Graves of Glory or Homes of Freedom

by Baylor Line Foundation | September 20, 2019

This article was published in the Summer 2011 issue of The Baylor Line and written by Michael Parrish.

On the 150thanniversary of the Civil War, the sacrifices made by Baylor Students, professors, and alumni during years of strife and bloodshed remain an important part of the university’s heritage.

 

IN LATE 1860, Baylor University had been operating for less than fifteen years in Independence, Texas. Founded by Texas Baptists and located in Washington County in the fertile Brazos River valley, Baylor prospered in the midst of one of the wealthiest and fastest-growing cotton-producing areas of the state. On the eve of the Civil War, Baylor had nearly 500 students (about 280 men and 200 women), boasted an excellent faculty and curriculum, and enjoyed a reputation throughout Texas and the South as a leading institution of higher learning. The Civil War, however, seriously jeopardized Baylor’s future.

Outraged over Abraham Lincoln’s election as president in November 1860, Royal T. Wheeler, a Texas Supreme Court justice and former head of Baylor’s Law Department, spoke for a majority of Texans and other Southerners by expressing alarm over the alleged dangers posed by Lincoln. “What is this but an open declaration of war upon the institution of slavery in the states?” Wheeler asked in a newspaper editorial. “Does [Lincoln’s Republican Party] not . . . aim a blow at the very existence of our society, no less than our domestic peace and security?”

Insisting on the right of Texas as a sovereign state to secede from the Union, Wheeler predicted that Lincoln would establish “a despotism that assumes the authority to govern in disregard of rights guaranteed to a people by their constitution and laws.” Clearly, Wheeler was a passionate advocate for Texas to join the Confederacy and fight for Southern independence.

Baylor President Rufus Burleson disagreed strongly with Wheeler. Even after Lincoln’s election, Burleson sided with his friend and fellow Baptist, Gov. Sam Houston, in opposing secession and remaining loyal to the Union. However, like the vast majority of Unionists in Texas, Burleson became a patriotic Confederate when Texas joined the other six states of the Deep South by seceding in early 1861.

When the Civil War erupted with the firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861, Burleson encouraged nearly fifty Baylor students to volunteer and fight. Coincidentally, when an internal feud prompted Burleson to leave Independence to become president of Waco University, bringing the faculty and senior class of Baylor’s male department with him, he informed all male students over age eighteen that “the crisis [has] demanded us all to shoulder our muskets and win graves of glory or homes of freedom.”

Serving for a few months as chaplain of Col. Joseph W. Speight’s Fifteenth Texas Infantry, Burleson declared in a letter published in a Houston newspaper in June 1862: “Our all is at stake. We must be free or perish. . . . Indeed it would be far cheaper to die than to live and work for Yankee tyrants. . . . Victory is sure. Our independence may cost us another seven years of war; if so, let it come. It may cost us rivers of blood and millions of treasure; if so, I repeat it, let it come. . . . Let us, therefore, rise as one man and swear by the Holy and Eternal One that the bones of 75,000 Texians shall whiten our prairies before Abolition despotism shall reign over this lovely land.”

Early casualties

Responding to Burleson’s desire, more than 250 Baylor students and alumni, along with about forty more students from Waco University and several faculty members from both institutions, fought for the Confederacy. More than a dozen were either killed in combat or died of wounds, disease, or a combination. Others returned home and died after the war as a direct result of lingering wounds, illnesses, and chronic trauma.

One of the first and youngest to die was seventeen-year-old Thomas T. Arnold of Waco. Tom Arnold was born in Mississippi in 1845 and attended Baylor during 1861. His father, Bendy D. Arnold, a fervent Baptist, had moved his family to the fledgling town of Waco in 1851. A substantial slaveholder, B. D. Arnold purchased six hundred acres on the east bank of the Brazos, where he established a plantation, built a brick factory, and operated a ferry. Tom Arnold’s older brother, James M. Arnold, graduated from Baylor in 1859, served in the war, and returned to Baylor to earn a master’s degree in 1866. Joining the Sixth Texas Cavalry, Pvt. Tom Arnold enlisted in Dallas on September 7,1861, having equipped himself with a horse valued at $145, a double-barreled shotgun, and a “six shooter” revolver.

