ROSS'S BRIGADE, C.S.A.
ROSS'S BRIGADE, C.S.A. Although known by the name of its most famous commander, Lawrence Sullivan Ross, the Texas Cavalry Brigade was under the authority of three other officers during the Civil War. The first commander was Col. John W. Whitfield, who, on October 23, 1862, was given command of a newly formed brigade composed of four dismounted Texas cavalry regiments-the Third, Sixth, Ninth, and his own Twenty-seventh. (The Third, Sixth, and Ninth had previously been brigaded together under Gen. James McIntosh in Benjamin McCulloch's Army of the West and had seen action at the battle of Pea Ridge or Elkhorn Tavern in March 1862.) These regiments, recruited mainly from twenty-three central, northeastern, and north central counties, were veterans of campaigns in Indian Territory, Arkansas, and Missouri as well as in the battles of Iuka and Corinth. All four regiments were remounted once horses arrived from Texas during the late fall of 1862. Then, as part of Gen. Earl Van Dorn's cavalry division, the Texas Brigade raided the federal supply base at Holly Springs, Mississippi, in December 1862, an action that halted Ulysses S. Grant's land advance to Vicksburg. On March 5, 1863, the brigade, operating in Tennessee, captured a large Union reconnaissance force at Thompson's Station. Later, it participated in the first battle of Franklin (April 10, 1863).
Whitfield was promoted to brigadier general in May 1863. The brigade returned to Mississippi and occupied a position generally on the periphery of action during the Vicksburg campaign. Whitfield's health deteriorated, and Sul Ross of the Sixth Texas was appointed brigade commander. Because Ross was at that time on detached service with his regiment, command of the Texas Brigade temporarily went, on October 29, 1863, to Col. Hinche P. Mabry of the Third Texas Cavalry. Ross took formal command in mid-December 1863 and was promoted to general a few days later. The Texans spent most of the next five months operating against Union troops in the Yazoo River valley before being ordered to Georgia.
During the ensuing Atlanta campaign, the Texans spent 112 days under fire and participated in eighty-six engagements. They began the general fighting (May 25–June 5) at New Hope Church near Dallas, Georgia, but attrition had so reduced their ranks that the Texas regiments were overrun by the superior forces of Edward M. McCook and Hugh Judson Kilpatrick later that summer. During this campaign, Ross was captured temporarily, but he was quickly freed by Texas troops. After the fall of Atlanta the Texans marched with John Bell Hood's troops into Tennessee. Throughout the disastrous campaigns of November and December 1864, they served as vanguards and rear guards, raided Union supply trains, and battled federal cavalry. In the withdrawal from Nashville they were one of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest's two brigades covering the Confederate retreat. By then dissension was rife in the brigade, and desertions occurred frequently. General Ross returned on leave to Texas on March 13, 1865, probably in an attempt to recruit replacements for the depleted ranks. Col. Dudley W. Jones of the Ninth Texas was in command of the brigade at its surrender on May 4, 1865, at Jackson, Mississippi.
Ross's Brigade, one of the most famous Texas military units of the Civil War, was also one of the most active. It was not, however, distinguished for its discipline. Its members were described as "rollicking, rascally, [and] brave" and appreciated for their dependability. Gen. Stephen D. Lee called the Texans the "most reliable" troops under his command. In 1875 survivors of the unit organized the Ross Brigade Association.
Samuel Barron, The Lone Star Defenders: A Chronicle of the Third Texas Cavalry, Ross' Brigade (New York: Neale, 1908; rpt., Waco: Morrison, 1964). George L. Griscom, Fighting with Ross' Texas Cavalry Brigade, C.S.A.: The Diary of George L. Griscom, ed. Homer L. Kerr (Hillsboro, Texas: Hill Junior College Press, 1976). Victor Marion Rose and S. B. Barron, Ross’ Texans & the American Civil War: Accounts of the Confederate Soldiers Commanded by General Lawrence Sullivan Ross (London: Leonaur, 2016). Victor Marion Rose, Ross' Texas Brigade (Louisville, Kentucky: Courier-Journal, 1881; rpt., Kennesaw, Georgia: Continental, 1960). Ross Family Papers, Texas Collection, Baylor University.
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Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on June 22, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.