HENRY W. BRIDGES 1836 – 1864
Texas Ranger 1855 – 1861
Officer Confederate Service 1861 – 1864
Henry W. Bridges (1836 – February 13, 1864) was probably the youngest of six brothers and four sisters. His parents Herod Flournoy Bridges Senior and Margaret Ware Bridges came from or were in Jefferson, Georgia prior to coming to Texas. In Georgia they owned six slaves in 1850 according to the slave schedules. We know very little of Henry’s early life, but you can be sure that it was typical early Texas. By 1855 Henry was in Texas. In 1860 Herod had several slaves and Henry had one and they lived and were merchants in Brownsboro, Henderson County, Texas.
On July 20, 1855, at 19 Henry joined a tough Ranger expedition at Seguin, Guadalupe County, Texas. Captain James Callahan’s Expedition was made up of three Ranger companies of about 110 men each. Even General Ben McCollugh had served under Callahan prior to 1855. They crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico on October 1st and followed Lipan Apache and Kickapoo Indians to Piedras Negras, Mexico. The Indians had been stealing horses. Initially the Mexican authorities pointed out the Indians were 20 miles south of Piedras Negras on the Rio Escondido. They went with the Texans to the river, and then turned against the Rangers and joined the Indians forcing the expedition to retreat. Callahan is said to have burned the village and before they escaped back to Texas. Another version says that twenty-five Texans were trapped on the Mexican side of the river and Callahan went back to Piedras Negras and burned down the town and distracted the Mexicans pinning the Texans. A third version had Callahan burning and looting the town and crossing the Rio Grande with a Mexican/Indian force on their tail. A US Army officer with two cannons and troops, just happened to be where the Rangers crossed back into Texas, and told the Mexicans that if they continued he would give the grape and shot. The expedition cost Callahan his Ranger commission because Texas did not want to excite the United States, but it ended this type of Indian raids into Texas. To have survived such an expedition was an amazing feat, but it was just the first step in Henry W. Bridges short but amazing life.
Henry’s five brothers served as officers or noncommissioned officers during the Civil War. Solomon Thomas Bridges was a captain in Griggs and Grandbury’s Regiment, 7th Texas Cavalry; James Russell Pierce Bridges was a 1st Lt in Company I, 23rd Texas Cavalry and Gould’s 27th Texas Cavalry; Asbury Fletcher Bridges was a 2nd Lt in Company G, 1st Texas Heavy Artillery; Herod Flournoy Bridges was a captain in Reserve service in Henderson County; and Andrew Jackson Bridges was a Sergeant of reserve in Hopkins County, Beat No. 5. One sister, Sarah Bridges Wren was found living in Louisiana during that time.
By 1861, Henry was the captain of Ranger Company I, 3rd Regiment Texas State Troops. The commander of Company K was James W. Throckmorton of McKinney, Collin County, a future Governor of Texas. Both were sent with their companies into the Wichita Mountains of the Indian Territory to capture Union Forts Cobb and Arbuckle. This was an action pushed by the Knights of the Golden Circle of Texas. Action in the Indian Territory was not as wild as expected. The Union troops had evacuated the forts and were moving north. They did capture supplies and some weapons left by the retreating Yankees. The expedition ended for a lack of money to pay the Rangers.
Henry had been a commander of a company of a Texas Ranger company from the Dallas and Henderson County areas. Now he was to lead them to something different. Captain Bridges took his company to McKinney where they heard about a new regiment of Confederate Cavalry to be mustered at the north Dallas fairgrounds. Henry said he would go down to check it out and his company followed him. The regiment was mustered in on 6 September 1861 and Henry and most of his company mustered on September 12, as Company I, 6th Texas Cavalry Regiment, Confederate States of America. As most of his men were familiar with military, Henry moved the company to McKinney, Collin County, north of Dallas, where the city provided them with a few more men and uniforms and the other items needed for war. For bedding some took carpet or blankets, but Henry was probably fully fitted out with a tent and possibly his slave which was listed in the 1860 Texas Slave Schedules. Some additional pistols and muskets were provided from San Antonio courtesy the United States Army. By October several companies were ready to move out. Companies B, G, H, I and K were made up of Rangers or militia and had experienced captains and were all ready to go. None knew they would be gone for four years and some would not come back.