The men of Company G were recruited in McLennan County and trained by Capt. Peter F. Ross (Gen. Sul Ross’s brother). The regiment first saw combat in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) as part of the Confederacy’s effort to secure the region against Union invasion for the sake of protecting pro-Confederate Cherokees and other Native-American tribes. Fighting against pro-Union Creeks and Seminoles, the Sixth Texas Cavalry joined several units of Texans and Arkansans in the battle of Chustenahlah on December 26, 1861. Charging up a rocky, snow-covered hill in bitterly cold weather, the Sixth Texas helped win a decisive victory.

“My men gallantly charged in succession, putting [the enemy] completely to rout,” reported regimental commander Lt. Col. John S. Griffith. “It was during these charges that the brave and gallant Lt. G. S. Fitzhue and Thomas Arnold fell among the foremost in the fight.”

Arnold’s body was brought back to Waco, where he was buried in the First Street Cemetery near the grave of his mother, Clementine, who had died a few years earlier.

While many men died in battle, more than two-thirds of all Civil War deaths resulted from disease. The war’s first winter, from 1861 to 1862, hit soldiers particularly hard, as common illnesses including measles, pneumonia, typhoid, and diarrhea swept through the camps and inflicted suffering and death on young men who had few immunities while living together in close quarters.

In Virginia, many more died of disease than died in battle during the first year. The patriotic women of Richmond staffed several hospitals to provide nursing care and compassion to thousands of severely ill Confederate soldiers.

One of the early victims was Thomas Nealey Baines, who was born in Carroll County, Arkansas, in 1841. His father, George Washington Baines Sr. (a great-grandfather of President Lyndon Baines Johnson), was a highly respected Baptist minister who served as president of Baylor University during the Civil War. Tom Baines grew up in Anderson, Texas, and enrolled at Baylor as a young primary student in the university’s first class in 1851 and also as a freshman for the 1859-60 academic year.

In September 1861, he enlisted as a fifth sergeant in the “Grimes County Greys,” Company G of the Fourth Texas Infantry, which became part of the famous Texas Brigade (later known as Hood’s Texas Brigade) in the Army of Northern Virginia.

After gaining promotion to fourth sergeant on October it, Tom Baines fell ill and died a few weeks later on November 7, 1861, in a Richmond military hospital. He was twenty years old. His gravesite is unknown.

In the vast Western Theater early in the war, Confederate forces attempted to defend Tennessee and Mississippi to pre-vent a Union invasion of the Mississippi River Valley. Texas regiments meeting that huge challenge included the Second Texas Infantry.

Pvt. Darwin Gray Seeley enlisted in Company E in Galveston on September 5, 1861. Born in Barry Illinois, in 1838, he came to Texas with his parents during the 1840s. The family settled in Wheelock, Robertson County. Although orphaned as a boy, Seeley attended Baylor as a preparatory student from 1857 to 1859. The 1860 federal census listed him as a twenty-two-year-old “stock raiser” with more than $3,000 in real estate and $7,200 in personal property, including livestock, and living with a family near Alto Springs in Falls County.

During early April 1862 at Shiloh in southwestern Tennessee, an inexperienced Confederate army under Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston clashed for two full days with invading Union forces commanded by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. The Second Texas was engaged throughout the first day—Sunday, April 6—and Seeley suffered a severe gunshot wound to the bowels.

Listed as missing in action and taken prisoner, Seeley was put on a Union hospital ship along with many other wounded soldiers and sent to Cincinnati’s Camp Dennison, a recruiting and training facility with barracks that had been converted into a two hundred-bed hospital. Admitted on April 18 and treated by Union doctors, Seeley was listed as “dying.” He died on April 21, 1862, and was buried nearby in the Waldschmidt Cemetery.

