THE TEXAS CAVALRY BRIGADE, CSA
WHITFIELD & ROSS COMMANDERS
The Texas Cavalry Brigade was born of necessity. In late 1862, after the Confederate loss at Corinth, there was a need for something to bolster Southern morale. General Pemberton of the Department of Trans-Mississippi put out the word to his staff and officers, that any idea would be appreciated. A few dribbled in, but nothing which fit the bill. Then, in the middle of November came a letter from the 6th Texas Cavalry Regiment. Signed by its acting commander, but endorsed by several subordinates and commanders of other Texas Regiments and their staffs, this letter offered hope. It pointed out the situation of Union forces and the lack of proper security surrounding their supply bases. A cavalry raid against Columbus, Kentucky or Holly Springs, Mississippi and the railroads which supplied Grant, would cause the Union serious problems. The letter even suggested a leader, General Van Dorn. Following Corinth, Van Dorn, had been relieved, but not abandoned. A cavalry corps had been envisioned during the summer of 1862, but not organized until after Corinth. From the developing elements of that corps was found the means to accomplish the raid suggested by Lieutenant Colonel John Griffith. Van Dorn was given three Brigades to form a Cavalry Division, two existed, but the third was made up of the augmented 1st Texas Legion or its correct name, the 27th Texas Cavalry Regiment, and the 3rd, 6th and the 9th Texas Cavalry Regiments. The Texas Legion was actually a large
cavalry regiment with 12 companies. The commander of the Legion Colonel John W. Whitfield, was to be the new brigade commander, but he was absent having been wounded at the Battle of Iuka. Lt. Col. John Summerfield Griffith of the 6th was the acting brigade commander with both Whitfield and Ross, who still recovering from wounds received at Corinth and Hatchie Bridge, absent. The Holly Springs Raid is history. It is covered in several other documents. The raid coupled with a raid by Forest in Tennessee stopped Grants overland march to Vicksburg and added months to the war. It also gave new life to southern cavalry warfare.
These four regiments commanded by acting Brigadier General Whitfield would go to Tennessee as part of General Van Dorn's
Corps, for much of 1863, and began to accomplish the acts which became a very impressive record. At Thompson's Station, they had a decisive victory, and they destroyed a Union Cavalry Regiment, capturing 1,151 prisoners and killing or wounding 377. The Texas Brigade was the heart of this battle. Later they were involved in the battle of Franklin which was not in their favor, but the Brigade was used more as a blocking force to keep the Union forces in Franklin, than the point of the battle.Soon after this General Van Dorn was murdered by a jealous husband. His killer initially evaded capture, but when found was exonerated, because Van Dorn had been found with his wife. Also lost was a need for a Cavalry Corps.
The Corps was dissolved and the Texas Brigade was sent back to assist in the relief of Vicksburg. Whitfield was having health
problems and Ross was to be given command of the brigade, but not, immediately. He was sent with a detachment of 6th Texas Troops and the 3rd Mississippi Cavalry Regiment to eastern Tennessee and northern Alabama to stop a Union raid into Alabama. He did this so well that the Union forces returned to Kentucky, thinking they had run into a Southern Division. Mean while the brigade did picket duty along the Black River north of Vicksburg. The command was given to Colonel Mabre of the 3rd who was the ranking officer. They managed to harass the Union forces, but had no effect on Vicksburg. Ross arrived near Vicksburg about the time that it fell. It was almost 6 months before, he assumed command. He was promoted to Brigadier General almost immediately after Hatchie Bridge, by General Johnson, but he was not able to assume the rank until December of 1863 and in January 1864 he launched the brigade into a task of getting rifles across the Mississippi. Wagoneers had tried and failed. Officers and enlisted took several rifles each and carried them to the shore and small boats got them across. The brigade the operated in Central Mississippi, conducting one siege, two engagements, 3 actions and over 35 separate skirmishes. They were part of the force which could not stop Sherman but helped cause him to return to Vicksburg to marshal more forces. The brigade harassed union Navy gunboats on the rivers and kept the Union from conducting operations.
Then in May of 1864, the brigade was sent to General Jackson's Division on the flank of General Johnson's Army. Their mission was to harass the Army of General Sherman and delay his advance toward Atlanta. For over 100 days they fought countless rear guard actions and counter-attacks, and many began to feel it was an endless war. The brigade's biggest problems during this time frame were the lack of supplies and rain and the heat.
