sent off to Camp Douglas in Chicago until it was exchanged in September 1862. The regiment later served in the Vicksburg campaign and fought at Raymond but avoided being trapped in the Vicksburg defenses. The regiment fought at Chickamauga before being assigned to the Texas brigade of Cleburne's division in the fall of 1863. Under Colonel Hiram B. Granbury, the 7th Texas was part of one of the hardest fighting brigades in the Army of Tennessee. 

On this same raid we struck the railroad leading to Atlanta, and orders were given to destroy the same. One evening General Cleburne ordered Granbury's Brigade out to help do the work. We were strung along the track as near together as we well could stand. General Cleburne then got out in front and said: "Attention, men! When I say ready, let every man stoop down, take hold of the rails, and when I say 'heave to', let every man lift all he can and turn the rails and cross-ties over."

When the command was given by old Pat, a thousand men or more bent their backs and took hold of the iron; then came the command, "heave ho!" With a yell up we came with rails and crossties, and over they went. The ties were then knocked loose, rails taken apart, crossties piled up and fired, and on them was placed the iron which, when red hot, was bent in all kinds of shapes. Some of the iron was bent around the trees. We worked a good part of the night destroying the road, which did but little good, however, as the boys in blue soon fixed it up again.

This fine Rick Reeves print depicts the 7th Texas Infantry during the fierce fighting at Pickett's Mill, Georgia on May 27, 1864. Cleburne's Division retained its blue and white Hardee flags when the rest of the army had converted their flags over to the well-known Confederate battle flag. Cleburne's division was the only division in the army so honored. "Friends and foes soon learned to watch the course of the blue flag that marked where Cleburne was in battle," remembered his longtime commander General William J. Hardee. 

During the campaign around Atlanta our company was out on picket. Just before we were relieved in the morning our company killed a fat cow, and we managed to bring a quarter into camp. As we were expecting to move at any time, we cut up the beef in chunks, built a scaffold and spread the meat on it, them built a fire and were cooking it so we could take it with us. We were all busy working at it when one of our company looked up and saw old Pat coming down the line on a tour of inspection. We had no time to hide the beef, and knew we were in for it. One of the company stepped out and saluted the General, and said: "General, we have some nice, fat beef cooking, and it is about done; come and eat dinner with us." "Well," he replied, "it does smell good. I believe I will."

He sat down on log, one of the boys took a nice piece of beef from the fire, another hunted a pone of corn bread and handed it to him. The General ate quite heartily, thanked us for the dinner, took out his cob pipe, filled it and began to smoke, chatting pleasantly with us, asking what we thought of our position, and if we thought we could whip the fight, if we had one, and then passed on down the line, while we cheered him. How could we help admiring him? Had he lived and the war continued, he was bound to have risen to great distinction as an officer. He and General Granbury were killed near the breastworks at the battle of Franklin, Tennessee, and the Confederacy lost two of her best officers.



“Anecdotes of General Cleburne,” Private T. O. Moore, Co. F, 7th Texas Volunteer Infantry, Granbury's Brigade, Cleburne's Division, Army of Tennessee, New Orleans Picayune (Louisiana), July 2, 1893


  1. Thanks for including a post about Pat Cleburne. He's a favorite Confederate general.


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