After the war, Seeley’s body was disinterred, along with the remains of thirty other Confederate prisoners, and reburied in the cemetery at Camp Chase, a wartime prison camp in Columbus, Ohio. There he rests with more than two thousand Confederate prisoners who died from disease or wounds at Camp Chase.

Battle tested

Another soldier in Hood’s Texas Brigade, Richard J. Haynes, was born in Mississippi in 1836. His father, Albert G. Haynes, a prominent slaveholding planter and zealous Baptist, helped establish Baylor University and served as a trustee from 1845 to 1870. Dick Haynes grew up in Independence and attended Baylor from 1851 to 1858 as a primary student, freshman, and sophomore. The 1860 federal census listed him as a twenty-four-year-old clerk working in Independence. He joined the army in nearby Robertson County as a private in the “Robert-son Five Shooters,” Company C of the Fourth Texas Infantry. In November, he transferred to the “Texas Aides,” Company I of the Fifth Texas Infantry, also in the Texas Brigade.

Fighting in defense of Richmond, the Confederate capital, in the summer of1862, the Fifth Texas began to earn its reputation as “The Bloody Fifth.” At Gaines’ Mill, the first major engagement of the Seven Days Battles, Hood’s Texans rushed forward, broke the formidable Union line to win the victory, and gained prominence as the fiercest unit in Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The brigade suffered eighty-nine killed and 477 wounded at Gaines’ Mill. Many of the wounded, including Dick Haynes, did not survive. After suffering for several days, he died on July 1, 1862. His company officer, Lt. Benjamin I. Franklin, wrote sadly, “Poor Dick Haynes, who was wounded in the fight of the 27th is dead.” His burial site is unknown.

Dick Haynes’s older brother, Thomas B. Haynes, was born in Mississippi in 1834. He attended Baylor from 1851 to 1856 as a primary student, freshman, sophomore, and junior. In 1858, he received a Bachelor of Laws degree from the Baylor law department. The 1860 federal census listed him as a twenty-six-year-old lawyer in Independence. Described as six feet, four inches tall, with gray eyes and dark hair, Tom Haynes enlisted in Houston on September 7,1861, as a private in Company K of the Eighth Texas Cavalry (also known as Terry’s Texas Rangers). One of the most effective of all Confederate fighting units, the Rangers served throughout the war in Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia, and the Carolinas.

During the Perryville Campaign in Kentucky in October 1862, Tom Haynes suffered multiple wounds, including a painful gunshot wound to an ankle joint. He was so incapacitated that his comrades left him at Taylorsville, Kentucky, to recuperate. There he was captured by invading Union troops in April 1863. Forwarded to Baltimore and duly exchanged as a prisoner of war, he spent several weeks in a Richmond hospital regaining his strength. In May, as he made his way home to Texas, Tom Haynes was killed in a railway accident near Meridian, Mississippi. His gravesite is unknown. Baylor historian Lois Smith Murray noted, “During the Civil War Albert G. Haynes lost a fortune estimated at $85,000 in property and slaves, but his greatest loss was two sons—Tom . . . and Dick.”

At Malvern Hill, the final engagement of the Seven Days Battles near Richmond, General Lee launched a series of piecemeal assaults against the enemy on July 1, 1862. Charging up a long gradual incline, Lee’s soldiers fell by the thousands under a continual bar-rage by Union artillery and infantry.

Among the dead lay Lt. Col. Oliver Cromwell Petway of the Thirty-fifth North Carolina Infantry. Born in 1840 to a prominent family in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, Petway spent the academic year of1859-6o as a Baylor freshman before returning east and enrolling as a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute in September 1860. Along with many other VMI cadets, he joined the Confederate army in April 1861. After serving as a drill-master for several months, he was promoted to major and then to lieutenant colonel in April1862, although he was only twenty-two years old at the time.

