Patrick Ronayne Cleburne was on of the highest ranking foreign born officers in the Confederate army. He was born in Ireland on March 17, 1828. His father owned a manor and engaged in agriculture. Cleburne’s father could not afford the education his son needed to enter medical school, which made him briefly join the British army. He migrated to the United States and settled in Arkansas in 1850.

When the Civil War broke out and Arkansas seceded from the Union, Cleburne joined as a private, but his fellow soldiers entrusted him with leadership. By December 1862, Cleburne was a major general and ready to fight the Battle of Murfreesboro/Stones River. He remained in commanding positions during the following years campaign, having not just the trust of his officer, but also his men. As a result, Cleburne’s division repulsed Sherman’s superior attack in November 1863 at Chattanooga. Throughout the Atlanta Campaign, Cleburne’s division was in the heat of the fighting and showed its spirit, but could do little to stop the successful advance of the Union Army.

He remained with the Army of Tennessee after the fall of Atlanta and accompanied the commanding general, John B. Hood, into Tennessee. Blamed with allowing a Union detachment to slip away overnight, Cleburne was ordered to lead the advance against that same Union force outside of Franklin, TN. In the ensuing battle, on November, 30, 1864, together with 1,750 men, Cleburne was killed.

Cleburne never advanced beyond major general in part because of criticism he had leveled against his commanding officer Braxton Bragg after the battle of Murfreesboro and also because of a controversial proposal he had made on January 2, 1864. In a memorandum and officer meeting, Cleburne pointed to the manpower reality of the war and the use of African-American soldiers by the Union. Assuming that this was not a war for the protection of slavery but about the independence of the southern states from northern oppression, he suggested the Confederacy should arm the slaves. Arming the slaves would eliminated many arguments of the Union war propaganda and hopefully rectify the Confederacy’s shortage of fighting men. For Cleburne, like so many of his country men, this was a war for independence and freedom, not slavery.

Image: General Patrick R. Cleburne, Civil War Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.