The move into the Indian Territory was nothing new to the Rangers. Some of the farm boys were seeing new sights, but the Rangers continued to train for the fighting to come. But they had not run into a new enemy, except for the few that had fought in Mexico in 1845. Sickness! The measles and whooping cough were the initial enemies. The company lost 7 men in the winter of 1861 from October to December. Many lay sick during the battles with the Union Indians in December. They moved to Flat Rock Creek, Missouri, their winter camp, bringing with them, the measles which caused deaths daily in the regiment until the spring. A large number of men were left behind sick including Henry. A few more were left sick at Ft Gibson. Henry was left sick at Van Buren, Arkansas on the 18th of December. He missed the first battles. Sickness was a big problem for commanders. Henry probably had to pen a note to several mothers and wives that their loved one was gone.
For these battles Henry’s company joined a detachment sent to Ft Gibson, Indian Territory to fight under Generals McIntosh and Young. The detachment from the Sixth reached Fort Gibson along with detachments of the 3rd and 9th Texas and immediately prepared for a campaign against the Indians. December 26, 1861, a brigade sized unit under Generals McIntosh and Young fought the Indians at Chusto Talasah, I.T. and again on December 29, through January 4, 1862 they engaged in a running battle against Chief Opothleyahola who was retreating toward Kansas. They won a decisive battle against the Union led Indians, capturing cattle, wagons, grain, weapons, women, children and old men.
The next battle occurred March 4-6, 1862 at Elkhorn Tavern or Pea Ridge, as the North prefers to call it. Major Ross with one detachment from the 3rd Cavalry and Major Whitfield commanded another in a reconnaissance of Bentonville and Leetown, Arkansas, prior to the main battle. Then the 6th was involved in the first few skirmishes of the main battle, but they received no farther orders. Two senior commanders had been killed (General McCulloch and General McIntosh) and a Louisiana division commander captured (General Herbert), thus creating problems in command and control. Colonel Greer of the 9th Texas was the Senior Cavalry commander and General Pike was over the Confederate Indians. They were willing to fight, but Van Dorn ordered retreat, because the ammunition wagons were missing, actually lost. Company I assisted in the rear guard during the retreat from Elkhorn Tavern. Henry’s participation can only be derived from his regiment’s actions.
Next came, a blow to their egos. The commanding generals decided that they needed more Infantry for a battle with Grant, so many of the Cavalry units were dismounted to fight as Infantry. Because they were not trusted, the horses were sent back to Texas. Lots were drawn to see who would take the horses back. Several of the old men and young boys won somehow.
Van Dorn’s Army was delayed by the high waters of the Mississippi River. Thus, the Battle of Shiloh was fought without them. They took part in the first battle at Corinth on April 29th and 30th. Though more of an artillery battle and retreat by the Union forces than a real battle; it showed the 6th what some of the future battles would be like. They pursued the retreating Union forces to Boonsville, Mississippi, until May 12, 1862; when they ran up against superior forces, Grant’s future Army, and were told to return to Corinth and then further south to Granada, Mississippi.
The unit reorganized selecting officers on 8 May, for a much longer war. Captain Bridges was re-elected to command the company, but two lieutenants were not re-elected and were dropped from rolls, and one returned to the enlisted ranks. The unit was reorganized to fight as Infantry.
Colonel Ross, the new Sixth Regiment Commander designated Company I as a Sharpshooter Company following a directive from General Van Dorn and Colonel Phifer, which said that each division would designate one regiment as a sharpshooter regiment and train them in long range shooting and skirmishing. Training continued throughout the summer, with Major Bridges now in charge of a small battalion made up of Company I of the 6th and Company H of the 9th Texas Cavalries, and may have included Company B or the 27th. In July they received several individual replacements from other companies to augment their sharpshooter role.