During the Thirty-fifth North Carolina’s charge up Malvern Hill, the regiment’s commander, Col. Matt Ransom, was wounded twice and taken from the field. “Take my place, I’m shot,” Ransom ordered Petway. Brigade commander Gen. Robert R. Ransom, Jr., later reported, “Lieutenant Colonel Petway then took command, and in a few moments he fell mortally wounded.”

Although the Union army eventually withdrew and left Richmond safely in Confederate hands, Lee always viewed the assaults at Malvern Hill as his most serious blunder. “It was not war,” insisted one of his officers. “It was murder.” General Ransom echoed Lee’s remorse by noting, “While I cannot but be happy at commending those who survive, we must not pass unnoticed the gallant dead, and most conspicuous among them the noble young Lieutenant Colonel Petway, who fell at the head of his regiment.” An obituary in North Carolina described him as “among the state’s most gifted and gallant sons.” Records at VMI stated, ‘A gallant officer. Few better and none braver.” His gravesite is unknown.

Three other former Baylor students fought and died as members of Hood’s Texas Brigade in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Pvt. James Stanton Hutchinson of Washing-ton (near Independence) attended Baylor as a sophomore from 1859 to 186o. A member of the “Dixie Blues,” Company E of the Fifth Texas Infantry, Hutchinson was wounded in the knee at the Battle of Second Manassas on August 5, 1862. He died several weeks later on September 23. Pvt. Winchell S. Kirk of Cameron, Milam County, was another casualty at Second Manassas. He at-tended Baylor as a preparatory student from 1854 to 1855 and enrolled in the “Robertson Five Shooters,” Company C of the Fifth Texas Infantry. Wounded at Second Manassas, he died on October 5, 1862. Pvt. Samuel H. Watson of Washington, another member of Company E of the Fifth Texas, attended Baylor as a preparatory student from 1856 to 1857. Wounded at Gaines’ Mill in June 1862, he was wounded again in the arm at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 2, 1863. Taken prisoner, he endured the amputation of his arm, suffered terribly for more than two months, and finally died on September 13. The gravesites of Privates Hutchinson, Kirk, and Watson are unknown.

Leading the charge

William Peleg Rogers, the most famous among Baylor men who gave their lives during the Civil War, was born in Georgia in 1819. He grew up in Mississippi, studied medicine and law, and commanded a company of volunteers in Col. Jefferson Davis’s First Mississippi Regiment during the Mexican-American War of the late 18405. During the early 18505, Rogers moved his family to Texas, and he became a prominent attorney at Washington near Independence.

In 1857, Rogers volunteered as a faculty member in the Baylor law department and taught until 1859, when he relocated his law practice to Houston. All of Rogers’s six children—three sons and three daughters—eventually became Baylor graduates. During his time at Baylor, he became a close friend and personal attorney to Gov. Sam Houston, whose wife, Margaret, was Rogers’s cousin. The Houstons were so fond of Rogers that they named one of their sons after him. As a strong Unionist, however, Houston disagreed sharply with Rogers over secession.

In early 1861, Rogers served as a delegate from Harris County to the Texas Secession Convention in Austin. When the war began, Rogers was commissioned a lieutenant colonel and second in command of the Second Texas Infantry, which proceeded to Tennessee and fought at Shiloh in early April 1862.

“The gallantry of our regiment is spoken of by all,” Rogers wrote to his wife. “The last charge on Sunday evening and two on Monday were truly grand. These I led in person, on Monday carrying our battle flag.”

Promoted to colonel and given command of the Second Texas, Rogers joined the effort by Confederate Gen. Earl Van Dorn’s army during the autumn of 1862 to dislodge Union forces from northern Mississippi and prevent them from reaching Vicksburg.

