CIVIL WAR OP-ED: Gen. Patrick Cleburne --The Fighting Irishman

By Calvin E. Johnson Jr.
Patrick R. Cleburne
Patrick R. Cleburne

Saturday, March 17, 2012, is Saint Patrick’s Day and the 184th birthday of Patrick Ronayne Cleburne.




Do you remember the 1961 weekly television series, entitled “The Americans?” This wonderful-educational show centered around two brothers who fought on opposite sides of the War Between the States—Confederate Corporal Jeff Canfield played by Richard Davalos and Union Corporal Ben Canfield played by Darryl Hickman. Their Father, Pa Canfield, was played by the late great John McIntire. The wonderful theme music was produced by Hugo Friedhofer and original music by Bernard Hermann. Why don’t they make shows like this anymore?


When I was growing up near Atlanta, Georgia young people could recite the words to the United States Constitution and knew the history of those who gave us our freedom. Politicians in their speeches proudly quoted from American Patriots like; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Robert E. Lee.


Who was Patrick R. Cleburne?


Patrick Ronayne Cleburne was born on March 17, 1828, in Ovens, County Cork, Ireland. He was an Anglo-Irish soldier who served in the 41st Regiment of Foot of the British Army. He is however best known for his service to the Confederates States of America during the War Between the States.


He was only eighteen months old when his Mother died and a young fifteen when his Father passed away. He tried to follow in his Father’s footsteps, Dr. Joseph Cleburne, in the field of medicine but failed his entrance exam to Trinity College of Medicine in 1848. He immigrated to America three years later with two brothers and a sister and made his home in Helena, Arkansas.

In 1860 Cleburne became a naturalized citizen, lawyer and was popular with the residents.


He sided with the Confederacy at the outbreak of the War Between the States and progressed from the rank of private of the local militia to major general.


Cleburne, like many Southerners, did not support the institution of slavery but chose to serve his adopted country out of love for the Southern folks and their quest for independence. In 1864, he advocated the emancipation of Black men to serve in the Confederate Armed Forces. In early 1865, his dream became a reality but it was then too late--the war was lost.


Cleburne participated in the Battles of Shiloh, Richmond, Perryville, Stones River, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Ringgold Gap and Franklin. He was killed at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee on November 30, 1864.


Due to his brilliant strategy on the battlefield Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne was nicknamed “Stonewall Jackson of the West.”


Cleburne said before his death at the Battle of Franklin:


"If this cause, that is dear to my heart, is doomed to fail, I pray heaven may let me fall with it, my face is toward the enemy and my arm battling for that which I know is right.”


He was engaged to Susan Tarleton of Mobile, Alabama.


On March 17, 1979, Saint Patrick’s Day and Cleburne’s birthday, I organized the Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne Camp 1361 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Jonesboro, Georgia. The Confederate Cemetery in Jonesboro is also named Pat Cleburne Cemetery.


Gen. Cleburne is buried in Maple Hill Cemetery in Helena, Arkansas.


An excellent book -- “A Meteor Shining Brightly” Essays on Maj. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne” -- edited by Mauriel Phillips Joslyn, is a good source of information about Cleburne.


The War Between the States Sesquicentennial, 150th Anniversary, runs 2011 through 2015. The Georgia Division Sons of Confederate Veterans joins the nation in remembering this historic time in our nation’s history. See more information at: http://www.150wbts.org/

 

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Johnson is an American--Historical Writer, speaker, author of the book “When America Stood for God, Family and Country” and member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. http://www.scv.org. He lives in Kennesaw, GA.

 

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