3rd Alabama Infantry Regiment

"The Glorious Third" Alabama's first volunteers

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.

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Written by boothma

March 18, 2015 at 12:26 pm

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