On August 1, 1862 the battalion was attached to Colonel Ras Stirman’s Arkansas Sharpshooter Regiment, and Bridges was promoted to Lt. Col. and deputy commander. Though expecting to fight to the north or west of Iuka, Phifer’s Brigade was not directed to help General Gate’s Division when it moved south to confront the Union forces approaching Iuka. The next day General Price’s Army moved to the west and returned to his original goal of Corinth in concert with Van Dorn’s Army. To throw the Union forces off, they planned to attack Corinth from the Northwest. On October 3rd, Stirman’s Regiment was almost in the middle of the Confederate force. It is not known how they were deployed. They should have been employed across the brigade front as skirmishers. The battle started, and the biggest loss on the 3rd of October was Lt Col. Bridges, who had to be helped from the field with a bad arm wound.
While Henry was recuperating his regiment was brigaded with the 3rd, 9th and 27th Texas Cavalries and was remounted. The new Brigade, of all Texas regiments, was commanded by Colonel John Wilkins Whitfield from the 1st Texas Legion (aka the 27th Texas Cavalry). A week after the Brigade left on the Holly Springs Raid, almost two months after Corinth, Lt Col Bridges returned to duty on the 28th of December. He may have stayed until the Brigade returned from the raid, and then he went on furlough, probably to Texas. His arm must have still been weak. It is very likely that all the Bridges brothers got together at this time, as they were all away from their units.
A lack of records makes it difficult to know what Bridges did for much of 1863 and January of 1864. There are several requisitions and pay records for the period and senior officers writing reports in the central Mississippi area mention him. His battalion was in the records of being at the siege of Vicksburg. The records are partially wrong when they describe his unit as being an Arkansas battalion. We know from 6th and 9th Texas Cavalry records that the two companies that were with him at Corinth had gone to Tennessee and did not return till late May 1863. By that time Major Bridges had a battalion given to him by General Stephen D. Lee, which operated under Lee’s command and was given missions by him. The companies that he had were from Missouri and Texas.
There are also letters to the Confederate Secretary of War recommending Bridges for Colonel and higher command. If Bridges participated in the Battle of Vicksburg he was outside the siege area and may have worked with the Whitfield Brigade, his old command. Bridges also worked with Colonel Ferguson’s Brigade. In reports he described Henry as displaying reckless disregard for shell and grape, and skill in deploying sharpshooters. Bridges was even described in a telegram to Jefferson Davis from General Pemberton, commander at Vicksburg which read, “Colonel Ferguson with Major Bridges’ Battalion have driven the enemy from Rolling Fork and about three miles down Deer Creek, capturing a number of barges.” Bridges operated from the Yazoo River area of Mississippi to Alabama and north to Tennessee. When Vicksburg was surrendered, the complexity of command was difficult to follow.
In September Bridges companies were absorbed into Waul’s Texas Legion and we know that Major Bridges was told to report to General Stephen D. Lee without troops. In the Battle of Vinson/Vincent’s Crossroads on October 26, 1863, Henry W. Bridges once again proved his leadership. Colonel Ferguson wrote General Stephen D. Lee: “Major H.W. Bridges more than a passing tribute is due…as usual foremost in the fight, everywhere inspiring and encouraging the men and officers. With his own hand he killed one and wounded and captured several other Yankees. His horse was shot under him and his coat pierced by a bullet, an evidence of the close character of the fight.” We do not know what troops Henry commanded. For his valor, S. D. Lee gave Henry the honor of carrying the captured enemy colors to General Joe Johnston. These actions were part of a force of Generals S. D. Lee, Chalmers and Colonel Ross which was operating in the north Mississippi – Alabama area. Research is ongoing to determine if Henry Bridges was involved in more of the actions in November and the December 3rd Battle at Moscow, Tennessee. Because the Union was severely bruised in several of these battles the battle reports do not paint a full picture. Southern coverage is also sparse for some reason. Perhaps there was no action, but with all the troops in the area, that is highly unlikely. After Vinson/Vincent Crossroads, Alabama, where Ferguson roughed up the 1st Alabama, Union, Bridges carries the captured guide-on and flags to General Johnson. The 1st Alabama said they never had any flags and even if they did, there were not many due to a lack of sources.
Several times General Stephen D. Lee was so much impressed with Major Bridges that he and other officers wrote to Secretary of War Seddons in December requesting that Bridges be promoted to colonel. Seddons responded that although no colonelcy was available at the time, Bridges’ “marks and recommendation will certainly have the fullest of appreciation at my hands and they give every evidence of prevailing.”
