Patrick Ronayne Cleburne (March 16 or 17, 1828 â€“ November 30, 1864) was a major general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, killed at the Battle of Franklin.
Cleburne was born in Ovens, County Cork, Ireland, the second son of Dr. Joseph Cleburne, a solid, middle-class physician. Patrick's mother died when he was eighteen months old and he was an orphan at fifteen. He followed his father into the study of medicine but failed his entrance exam to Trinity College of Medicine in 1846. In response to this failure he enlisted in the 41st Regiment of Foot of the British Army.
Three years later Cleburne bought his discharge and emigrated to the United States with two brothers and a sister. After spending a short time in Ohio he settled in Helena, Arkansas, where he obtained employment as a pharmacist and was readily accepted into the town's social order. By 1860 he had become a naturalized citizen, begun the practice of law, and was very popular with the local residents. During this time he became close friends with Thomas C. Hindman, another future Confederate general from Helena.
Service in the Confederate Army
When the secession crisis broke out, Cleburne sided firmly with the Southern states. His choice was not due to any love of slavery, which he claimed not to care about, but out of affection for the Southern people who had adopted him as one of their own, and out of a distrust of centralized governments. When war threatened, Cleburne joined the local company (the Yell Rifles) as a private soldier and was quickly elected captain. He rose quickly through the ranks and was promoted to brigadier general on March 4, 1862.
Cleburne served at the Battle of Shiloh, the Battle of Richmond (Kentucky), where he was wounded in the face, and the Battle of Perryville. After the Army of Tennessee retreated to its namesake state in late 1862, Cleburne was promoted to division command and served at the Battle of Stones River, where his division advanced three miles and shattered all or parts of eleven brigades before being halted by the final Union line of defense.
During the campaigns of 1863 in Tennessee, General Cleburne became more and more outspoken about the incompetence of the commander of the army, General Braxton Bragg, which may have retarded his advancement within the army. During this time Cleburne and his soldiers played a role at the Confederate victory at the Battle of Chickamauga with a rare night assault and probably saved the Army of Tennessee from utter destruction by holding off a much larger United States Army at both Tunnel Hill on Missionary Ridge at the Battle of Chattanooga and at the Battle of Ringgold Gap in northern Georgia. Cleburne and his troops received an official thanks from the Confederate Congress for their actions during this campaign.
Cleburne's strategic utilization of terrain, ability to hold ground where others failed, and his ability to use his smaller force to stymie the movements of the enemy earned him his fame during this time and gained him the nickname "Stonewall of the West." Federal troops were quoted as dreading seeing the flag of Cleburne's Division across the battlefield from them.
It became obvious to Cleburne that the Confederate States were losing the war because of the drain on manpower and resources they were facing. In 1864 he dramatically called upon the leadership of the Army of Tennessee and put forth a proposal to emancipate slaves and enlist them in the Confederate Army to secure Southern independence. This proposal was met with extreme hostility and was officially suppressed on order of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Cleburne would find his military career stalled from this point on and he was passed over for advancement to corps commander.
Death and legacy
Prior to the campaigning season of 1864, Cleburne became engaged to Susan Tarleton of Mobile, Alabama. Their marriage was never to be as Cleburne was killed during an ill conceived assault, which Cleburne opposed, on Union fortifications at the Battle of Franklin, just south of Nashville, Tennessee, on November 30, 1864. He was last seen advancing on foot toward the Union entrenchment with his sword raised after his horse was shot out from under him. Confederate war records indicate he died of a shot to the abdomen.
Cleburne's remains were laid to rest at St. John's Church near Mount Pleasant, Tennessee, where they remained for six years. In 1870 he was disinterred and returned to his adopted hometown of Helena, Arkansas, with much fanfare. (His specific location of interment is in dispute. Various sources claim Maple Hill Cemetery, Magnolia Cemetery, and Evergreen Cemetery in Helena.)
Some southern counties and cities are named after Patrick Cleburne, including:
Cleburne County, Alabama
Cleburne County, Arkansas
City of Cleburne, Texas
"Life has always been a small matter with me when duty points the way," wrote Patrick R. Cleburne to his brother on the eve of war in 1861. Newly elected Captain of a company of militia called the Yell Rifles raised in Phillips County, Arkansas, his words would become synonymous with his conduct over the next four years.
The Patrick Cleburne Society Mission Statement
For all his courage, his sterling character, and selfless commitment to his cause, Patrick Cleburne has not received the commemoration his career and personal bravery deserve. The Patrick Cleburne Society was founded in 1998 to perpetuate his memory through events and seminars commemorating his life and accomplishments. Our mission has an additional purpose. Many places associated with Cleburneâ€™s Division are either gone or endangered. Sites like Perryville and Ringgold Gap are in private hands, safe for the moment but with uncertain futures and no guarantee to ensure their preservation. Even on National Battlefield properties there are no monuments to his leadership or the sacrifice of the men who followed Pat Cleburne. Richmond, Kentucky, Missionary Ridge, Pickettâ€™s Mill and Jonesboro from the Atlanta Campaign, and of course Franklin are examples of his courage and brilliant command. Yet no past effort has been made to mark for posterity the foremost points on these fields where Cleburne fought, and ultimately died. Arguably the best Confederate general in the Army of Tennessee, Cleburne remains virtually unknown to most Americans and many Southerners. Through the Patrick Cleburne Society, we hope to rectify this oversight, and preserve for future generations not only the battlefields where Cleburneâ€™s Division won immortality, but the story of the man who led it.