At the Battle of Corinth on October 3, Colonel Rogers led his regiment in several attacks against entrenched troops. One of his soldiers later recalled, “All that day, from about ten o’clock in the morning until sunset, [Colonel Rogers] was almost constantly under fire. . . . His figure on horseback was so conspicuous that his men constantly expected to see him fall, but he seemed to bear a charmed life.”

The next day, October 4, Rogers continued to lead his regiment in a series of assaults against enemy artillery and infantry protected by a fortified earthwork called Battery Robinette. “We were met by a perfect storm of grape, canister, cannon balls and minie balls,” a Confederate wrote. “Oh, God! I have never seen the like! The men fell like grass.” Another recalled, “Colonel Rogers, unsheathing his sword, cried ‘For-ward Texans!”‘ The Second Texas responded, endured heavy resistance, retreated, and charged again. The regiment faltered yet again, and the regimental flag fell to the ground, dropped by a wounded color bearer. Rogers reached down from his horse, picked up the flag, and ordered another charge.

Attaining the deep ditch in front of Battery Robinette, Rogers rode his horse directly into the ditch, dismounted, and led his men up the embankment. “They never halted,” reported a Union soldier. “Rogers, with a flag in one hand and a revolver in the other, led them straight into one of the awful death-traps of the war. Hundreds of them crossed the ditch, climbed into the fort, and with their muskets clubbed the men at the [artillery] guns.” A Confederate recalled, “I heard the shout of `Victory! Victory!’ and I thought we had won the day.” Then Union reinforcements arrived and fired a murderous volley into the Texans.

Rogers yelled out, “Men, save yourselves or sell your lives as dearly as possible!” According to a soldier with him, Rogers “in defiance hurled his emptied revolver at the foe.” Suddenly his body was riddled with a series of gunshots that killed him instantly. “Oh, we were butchered like dogs,” lamented a fortunate survivor. The Confederates had failed, and Rogers lay dead on the field with thousands of others.

In the aftermath, Union soldiers respectfully placed his body in the shade and covered it with an overcoat. Surveying the carnage, Union commander Gen. William S. Rosecrans asked to see Rogers’s body. “He was one of the bravest men that ever led a charge,” Rosecrans remarked. “Bury him with military honors and mark his grave, so his friends can claim him.”

William Peleg Rogers’s grave was located where he fell. In 1912, the United Daughters of the Confederacy unveiled a tall white marble obelisk over the grave, with several of Rogers’s descendants attending the ceremony. A great-grandson, John Austin Sanders, gave a fitting salute with the sword Rogers had carried at Corinth.

The supreme sacrifice

Another casualty at Corinth was a young Baptist minister. Born in Scott County, Mississippi, in 1839 or 1840, Michael Moses Vanderhurst grew up in Waco and attended Baylor as a sophomore, junior, and senior, specializing in science and theology from 1859 to 1861. A member of Phi Delta Gamma fraternity, he received an AB degree from Waco University as one of Rufus Burleson’s graduating seniors in September 1861.

Described as five feet, nine inches tall, with hazel eyes and red hair, Vanderhurst enlisted in Monroe, Louisiana, on May 5, 1862, and became the chaplain of the Sixth Texas Cavalry. In the brutal attacks by General Van Dorn’s army at Corinth in early October 1862, Vanderhurst showed remarkable courage. “We were dismounted and served as infantry in the battle,” recalled Pvt. Levi Fowler, “and our regimental chaplain was Vanderhurst, a talented young minister from Waco. As we were about to assault the strong works of the enemy on the morning of the 4th of October, 1862, he came to our company with a gun, went into the charge with us, and in the awful slaughter that followed was shot dead.”

Twenty-two-year-old Michael Vanderhurst was probably buried in a mass grave on the battlefield at Corinth.

The Union victory at Corinth opened the Mississippi River Valley to invasion, ultimately resulting in the Siege of Vicks-burg, Mississippi, the Confederacy’s major stronghold on the river. Several Texas units, including Gen. Thomas N. Waul’s Texas Legion, joined a Southern army of more than thirty thousand men in defending the city.

