Monday, April 12, 2010

Cleburne: before the war

I ended up catching strep last week so I was unable to make the presentation at the Rocky Mountain Civil War Round Table meeting on last Thursday. I've been moved to May but I'm not 100% positive I can attend that night either, and I think that even if I do I'll do a brand new presentation. The Cleburne presentation was chosen because I could do it last minute but given a month lead time I have another topic I'd like to do and it'd be fresh. So I've decided to post my old Cleburne presentation here over the next few days (so its not one giant post).

When one thinks of Pat Cleburne they probably think of his battle accomplishments. They might know of his slave enlistment proposal and how this damaged his chances at promotion. He was not perfect in battle, as few men could ever claim to be. He made his mistakes and usually learned from them. As far as his slave enlistment proposal is concerned it did damage his reputation but there were other things that kept him from promotions. I regret that this presentation will be mostly a recap of Cleburne's battles because he was a private person and not much about his person life is known.

Before the Civil War:

Pat Cleburne was born March 16, 1828 (have seen some sources claiming 17 March). His father was a doctor and Pat grew up as part of the upper middle class in Ireland. His mother died in the fall of 1829 leaving four children; William age 4, Anne age 3, Patrick 19 months and infant Joseph. His father soon hired a live in housekeeper and nanny who in December 1830 became his new wife. They would have one daughter and three sons over the next 11 years. Isabel was the only mother Pat ever knew. In the summer of 1842 his father died and Pat dropped out of the local boarding school (that also did some military drills) and became an apprentice to a colleague of his father so that he would not be a financial encumbrance to his family.

Over the next two years Pat twice applied for admission to Apothecaries Hall and was rejected. As money became tight due to the potato famine of 1845 Pat was let go as an apprentice. In Feb 1846 he traveled to Apothecaries Hall in hope that a personal visit would work better than a letter. He was rejected again and so joined the army. He joined the 41st Foot which was to be soon sent back to India but the regiment stayed in Ireland as a police force as the famine worsened. Two years later he was appointed to corporal but soon lost his stripes when he failed an inspection. In 1849 the family decided to go to America and Pat volunteered to go first as a scout. He had recently inherited 20 pounds as his birth mother's dowry and was now able to buy a discharge. In July 1849 he was again promoted to corporal but in September 1849 he purchased his discharge.

William, Anne, Joseph and Pat took passage to America in private cabins. Their first stop was in New Orleans (on Christmas Day), then to Cincinnati after which the family separated. Joseph moved to Indiana, William to Milwaukee, Anne was married in Cincinnati and Pat also stayed in Cincinnati.

Pat became a drug store clerk but the next spring he got a job prospect in Helena, Arkansas. The job wasn't his when he left Cincinnati but at his interview he was offered the job. He would manage a drug store for two doctors, Nash and Grant. He was allowed to live above the drugstore with Nash as a roommate and was also paid $50 a month. After a year Nash got married and Cleburne moved in with him as a boarder. In December 1851 Grant decided to sell his share of the store and Cleburne was able to buy him out. In 1852 Cleburne joined the Masons, sponsored by Nash, and quickly became a leader of the lodge. Nash and Cleburne became good friends, Nash helped Cleburne with high society and Cleburne helped Nash in fights. Cleburne had little contact with alcohol in Ireland but once in America found out that he was an angry and mean drunk and so became a teetotaler.

In the winter of 1853 Cleburne decided to move up in Helena society. The standard way to do that was to buy a cotton plantation and slaves but he instead decided to become a lawyer. It does not appear that he reached this decision because of a distaste for slavery but that he just thought he could advance faster and farther as a lawyer. As a frontier state there were many legal fights over land ownership so this was a good choice. In April 1854 he sold off his share of the store and used the money to live off of while he studied for the bar. He made $3000 from the sale and he figured he could live off that for two years which was how long he thought it would take to join the bar.

In the summer of 1854 Cleburne meet Thomas Hindman who he'd have a connection with the rest of his life. Hindman was Cleburne's opposite in nearly every way but they became fast friends. During 1854 the Whig party split over the Kansas-Nebraska act. Cleburne was a Whig but mostly because his friends were Whigs and the best people in Helena tended to be Whigs. In Arkansas former Whigs joined the Know Nothing Party (anti-immigrant party) which pushed Cleburne into the Democratic Party. Hindman happened to be the leader of the Democrats in Helena. In September 1855 Cleburne's social reputation increased when he and Hindman volunteered to stay behind to help doctors when a Yellow Fever epidemic swept Helena. In January 1856 he was accepted to the bar. That spring he and Hindman bought a local newspaper, the Democratic Star and renamed it the States Right Democrat.

Like Nash, Hindman seemed to attract violence. On May 24, 1856 Hindman convinced Cleburne to be his backup when Hindman confronted a rival politician. On the way to a hotel that this man was believed to be staying at the two groups met on the street. A shoot out began, Hindman was wounded and Cleburne was severely wounded, though he did kill one of the assailants. A grand jury later cleared Hindman and Cleburne and their social standing increased.

After the 1856 elections went favorably Cleburne and Hindman ceased publication of their newspaper. Hindman campaigned for Breckinridge in the 1860 election (Bell was the other candidate in Arkansas). Breckinridge won the state. During 1856 the rest of Cleburne's family came over from Ireland and settled in Kentucky. In 1860 the scattered elements of the Cleburne family mirrored the opinions of their states. In January 1861 Pat wrote half brother Robert in Kentucky, "I am with Arkansas in weal or woe."

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