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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Excellent Officer And Christian Gentleman"


Brigadier General Archibald Gracie Jr, the third of that name, is one of the least known names in our War for Southern Independence. He was born in New York, New York, but soon moved down to Alabama with his family to help with his father's shipping business. When the war began, he remained in the South and led a volunteer unit, the 3rd Alabama. To make a long story painfully short, he eventually found himself in command of a brigade on the Petersburg line, during the siege. During late November of 1864, having recently heard the news that his wife had given birth to a little girl, he obtained a leave of absence to go visit his family in nearby Richmond.
His furlough was dated December 2nd, in His providence; God had decreed that Gen. Gracie would never see his family again. One of the soldiers would later record:

“The next day he was going along the breastworks, as was his custom every day; and when he got to the Crater, where the 23rd Alabama was stationed, the General, with two others, a captain and a private, stopped to look at some Yankees. Some of the boys asked him what he saw, to which he replied that he saw a general and staff riding along the rear. About that time the Federals shot at them and when the shell struck the top of the breastworks, it exploded and killed all three, all falling in a heap together. I did not see this, but write of what was told to me by some of my company who did see the catastrophe. When the ambulance brought him out, it stopped near our headquarters. I looked into the front of the ambulance and lifted the hat from his face, and saw it so changed and cold in death. We all loved General Gracie and I was not the only one who cried that day.”1

General Lee, who was very close to General Gracie, wrote to Mrs. Lee:

“The death of Gracie was a great grief to me. I do not know how to replace him. He was an excellent officer and a Christian gentleman. I had been all over his line with him the day before his death, and decided on some changes I wished made. He had just received the telegram announcing the birth of his daughter, and expected to visit his wife the next day. Our loss is heavy, but his gain great. May his wife, whom he loved so tenderly, be comforted in the recollection of his many virtues, his piety, his worth, his love...I grieve with her and for her daily.”2

In another letter, written to the wife of General Gracie, and including a photograph of himself, Lee wrote:

“It may serve to remind you of one who from his first acquaintance with your noble husband, then a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy, discerned his worth and high sense of honor, and whose esteem and admiration for him increased to the day of his death”.3

One thing I admire about all the Gracie’s, was the strong bond between father and son. Although his father returned to the north when the war broke out, the son received the father’s blessing to fight for the Confederacy.

In a letter to his father, which was delivered after his death, General Gracie wrote:

“Once having placed my hand to the plow, I have never yet looked back…I have never regretted the course I have pursued. However, I do regret conditions which have robbed me of parents, friends, and home. My heart yearns more and more with the same warmth as when I was a child to my parents, my brothers, my sisters. The consolation in my distress is my conviction of rectitude, of having followed the course of my conscience pointed out to me as right…would to God that the war would end- not in subjugation, but in an acknowledgment of our rights, our independence! O that that hour may come, and that right speedily, when I may again be restored to my family!”3

May we emulate General Gracie and resolve, as his men did, “That his noble example shall continue to live in our memories and never cease to exert its beneficial influence on our actions; it shall cheer us on in our endeavors to do our duty to God, our country, and our fellow men”.4

1. Article in Confederate Veteran, March 1907, pg 127.
2. Article in Confederate Veteran, General Archibald Gracie, by his son, pg 429
3. ibid, pg 430
4. ibid, pg 433

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3 Comments:

Blogger Bria said...

I have never heard of General Gracie. I feel sorry for the man whoever he was. What man would want the last name Gracie?

December 11, 2008 at 8:12 AM  
Blogger Stephen Boyd said...

Well Bria, Gen. Gracie is actually my personally favorite Confederate general. Gracie, as you may be able to tell from the "ie" ending, is a name of Scottish origin. They were actually Stuarts but changed the name to Gracie after the Stuart name was proscribed (banned) after the '45 Rising.

Sorry for the long answer. ;)

December 11, 2008 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Excellent post, Stephen. I've long admired General Gracie, and agree that he is among the most neglected heroes of the war.

Deo Vindice!

December 19, 2008 at 1:10 PM  

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