Starting at Rome, Georgia, the regiments fought almost every day and made many movements at night. There is CWPT action to day to save the fort at Rome where they fought. They started the campaign with over 600 men in each regiment and ended up with less than 250. It has been stated that the purpose of Johnson's Army was to wear down Sherman's Army and delay his progress toward Atlanta. Sherman's purpose was to wear down Johnson's Army and reduce it's resources. Both succeed. General Sherman lost over 45,000 men and tons of resources. Johnson lost over half his force, and the rest were ragged and
short of equipment. The difference, Sherman had almost unlimited resources. Ross' Brigade and Regiments were barely able
to function during the final days of the Atlanta campaign and received no further replacements. The regiments began with ten companies which were short of men. They soon collapsed regiments into five companies,by the time Atlanta fell. This caused an excess of officers, and they joined together in a reconnaissance company to have something meaningful work to do.
Not all had been killed, but were scattered from Rome to Atlanta in hospitals and homes, and many had been captured. Some were just lost and others went home in despair. The brigade was not known for its discipline, but for its courage and dependability in battle. The men lived on handfuls of dried corn and berries. Their equipment and cloths came from the enemy.
As the war crept toward its end, and Atlanta fell, General Hood marshaled his remaining forces and moved from his defeat to attempt the recapture Nashville, Tennessee. The Brigade was one of several placed under General Nathan Bedford Forest command during these battles. They fought in the advance going and countless rear guard actions and earned Forrest's respect. He knew he could depend on Ross' Brigade. They were not well used in the battles of Franklin and Nashville.
After the Tennessee Campaign, the brigade moved into northern Mississippi, conducting a few small actions and picket duty. By early 1865 there was only a small capability left. Ross returned to Texas to recruit and find money to run the brigade. Colonel Dudley Jones of the 9th was the acting commander. Plans were to dissolve the 27th and continue with tree regiments. In May when the Army surrendered, most of the regiments were down to two hundred men or less. Most men went home to Texas but many stayed in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee where they had fought and made friends and wifes.
TEXAS BRIGADE FIELD &; STAFF
JOHN W. WHITFIELD COLONEL, BRIGADIER GENERAL
LAWRENCE SULLIVAN ROSS COLONEL, BRIGADIER GENERAL
JOHN SUMERFIELD GRIFFITH ACTING COLONEL, and Brigadier General in Texas.
ADJUTANT GENERAL CAPTAIN
ASSISTAND INSPECTION GENERAL CAPTIAN
QUARTERMASTER OFFICER MAJOR
COMMISSIARY OFFICER MAJOR
ORDNANCE OFFICER 1st LIEUTENANTsoft>
Aide-de-Camp 1st LIEUTENANT>
Command Assignments of the Whitfield/Ross Texas Cavalry Brigade:
Whitfield's Brigade, Van Dorn's Cavalry Division,
Pemberton's Army, Department of Trans-Mississippi - Nov. Dec. 1862.
Whitfield's Brigade, Jackson's Division, Van Dorn's Cavalry Corps, Army of Tennesseet Jan. - Mar 1863>
Ross' Brigade,Jackson's Division, Johnston's Army Apr.63 - Sep 64.
Ross' Brigade,Forrest Division, Hood's Army Sep 64 -Dec 64.
Ross' Brigade,Department of Mississippi, Alabama and Northern Louisiana Jan - May 65.
Lawrence Sullivan "Sul" Ross, Brig. Gen.
Corinth Oct.4th Battery Robinett
Picture from Harpers
I would like to improve this site. I need access to documents where I can find information. I am procuring the official orders and such, and have the Southern Historical Society papers. Any other suggestions would be appreciated. I need access to the Brigade meeting summaries that occurred after the war. As part of the Sesquicentennial I would like to RECRUIT a new Ross Brigade Association. Starting with people who visit, I would enjoy seeing each Regiment begin again. The leaders of the four regiments would then man the Brigade. This would be a true Rememberance of Whitfield and Ross and these magnificient men. Stephen Kirk, has written two books on the 6th and 9th Texas Cavalry Regiments and has completed work on the Ross Cavalry Brigade. I do hope he publishes this work in 2011. More material is needed on the Brigade.