Patrick Cleburne Society
P.O. Box 157 Ste. 106
1113 Murfreesboro Rd, Franklin, Tennessee firstname.lastname@example.org
About his Life
The Life of Patrick Cleburne was the stuff of epics and novels. From a teenage runaway to a lowly private in Wellington's Army, he was thrown on his own resources at an early age, while the Ireland of his youth mounted a call for independence. He came to America as impoverished gentry, to seek a new start from the ravages of the Great Famine, and on his own merit he carved a life in the young frontier town of Helena, Arkansas.
Shaped by the harshness of the British Army, and his Irish heritage, his concept of freedom was more political than inalienable. When his adopted country was ripped apart by war, Cleburne followed his conscience, coming from nowhere to gain fame and immortality as the highest ranking Irishman of either army, and the most capable division commander of the Confederate army. From Shiloh to Jonesboro Cleburne won glory from the Army of Tennessee. His spirit was a meteor shining brightly, whole trail blazed out abruptly at Franklin, Tennessee on November 30, 1864.
Patrick Ronayne Cleburne was born in Ovens, County Cork, Ireland on March 16, 1828. The second son of Dr. Joseph Cleburne, the only physician in the locale, Patrick grew up in comfortable, middle class surroundings and privilege. However life was not without its tragedy. His mother died when he was eighteen months old, and by the time the boy reached age fifteen, his father had also died. He pursued the family tradition of studying medicine, but failed the entrance exam to Trinity College in February 1846. Pride and his sense of honor led him to enlist in the 41st Regiment of Foot of the British Army to escape his failure. Three and one half years later, he bought his discharge and came to America with two brothers and an older sister. He settled in Helena, Arkansas, in 1850, first as a druggist until he became a naturalized citizen. In 1856 he began the practice of law, and was senior partner with Cleburne, Scaife and Mangum by 1860.
The Cleburne Crest
Cleburne joined the Yell Rifles of Phillips as a private, and was soon elected Captain of the company. From this position he rose swiftly in rank, through the early months of the war and became Colonel of the 1st Arkansas. When Gen. William J. Hardee was put in command of Confederate troops in Arkansas, he quickly recognized the gem he had in an officer, and secured Cleburneâ€™s promotion to Brigadier General on March 4, 1862.
Shiloh, the Kentucky Campaign and Murfreesboro were ahead for Patrick Cleburne. He was severely wounded in the mouth at Richmond, Ky. on August 30. Returning to duty in time to participate in the Battle of Perryville on October 8, he proved his capability in a charge on the field that led to Confederate victory. After the Battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee December 31and January 1, 1863, Cleburne was promoted to Major General.
Through the campaigns of 1863, Cleburne became more outspoken along with his superior and mentor William J. Hardee on the incompetence of Gen. Braxton Bragg. After the Battle of Chickamauga and the Chattanooga Campaign, Cleburne achieved lasting military fame for his defense of Tunnel Hill on Missionary Ridge in Tennessee and at the Battle of Ringgold Gap in North Georgia. His brilliant tactical command in the use of his small force, and strategic utilization of terrain remain among the most compelling in military history to study.
Always pensive and observant, he realized the deplorable state of morale in the army, and the straitened conditions of the Confederacy in general were working against the goal of independence. He had a solution which he earnestly believed would turn the tide in favor of the South, both militarily and politically, and on January 3, 1864, he met with Gen. Joseph Johnston and other high command personalities in Dalton, Georgia to read his proposal on emancipating the slaves and enlisting them in the Confederate army. His concept was shocking to some, endorsed by others, but ultimately rejected by President Jefferson Davis at the urging of his military advisor in Richmond, Braxton Bragg.
Patrick Cleburne accepted his superiorsâ€™ suggestions to suppress his proposal on enlisting slaves, and accompanied his friend William J. Hardee as best man to Hardeeâ€™s wedding in Demopolis, Alabama. Cleburne met Susan Tarleton, the 24-year-old daughter of a Mobile, Alabama planter, and was love struck. He proposed to her before his ten-day furlough was up, and she agreed to become engaged to him. The spring of 1864 began military operations, which culminated in the Atlanta Campaign. Patrick Cleburne fought valiantly at every battle, from the opening shots at Rocky Face Gap until the end at Jonesboro in August. He received no other promotions, though vacancies occurred for corps commander. He was distressed when Hood replaced Joe Johnston as commander-in-chief of the Army of Tennessee, and marched his division north with the army in the Tennessee Campaign. In a desperate assault on Union breastworks at Franklin, Tennessee on November 30, 1864, Patrick Cleburne was killed in action beside his men. He was buried at St. Johnâ€™s Church near Mount Pleasant, Tennessee. In April 1870, his remains were disinterred and brought back to Helena, Arkansas, where he was reburied in an impressive ceremony in Evergreen Confederate Cemetery. His fiancÃ©e Susan Tarleton, married a classmate of her brotherâ€™s, but died of a swelling of the brain on June 30, 1868.