Major general in the Army of Tennessee, Patrick R. Cleburne was born on St. Patrick’s Day in County Cork, Ireland, and immigrated to the United States in 1849. Cleburne settled in Helena, Arkansas, where he rose in social position and community esteem through diligent work, uncompromising honesty, and loyalty to his friends.

In the spring of 1861 Cleburne cast his lot with the Confederacy, explaining to his brother that although he owned no slaves, he would fight with the friends who had always supported him. The citizens of Helena elected Cleburne captain of the local militia. Drawing upon his three years of experience in the British army, Cleburne quickly advanced to the rank of colonel in the Fifteenth Arkansas Infantry Regiment. Within a year, he was a brigadier general in command of a brigade of General William J. Hardee’s corps in General Albert S. Johnston’s Army of Mississippi.”

“The final chapter in the life of the Irish general was written at the battle of Franklin. As the Confederate army prepared for its assault on the Union earthworks at Franklin, one of Cleburne’s brigade commanders predicted that few of his soldiers would return to Arkansas. Cleburne reportedly replied, “[I]f we are to die, let us die like men.” (1)

As Cleburne’s troops made their assault up the Columbia Pike, the general had two horses shot from under him. Finally, as he advanced on foot to within fifty yards of the Union works, a single minie ball pierced his chest. Two days before the battle, as the army passed St. John’s Episcopal Church, near Columbia, Cleburne had commented that it would be worth dying to be buried in a place so beautiful. His body was laid to rest in the churchyard after the battle of Franklin. Later it was removed to his adopted home of Helena, Arkansas.”

Source citation: The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture (online)

*Killed at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee; division composed of the brigades of Polk, Wood and Deshler, and the light batteries of Calvert, Semple and Douglass; division afterwards composed of the brigades of Polk, Lowry, Govan and Granberry, and again of the brigades of Wood, Johnson, Liddell and Polk; Army of Tennessee.

Source: Southern Historical Society Papers

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