Archive for July, 2014

Ross Brigade

Some times you wonder why thing are the way they are. Why does Hood’s Brigade get better press. Why are other brigades better known. All things given very few differences can be found between brigades. The Battles they fought is a significant difference. Who the leaders above the brigade where and how the command structure was seen. The Ross Brigade was often under several layers of command and reports were not seen by history. Stephen D Lee was a commander who desired that most data come through him. In the Atlanta Campaign, Ross often reported directly to Johnston or Hood, providing current information to these leaders.

Even when The brigade was under Forrest the command structure was such that it was difficult to find the reports of the Brigade. Another factor was that the trunks holding the Brigade orders and reports was intrusted to a Lieutenant who was going to write the brigade history. He died and the trunks fell to the protection of his wife. Though she tried her best to protect them, they were pilfered in a hotel in Alabama during a search by Union forces. The records were scattered and captured flags and colors were stolen. This one event cause the loss of a lot of Regimental and Brigade history.

A lot of brigade history is lost in attics and scattered over the country. Of the many men of the Ross Brigade, only a few of their descendents are known and recognized today. Each soldier should have many descendents which would should announce the brigade history to the world. But many of us do not know the history. In the year 2000 I had no idea that my kin had fought in the Brigade. I knew nothing of the Brigade and I had graduated from Sul Ross State University. I did not even know that Sul Ross had been Texas most popular governor. That he had been a University President. Part of this is due to the education system that we have grown. It no longer lets us know who our great leaders were, but does let us know who our great dis-tractors were. The Marilyn Monroes and Elvis Presleys are important. Who cares about Sul Ross, for that matter, Jimmy Carter. Obama will be quickly forgotten.

Whitfield was forgotten soon after he left the Brigade. Ross was remembered until the last soldier died. A few Aggies know who Sully is but not who and what Sul Ross was and did. These were the two great leaders of the Brigade. John Whitfield had fought in the Spanish American War of 1845. He was a know leader, who General McCullough placed in a position of leadership early on. McCullogh task him to build a Legion. A balanced 12 company unit with Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery. Whitfield had his legion by March of 1862, but McCullough was gone and the purpose was forgotten. Whitfield commanded a 12 company regiment. Known as the Legion but numbered as the 27th Texas Cavalry Regiment. Two of its companies were basically Arkansas companies. Company B wes transferred to Ras Stirman’s Arkansas Sharpshooter Regiment for the Battle of Corinth. The other, Company K, served as a company of the regiment.

Whitfield was wounded at the Battle of Iuka, Mississippi on 19 September 1862. He was not able to return to command until April of 1863. He missed the Battles of Corinth, Hatchie Bridge, and the Holly Springs Raid. Even then he was no longer the person that he had been before. He spent a lot of time searching for his star and suffering ill health. By September 1862 he was replaced by Hinche Mabry. Two months later Mabry was transferred to General Forrest’s command and Ross took command of the Texas Cavalry Brigade.

What made Ross a Commander. He was a college graduate. He commander an Indian Company as a Ranger Captain under Major Van Dorn before the Civil War. He had killed a Comanche Chief in hand to hand combat. He was a confident of Sam Houston who trusted him to negotiate treaties with the Indians. All of this happened before he was 22. In 1861 he volunteered in his brother’s company as a Private. When a regiment was organized in September of 1861 he was selected to be the regimental Major. By May of 1862 he was selected to be the commander of the 6th Texas Cavalry Regiment. During the next year he was and acting brigade commander of an Infantry Brigade at Hatchie Bridge. During the times when Whitfield was absent sick on on trips to Richmond he was a Brigade Commander in Training.

In August 1863 he was chosen to lead a special unit in support of Gen S.D. Lee. The unit operated in nothern Mississippi and Alabama from September to December 1863 and was very important in causing a Union Corps to withdraw from Mississippi to north of Corinth. The Corps commander thought he had run into a reinforced division. Ross had selected the soldiers in his unit and they were the best fighters. Because of its structure and use, little is know of its actual battle history. Few reports were made and fewer are available for review.

Once Ross took command of the Texas Cavalry Brigade, we know most of its actions until the latter part of the Atlanta campaign. Ross often reported in person to General Johnston so we know of these reports. They are history and are noted in Stephen D Kirk’s book on the brigade. Some are noted by Hood and some by Ross. The actual facts about the Atlanta raids of Kirpatrick and McCook are well documented, but are immersed in incorrect data and innuendo cause by personal pride and lack of character. Even Ross and Victor Ross glossed over the facts, to keep from telling the actual story. Union accounts are even worse. History written by those making it is often not truth.

We can only sift through all the facts and hope we see the truth. Often a letter found one hundred and fifty years later is a key. It might be from a soldier to his father. Here the fact is not obliterated. A son is not afraid to tell his father the truth. A lover to his wife is not so truthful. To his mother, never. For he did not want to scare her because of the facts of War.

Ross wrote to his wife, but often was soft on the facts. He did not want to scare her. Thus is history tinged with the lies of lovers and children of mothers. I have been looking for the results of a battle at Yazoo Pass Mississippi, but nothing has come from history. Not even a fact that there was no battle. But up to a point the 27th was held in Mississippi and then raced to Tennessee to join the brigade on 5 April 1863 for the Battle of Thompson Station. A Union reinforced Regiment had left Nashville and was reconnoitering south of Franklin when it ran into Van Dorn’s complete Corps. The 27th was hiding behind rock walls because its horses were to tired to fight. Acting as Infantry, they completely surprised the Union force and in the ensuing battle the Union force was captured with only a small Cavalry detachment able to make it back to Nashville. The Confederate forces lost few men and won a great battle. One might ask how you can hide a Corps, but the area of Thompson Station is of hills and valleys and much trees and bushes. Around the station were rock walls and a few out buildings that provided good cover. Neither Ross or Whitfield were here to Command. Both were just retuning. John Griffith who commanded the Holly Springs Raid was commanding his last effort with the Brigade. Soon after this Griffith would return to Texas and become a Brigadier General.

Ross’s Brigade is important because it is the Brigade and its associations that cause Ross to be elected Governor with the highest percentage of voter turn out before or since. In fact they did it twice. Ross was very popular. He could have served a third term as Governor. That alone might have saved his life. For after 4 years as President of Texas A&M he went hunting and caught a cold. As Governor, he might not have done this. He died of pneumonia.

His work as a legislator, lawman, Governor and President is well documented and should be known. I have the latest Texas Almanac and even it does not include Ross as a two term popular governor. The book glosses over the late 188os and 1890s. Must not have been important. The most popular governor in Texas History forgotten. Only a small town in McClennan county by the name of Ross is remembered. Several rappers are known along with other dignitaries if the time.

So goes history. We remember what the times think is important. Not what has got us to this point. Even an editor of the Texas A&M newspaper wanted to remove the statue of Sul Ross “Sully” because Ross was a racist. Sad. I was on the Amtrack when it stopped in Alpine, Texas, and the conductor wanted to know for what the town was remembered. He then talked about a TV star from the ’70s “Hoss Cartwright”. I ask if he meant Dan Blocker. He said, “Who?” Dan Blocker played Hoss Cartwright in the TV series. No one even thought of the name of the University in Alpine. Sul Ross State. Few deserve to have a University named after them, but Lawrence Sullivan “Sul” Ross does. Who remembers the Ross Brigade?