3rd Alabama Infantry Regiment

"The Glorious Third" Alabama's first volunteers

Archive for March 2015

The Election for Major, Part II

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Every regiment had line officers and field officers. Captains and lieutenants were “officers of the line,” in command of the various companies; divided between two battalions: First and Second. Field officers  commanded these: First Battalion was always under its Lt. Colonel; Second battalion, under its Major. (Colonel Lomax had overall command of the entire regiment).

With Captains Sands, Woodruff and Gracie out of the running (for one reason or another) 3d Alabama still had to select a major. As a ‘volunteer’ regiment, their leaders (every officer in fact, with the exception of staff appointments such as commissary and quartermaster) were chosen by ballot. Lomax and Battle had been approved for colonel and lieutenant colonel (respectively) by nearly unanimous vote.

Major was a different matter. Absent the obvious frontrunners, the regimental vote was split among second-tier officers. For a variety of reasons, most of the remaining captains and first lieutenants did not allow their names to be put forward:

Captain Bonham of Co H, for instance, was wrestling for the leadership of his own company, the Lowndes-Beauregards; Captain Powell of D, was also enduring a wave of dissatisfaction among his own volunteers (Both men would have made excellent field officers, and each was promoted to the rank of major before the end of the war). Captain Swanson of C, was a martinet–no one wanted to be under his command; Captain Andrews of the Montgomery True Blues (G) already was making arrangements for his company to be detached as an artillery battery…and so it went. Technically, any officer or man was eligible, but to capture this vote one needed a following. None of the first lieutenants mounted a viable campaign–many were themselves being recruited to officer newly-forming regiments.

The choice appeared to boil down to: Captain Edward Ready of Wetumpka, (Co I) or the erratic Winston Hunter, captain of the Metropolitan Guards (F)–the other Montgomery militia. In the first evening’s balloting, Hunter got the most votes but not a majority. The next night, in two subsequent tallies, Ready overtook Hunter by a slim margin. But neither had a majority. And regiment-wide enthusiasm for either was lacking.

In classic American fashion, a dark horse arose: Charles M. Forsyth was 2nd lieutenant of the Mobile Cadets. He was popular with the men–especially so, with those from Mobile, representing the largest voting bloc. He was young, dashing, and wealthy. He treated the volunteers firmly, but with respect. His father, John Forsyth, was the powerful and influential publisher of the Mobile Register, one of the great pulpits for State’s Rights. Also in his favor was his pretty fiancé, Laura Sprague.

On the minus side (and a serious consideration it was), he was under the command of Captain Robert Sands, 35, ten years his senior, who was, unquestionably, the man best suited for the majority. But Sands had declined the offer, and there was no going back. In a decided upset, the final vote was Forsyth 321; Ready 138; Hunter 131. Young Charlie, 25, while away in Mobile, was elected Major of the 3d Alabama. A decision that would redound over the next three and a half years.

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Written by boothma

March 18, 2015 at 5:30 pm

The Election for Major, Part I

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When the 3d Alabama Regiment of Volunteers was organized in Montgomery, April 27, 1861, Jones Withers of Mobile was elected colonel. His election was preordained by the back room maneuvering of two Mobile Cadets: Henry Hotze and Charles Forsyth.

Forsyth, 25,  (son of John Forsyth, Publisher of the influential Mobile Register) held a commission as 2LT in the Cadets; Hotze, the Swiss polymath, was an assistant editor at the paper. As Mobile’s Militias represented the largest faction of volunteers in the new regiment, “honor” dictated they be lead by one of their own, i.e. Jones Withers, their Mayor. All this came at the expense of a more deserving candidate: Tennent Lomax, of Montgomery.

Lomax, while no West Pointer (like Withers), was a veteran of the Mexican War, former Captain of the Montgomery True Blues, and in January 1861 picked by Gov. Moore to lead the Alabama Expeditionary Battalion into Florida, where they invested Federal troops at Pensacola’s Fort Barrancas.

But in the Montgomery election, Forsyth and Hotze canvassed the various militia captains (who were delegated by their men to vote as a bloc) and once they reached a majority, the dissenting votes fell in line as a show of solidarity. Withers, 46, was elected colonel (representing Mobile); Lomax, 40, was elected lieutenant colonel (representing the next largest bloc: Montgomery) and Cullen Battle, 31, a lawyer from Tuskegee (and Lomax’ brother-in-law) was elected major, a nod to the two militias companies from Macon County.

This structure lasted no longer than it took for Withers’ thirst for higher rank. Withers was promoted to Brigadier in late June, returned to Mobile, and Lomax and Battle were each promoted by the nearly unanimous vote of the men (no longer voting as blocs), in July. So the question before them: who to fill the open position of Major?

There were several obvious frontrunners: Sands, Gracie and Woodruff, all three captains of Mobile companies; Sands, 35, was the Captain of Mobile’s elite militia: the Mobile Cadets. As senior line captain of the regiment (his commission dating from 1846), the promotion was his for the taking. But he declined…professing his only desire was to captain his beloved Cadets.  Louis Woodruff was next senior, captain of the vaunted Mobile Rifles––the best-drilled militia in the State and described as the only company that could have been accepted by the French Army. But Woodruff also declined! Possibly due to his age (45) or to his aspirations to raise a regiment of his own (which he eventually did). The third choice–but far from least–was Archibald Gracie, age 29, United States Military Academy class of ’54. An imposing officer (he was a beefy 6’4″), Gracie nonetheless was popular with officers and men, despite the fact he was a New Jersey Yankee. He had married into the Mayos of Richmond, and had left the army a few years before to start his business career in Mobile. But Gracie had just received a promotion to major in another regiment…and he declined! (he eventually attained the rank of Major General).

This left the race for major wide open.

Written by boothma

March 18, 2015 at 12:26 pm