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"As between the loss of independence and the loss of slavery, we assume that every patriot will freely give up the latter...." (Patrick Cleburne, 1864)

During the Civil War, the eyes of the nation usually stayed fixed to the Eastern theater, where Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia constantly bedeviled the Union Army of the Potomac and its many commanders. Instrumental to that success at places like Second Manassas and Chancellorsville was Lee’s corps commander, Stonewall Jackson, who became one of the most popular and respected generals of the Civil War.

Despite the Confederates’ success in holding off the Union’s offensives in the East, however, the Union made steady progress in the Western theater, winning battles like Shiloh, capturing New Orleans, and sealing off the Mississippi River at Vicksburg. Like the Union generals in the East, Confederate generals in the West were either mortally wounded in battle (Albert Sidney Johnston) or proved ineffective (Braxton Bragg, John Pemberton). One of the only bright spots in the West for the Confederacy was Irish immigrant Patrick Cleburne, whose successes earned him the nickname "Stonewall of the West". Where so many Confederates were failing, Cleburne's strategic tactics and bold defensive fighting earned him fame and recognition throughout the South, even leading Lee to call him "a meteor shining from a clouded sky."

Unfortunately for Cleburne, he is also remembered today for reasons other than his battlefield successes. Cleburne was tasked with leading an assault that he heartily opposed during the Battle of Franklin near the end of 1864, but he obeyed the command and was killed in the assault within the Union lines. The general was so legendary even among Union soldiers that the valuables on his body were looted before his body came back to Confederate lines. Upon hearing of his death, Cleburne’s old corps commander noted, "Where this division defended, no odds broke its line; where it attacked, no numbers resisted its onslaught, save only once; and there is the grave of Cleburne."

Cleburne is also remembered for a bold and novel idea that he proposed to the Army of Tennessee in 1864. Realizing the Confederates’ deficiency in manpower and resources, Cleburne suggested freeing the South’s slaves so that they would fight for the Confederacy. It was such a radical idea that the Army buried it, and even when the Confederacy was on its last legs entering 1865, it could not muster the political support to emancipate some of their slaves to fight.

The Stonewall of the West: The Life and Career of General Patrick Cleburne chronicles the life and career of the Stonewall of the West, analyzing his record in the war and assessing his legacy. You will learn about General Cleburne like you never have before, in no time at all.

Tracey Norman
hr min
March 22
Charles River Editors