Michael O. Shannon

SHANNON, ALEXANDER MAY (1839–1906). Alexander May Shannon, scout and cavalryman under Confederate generals John Bell Hood, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Wade Hampton, and Joseph Wheeler and prominent Galveston businessman, son of Granville B. and Unity (Williams) Shannon, was born in Arkansas on May 7, 1839. His family moved to Texas when he was fourteen, settling in Johnson County and later in Gonzales County where he began teaching in 1859. His was one of only seven votes against secession in Karnes County. However, when Texas seceded Shannon quickly raised a company and joined Sibley's brigade. Soon, however, he transferred into the Eighth Texas Cavalry-Terry's Texas Rangers-and took part in every one of the regiment's engagements. About 1863 he was made captain. As a cavalry officer, he was shrewd and brave. He fought boldly and aggressively, winning a reputation with his superiors and his men as well as the foe. This reputation led to his scouting behind Sherman's lines in the Atlanta campaign with a cavalry unit of thirty men that gained fame as "Shannon's Scouts." The scouts followed the Union army across Georgia, making raids on Sherman's units and conducting reconnaissance missions, locating approach routes, and relaying military intelligence back to Confederate forces. The unit killed approximately forty-three federals and captured over 100. Shannon's Scouts were so effective that Union general Judson Kilpatrick offered $5,000 for Shannon's capture. Shannon later was put in charge of the secret service of the Army of Tennessee and promoted to colonel in 1865. He was charged with escorting President Jefferson Davis to safety after the fall of Richmond in April 1865, but Davis was captured by federal cavalry before Shannon could come to his aid. After the war Shannon returned to his ranch on the San Antonio River in Karnes County but soon entered the insurance business with John B. Hood in New Orleans in 1869. When the business prospered and grew, he moved to Galveston to take charge of its Texas branch. There he met and married Clara Viola Scott, the daughter of Maj. William Bibb and Bettie (Murphy) Scott, on February 21, 1872. She was the granddaughter of Gen John B. Scott, cofounder of Montgomery, Alabama, and John H. Murphy, fourth governor of Alabama. They had seven children. In 1880 Shannon was engaged in government contract work, employing as many as 300 men building jetties and other public works. He also had a line of barges and tugs employing another sixteen men. In 1886 he issued a proposal to build a Galveston seawall. In 1890 Shannon became general manager of the Galveston and Western Railway; in 1891 he chartered the Galveston Jetty Railroad; in 1893 he became postmaster of Galveston. He became a Mason in May 1860 and was active as such thereafter. In politics he was a Democrat. He died on October 26, 1906, in Galveston and was buried in the Episcopal Cemetery.

Confederate Veteran, February 1907. Galveston Daily News, October 28, 1906. David Nevin, Sherman's March: Atlanta to the Sea (Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1986). Paul R. Scott, "Shannon's Scouts Combat Reconnaissance Detachment of Terry's Texas Rangers," Military History of Texas and the Southwest 15 (1979). Dudley Goodall Wooten, ed., A Comprehensive History of Texas (2 vols., Dallas: Scarff, 1898; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1986).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Michael O. Shannon, "SHANNON, ALEXANDER MAY," accessed July 19, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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