John Threewits Daniel, a member of Waul’s Legion, was born in Alabama in 1839 or 1840 and moved with his family during the 185os to Fairfield, Texas. He attended Baylor as a sophomore and junior from 1858 to 1860. The 186o federal census listed him and his father, W. F. Daniel, together as substantial owners of more than $10,000 in real estate and more than $60,000 in personal property, including several dozen slaves. John Daniel enlisted on May 14, 1862, in Brenham with the rank of second lieutenant in Company F of Waul’s Texas Legion. He was killed at some point during the horrific forty-seven-day Siege of Vicksburg, which finally ended in early July 1863. His burial site is unknown.

Terry’s Texas Rangers fought several of its bitterest battles while defending northern Georgia against William T. Sher-man’s Union army in the spring and summer of1864. One of its members was Charles T. Pelham, who was born in Arkansas in 1836 or 1837 and lived with his mother at Bluff Springs, near Austin. He was a junior at Baylor from 1857 to 1858. The 186o federal census listed him as a twenty-three-year-old farmer with real estate and other property valued at $7,200.

Pvt. Charlie Pelham joined Company D of the Eighth Texas Cavalry in Houston on September 7,1861. He was captured in Kentucky during the Perryville Campaign in October 1862, imprisoned in Louisville, and paroled several weeks later. “Charlie Pelham is at the parole camp at Chattanooga [and] will soon be exchanged,” noted one of his fellow Rangers. “[He] will have an account to settle with the Yanks as [he was] treated very badly by them.”

  1. B. Giles, another comrade, testified after the war that Pelham was “the hero of every engagement in which he was an actor. He leveled his pistol like firing at a target, and died in front of a cavalry charge in northern Georgia, in the spring of ’64 . . . at Norvell’s Station [near] Dalton, early in the morning.” Charlie Pelham died on May 9, 1864. His gravesite is unknown.

Going forward

Remarkably, Baylor University and Waco University survived the Civil War, thanks to attendance by female and preparatory students. With the full support of Texas Baptists, the two institutions merged in 1886 and established a new campus at Waco, with Baylor University as its permanent name and Rufus C. Burleson as president.

Since then, historians have tried to identify former Baylor and Waco University students and faculty who served during the war, especially those who died.

The following Baylor men (along with their hometowns, years of enrollment as students, and other information) are among those who possibly should be included among those who made the supreme sacrifice. Readers are invited to send an e-mail to [email protected] with any additional information about them.

  • Luther W. Bagby, Waco, 1864 (Company B, Mann’s Texas Cavalry)
  • Edward B. Burleson, Bastrop or Independence, 1856-58
  • John Dean (or Deane), Independence, 1851-55
  • Jasper N. Dodson, Palestine, Bachelor of Laws degree 1859 (Major, Ninth Texas Cavalry)
  • James D. Holmes, Independence, 1852-53, 1856-57 (Private, Company I, Fifth Texas Infantry) • Thomas Thurston Hopkins, Galveston, 1856-6o (Private, First Company G, Twenty-sixth Texas Cavalry)
  • Walter W. Norwood, Navasota, 1856-58
  • William W. Slaughter, Caldwell, 1852-55
  • John Champ Watson, Fairfield, 1859-61, Bachelor of Arts degree 1861 (Lieutenant, Company D, Tenth Texas Infantry)

 

Dr. Michael Parrish ’74, MA ’76, is the Linden G. Bowers Professor of American History at Baylor University. The Baylor Alumni Association is grateful to the Historic Waco Foundation for granting permission to reprint this article from the Spring 2011 issue of Waco Heritage and His-tory. This article is based upon research for the forthcoming book Soldiers of the Wooden Cross: Military Memorials of Baylor University, edited by Frank J. Jasek ’73.

 

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