Benjamin McCulloch

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Brigadier general
Benjamin McCulloch
Benjamin McCulloch
Born(1811-11-11)November 11, 1811
Rutherford County, Tennessee
DiedMarch 7, 1862(1862-03-07) (aged 50)
Benton County, Arkansas
Place of burialState Cemetery in Austin, Texas
Allegiance Confederate States of America
Service/branchTexas State Militia
 Confederate States of America Army
Years of service1835–1836; 1840–1845 (Texas Army)
1846–1847 (Texas Militia)
1861–1862 (CSA)
RankUnion army 1st lt rank insignia.jpg First lieutenant (Texas Army)
Union Army major general rank insignia.svg Major general (Texas Militia)
Brigadier general (CSA)
Battles/warsTexas Revolution
Mexican-American War
American Civil War

Benjamin McCulloch (November 11, 1811 – March 7, 1862) was a soldier in the Texas Revolution, a Texas Ranger, a Major general in the Texas militia and thereafter a major in the United States Army during the Mexican-American War.[1] He was afterwards a U.S. marshal, and a Brigadier general in the army of the Confederate States during the American Civil War.[1] Unlike most generals in the Civil War, he was not a West Point graduate.[2]

Early life[change | change source]

McCulloch was born November 11, 1811 in Rutherford County, Tennessee.[3] He was one of thirteen children and the fourth son of Alexander McCulloch and Frances Fisher LeNoir.[3] His father was an officer on Brigadier general John Coffee's staff in 1813 during the Creek War.[4] His mother was a daughter of a prominent Virginian planter.[4] After moving several times the family settled at Dyersburg, where one of their closest neighbors was Davy Crockett. Ben assumed the duties of "man of the house" and probably ended his formal education.[4] This was at about age 14, although his father's library of books added to his continuing education.[4] He helped with running the farm and also joined the local militia.[4] He learned to be a great woodsman under his mentor Davy Crockett.[4] He also learned something else from Crockett, that a military academy education was not necessary to command men in battle.[4]

In 1832, McCulloch headed west. He reached Independence, Missouri too late to join the fur trappers headed for the mountains for the season.[4] He moved on to Galena, Illinois to the lead mines for a time. In the fall of 1832, he returned to Tennessee.[4] He and his brother floated cypress logs down the Obion and Mississippi Rivers to Natchez, Mississippi and New Orleans to market twice a year until 1835.[4]

Texas career[change | change source]

When Davy Crockett went to Texas in 1835 McCulloch along with his brother Henry decided to go with him.[5] They planned to meet Crockett at Nacogdoches on Christmas Day.[5] The brothers arrived too late, however. McCulloch sent his brother Henry back home and went on to join Crockett at the Alamo in San Antonio.[5] However, before reaching the Alamo, he came down with the measles.[5] By the time he recovered, it was too late and the Alamo had fallen.[5] McCulloch joined the Texas army under Sam Houston in its retreat to East Texas.[5] At the Battle of San Jacinto (April 21, 1836) he commanded one of the cannons nicknamed the "Twin Sisters".[a][8] At the end of the battle Houston found him and immediately promoted him to first lieutenant.[8]

In 1837, he worked as a surveyor in the area around Gonzales, Texas.[1] There he met and joined Jack Hays' company of Texas Rangers.[1] He became an experienced Indian fighter. He fought in the Battle of Plum Creek in 1840.[1] In 1841 he was part of the expedition against Indians along the tributaries of the Guadalupe River.[1] In 1842 he was elected a first lieutenant in Captain Jack Hays' company of Rangers.[1]

War with Mexico[change | change source]

At the start of the Mexican War, McCulloch raised a company of volunteers. They became Company A of Colonel Jack Hays' First Regiment, Texas Mounted volunteers. With his skills in tracking and scouting, he was soon named General Zachary Taylor's chief of scouts. He fought at the battles of Monterey and Buena Vista. When the war ended he held the rank of major.

At the war's end, McCulloch scouted for Major General David E. Twiggs, but joined the rush to the California gold fields in 1849. While he never struck gold, he was elected sheriff of Sacramento.[5] (His old commander, Col. Hays, had been elected sheriff of San Francisco on the same day.) His old friends Sam Houston and Thomas J. Rusk, both now in the U.S. Senate, tried to arrange for his appointment to command a frontier army regiment, but his lack of formal education was against him and the appointment never went through. In 1852, President Franklin Pierce promised him command of the U.S. Second Cavalry, but Secretary of War Jefferson Davis gave it instead to Albert Sidney Johnston.

McCulloch was appointed U.S. marshal for the Eastern District of Texas in 1852.[5] He served during the Pierce and Buchanan administrations.[5] However, conscious of his lack of formal military education, he actually spent much of his term studying military science in libraries in Washington, D.C. In the aftermath of the Utah War, in 1858 he was one of the peace commissioners sent to negotiate with Brigham Young in Utah (the other being former Gov. Lazarus W. Powell of Kentucky).

Civil War service[change | change source]

Texas seceded from the union on February 1, 1861, and on February 14, McCulloch received a colonel's commission.[5] He was authorized to demand the surrender of all federal military posts in the state.[5] U.S. Army General Twiggs, turned over to McCulloch all federal property in San Antonio.[5] In return Twigg's troops were to be allowed to leave the state unharmed. On May 11, President Davis appointed McCulloch a brigadier general.[5]

McCulloch was placed in command of the Confederate troops in Arkansas.[2] On August 10, 1861, McCulloch's poorly armed troops defeated the army of General Nathaniel Lyon at the Battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri.[2] Afterwards, he was put under the command of Major general Earl Van Dorn. At the battle of Battle of Pea Ridge, McCulloch was killed by a Union sharpshooter.[2]

McCulloch's body was buried on the field at Pea Ridge.[5] He was later removed to a cemetery in Little Rock.[5] Finally, his body was later moved to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.[5]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. The "Twin Sisters" were two six-pound cannon sent to aid the Texans by the citizens of Cincinnati.[6] Since the United States was officially neutral regarding the rebellion in Texas, the cannons were called "hollow ware".[6] They were shipped to New Orleans by river, then to Galveston, Texas.[7] They got their nickname when a doctor arrived with the cannons and his twin daughters.[7] Someone remarked there are two sets of twins here and their nickname stuck.[7] They went on to become famous in Texas history.[7]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "Benjamin McCulloch 1811-1862". Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Benjamin McCulloch CSA, Brigadier General, November 11, 1811–March 7, 1862". Civil War Trust. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Benjamin McCulloch (1811–1862)". The Encyclopedia of Arkansas. The Central Arkansas Library System. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 Thomas W. Cutrer, Ben Mcculloch and the Frontier Military Tradition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993), pp. 10–16
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 "McCulloch, Benjamin". Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Twin Sisters". Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 "San Jacinto and the Mystery of the Twin Sisters Cannons". Texas State Cemetery. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "The last of the breed". Tennessee Online History Magazine. Retrieved 28 May 2016.