In February 1864, Union General Sherman with more than 30,000 battle-hardened soldiers marched from Vicksburg in the Meridian Campaign to destroy the Confederate rail system and cripple guerilla and small unit resistance. It would prove to be a grand rehearsal for his infamous March to the sea later that year. General Wirt Adams, leading only 800 Confederates was the first to make contact with the enemy near the Champion Hill battlefield in Hinds County, Mississippi. Winslow’s Union Cavalry approached from the south while McPherson’s XVII Corps attacked from the west. On 4 February, Major Bridges, with two companies totaling about 90 men, was riding escort for the Generals S.D. Lee and W. H. Jackson.
Hoping to turn Adam’s left flank, the Union Cavalry took over the Walton Plantation buildings situated on a knoll above Baker’s Creek near Bolton. Lee fearing the Union envelopment, ordered Bridges two companies to hold the Union forces not knowing that it was a brigade. Amazingly, Bridges’ hard hitting sortie drove the Federals from the buildings on the hilltop. When more Union troops reinforced, Lee ordered a withdrawal.
In the heavy fighting, Bridges was mortally wounded. Lee later wrote, “It was a choice of command, fearlessly led and it did the work assigned it, but with the loss of the noble leader.” In a later report, Lee called him “the gallant Major Bridges.”
The report by Major General Stephen D. Lee said Major Henry F.(W) Bridges was killed commanding a detachment of two companies providing security for General Lee near Yazoo City, MS, on February 4, 1864. A write up of this report is found in the Southern Historical Society documents. General Lee said,”I feel confident, however, that this gallant officer acted with judgment and to the best interests of the service.
An excerpt from the official report: I would especially commend to the favorable notice of the Lieutenant-General commanding, the good conduct and soldierly qualities of Brigadier-General W. H. Jackson, commanding a division (Ross’ Brigade and the 6th Texas were under Jackson), to whose assistance and action much of the credit of the recent campaign is due. (deleted here was action after Bridges death) Brigadier-Generals Adams and Ross and Ferguson deserve my tanks for their distinguished gallantry on the field and the able management of their commands. Colonel P. B. Starke, commanding brigade, showed skill and gallantry on every occasion, and won my confidence. For the parts taken by the different regiments and for instances of individual gallantry, I refer to the enclosed reports. I will, however, mention a few seeming to deserve especial notice. On the 4th of February, near Bolton's depot, my position was being flanked by a cavalry brigade of the enemy - seeing the danger, and to give time to meet the attack, Major W. H. Bridges, P. A. C. S., was detached, with the two escort companies of General Jackson and myself, numbering about 90 men. That gallant officer, with his select band, attacked the vastly superior force of the enemy with a boldness and daring I have not witnessed before during the war. The advance was checked and many lives saved by the good conduct of that officer and the two companies. I regret to state that in effecting the object
(page102 Southern Historical Society Papers.) for which he was sent, he received a mortal wound, and is now lost to his country. A more daring spirit has not fallen during the war, nor one who has been more regretted by his comrades. (the report continued with commendation of other officers. The loss of the enemy was about 400 prisoners and 300 killed and wounded. Enclosed are the reports of the General officers of my command, and a list of killed, wounded, & captured.
I am, Colonel, yours respectfully,
S. D. LEE, Major-General.
The Federals made no attempt to cross Baker’s Creek that evening, but Sue Moore an avid Civil War researcher, who wrote an article for the UDC titled “The Gallant Bridges” – Major Henry W. Bridges, Confederate Hero and Texas Ranger found and has put together the following story. On the night of February 4, 1864, a Union scout and spy, wrote the following account of his encounter in the dark. His name was Lorain “Bunker” Ruggles of Company H, 20th Ohio Infantry.
“At night the Army halted at Baker’s Creek. There is an incident occurred that I can never forget. I expected to go home with my regiment on veterans furlough as soon as the campaign… was completed. I had felt desirous of procuring a complete Confederate Colonel’s uniform to take home with me as a trophy. I had already secured everything except a coat.
“When I had completed my day’s ride, and secured my horse for the night, it had got to be so late as 9 o’clock…I met a soldier, who said, ’There was a rebel Colonel killed on the skirmish line in front to-day. Go up the ditch yonder, to the left, till you come to the end of it; then take a hollow that leads away to your left. The first body that you come to is a dead private; the next is that of a Colonel.’”
“The night was very dark, but my desires to obtain the coat were so strong that they overcame all fear. He lay on his back, with his feet crossed, and one arm laying across his breast. His boots were already gone. Taking hold of his arm and raising it up, I found that it was still limber. Said I, ‘You haven’t had your furlough long, have you, Colonel’”
“He made no reply. I set the body up, and got down on my knees in front of it, and commenced to take off the coat. A gasp and a convulsive spring forward brought the Colonel’s open mouth suddenly against my face. Unearthly horror seized me; with one bound I was on my feet, and the next thing that I knew I was in camp. To say that I was frightened is no description of my feelings. Had a demon from the infernal regions placed his gnashing jaws against my face, I could not have been more horrified.”
“I covered myself in my blankets, and cold tremors crept over me for hours after. Every attempt to count sheep would force through my mind a vivid recollection of every mean thing that I had ever done, followed by all the stories of ghosts and hobgoblins that I had ever heard. I have had no desire since to obtain a rebel Colonel’s coat”
` On 5 February 1864, Harry W. Bridges was found wounded and not dead. Thus under a flag of truce he was recovered and carried to the home of Adjutant General Wharton of the State of Mississippi in Jackson, 20 miles away. He lived for 9 more days.
The only high-ranking Confederate left for dead at Baker’s Creek the night of 4 February was Henry W. Bridges. Although he was a major at the time he fell, he had been a lieutenant colonel from August 1862 to sometime after March 1863. He evidently wore his colonel coat on that cool February day in 1864. Bunker believed he was stealing a dead man’s coat, but we know the truth.
The home of Mississippi’s Attorney-General Thomas J. Wharton still stands. It is the oldest remaining antebellum house in the capital of Jackson. On the outskirts of town, it was one of the very few that escaped Sherman’s torch.
In 1908, Sarah Bridges Wren, Henry’s oldest sister, age 96, told the story of his last days to her grandson George Wren Patterson who preserved it for his family’s history. Sarah recalled, ” He went to war a captain, rose to major, and was to have received promotion to Colonel when he was killed near Jackson, Mississippi. Was a very dashing soldier with a fine record. The official report on the occasion of his fall said: ‘We regret to state that on that day fell Major Bridges, one of the most dashing daring steel points of the Army. He fell leading a charge on very strong positions and, although mortally wounded, he lived nine days. He died in the residence of General Wharton in Jackson, Mississippi.’” Sarah’s grandson recorded, “Grandmother received letters from Miss Wharton, Miss Austin and the Surgeon. He was buried in the private cemetery of General Wharton in Jackson. That has been confirmed to be the Old Greenwood Cemetery, old section, as is different from the Confederate Section.
Bunker’s story led Mrs. Moore to search official, historical, genealogical records, resulting in the discovery of the “Gallant Bridges” laying in an unmarked grave in the Wharton’s Plot in the beautiful old Greenwood Cemetery in Jackson. Henry’s grave has been marked with a Veterans Administration stone and Ranger Cross, and a memorial grave marking ceremony will be conducted on December 3, 2011, a Saturday at 10 AM. Mrs. Barbara Gilbert the president of the Levy Chapter, UDC has confirmed this date. The R. B. Levy Chapter, UDC of Longview, Texas will honor Bridges outstanding service. In the Greenwood Cemetery are several generals, but two Henry knew well lay near by, Wirt Adams and S. W. Ferguson.
This biography was prepared by Sue Moore and William Nolan, both admirers of Henry W. Bridges. November 2011. Research of Henry W. Bridges began with the capture of the Union forts in the Indian Territory. Robert A. Nolan was a private in Throckmorton’s company and later in Henry’s. From this research had come the Whitfield – Ross Texas Cavalry Brigade website and the memorial service described above and the research for this biography and research on Henry’s company and battalion and on Ras Stirman’s Arkansas Sharpshooter Regiment, Phifer’s Brigade, Maury’s Division, Battles of Corinth and Hatchie (Davis) Bridge October 3-5, 1862. There exists little official history of Bridges and of Stirman and his regiment of sharpshooters.