Benjamin F. Cheatham

Benjamin F. Cheatham

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Benjamin Franklin Cheatham (October 20, 1820 – September 4, 1886), known also as Frank, was a Tennessee aristocrat, California gold miner, and a General in the Confederate States Army
Confederate States Army
The Confederate States Army was the army of the Confederate States of America while the Confederacy existed during the American Civil War. On February 8, 1861, delegates from the seven Deep South states which had already declared their secession from the United States of America adopted the...

 during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, serving in many battles of the Western Theater
Western Theater of the American Civil War
This article presents an overview of major military and naval operations in the Western Theater of the American Civil War.-Theater of operations:...

.

Early years


Cheatham was born in Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville is the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee and the county seat of Davidson County. It is located on the Cumberland River in Davidson County, in the north-central part of the state. The city is a center for the health care, publishing, banking and transportation industries, and is home...

 on a plantation called Westover, which in its prime consisted of three thousand acres (12 km²). He was born into two of the finest and prominent families of the middle Tennessee aristocracy. On his mothers' side of the family he was a direct descendant of General James Robertson, the founder of Nashville and father of middle Tennessee. The Cheathams had been in middle Tennessee for many generations and established themselves as plantation owners, lawyers, doctors and mayors of the city. At the start of the Mexican-American War, he joined the 1st Tennessee Infantry Regiment as a captain and finished the war as Colonel
Colonel (United States)
In the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, colonel is a senior field grade military officer rank just above the rank of lieutenant colonel and just below the rank of brigadier general...

 of the 3rd Tennessee. He moved to California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 in 1849 for the Gold Rush
California Gold Rush
The California Gold Rush began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. The first to hear confirmed information of the gold rush were the people in Oregon, the Sandwich Islands , and Latin America, who were the first to start flocking to...

, but returned to Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

 in 1853, where he worked as a planter and served as a brigadier general
Brigadier general (United States)
A brigadier general in the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, is a one-star general officer, with the pay grade of O-7. Brigadier general ranks above a colonel and below major general. Brigadier general is equivalent to the rank of rear admiral in the other uniformed...

 in the Tennessee Militia
Militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...

.

Civil War


Cheatham joined the Confederate States Army as a brigadier general on May 9, 1861, and became a brigade commander in the Western District of Department Number Two, under Maj. Gen. Leonidas Polk
Leonidas Polk
Leonidas Polk was a Confederate general in the American Civil War who was once a planter in Maury County, Tennessee, and a second cousin of President James K. Polk...

. His first test in the war was in Missouri on November 7 at the Battle of Belmont
Battle of Belmont
The Battle of Belmont was fought on November 7, 1861, in Mississippi County, Missouri. It was the first combat test in the American Civil War for Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, the future Union Army general in chief and eventual U.S...

, leading three regiments in Brig. Gen. Gideon J. Pillow's division against Union
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

, also in his first Civil War combat. In December, Cheatham and his division received the Thanks of Congress
Thanks of Congress
The Thanks of Congress are a series of formal resolutions passed by the United States Congress originally to extend the government's formal thanks for significant victories or impressive actions by American military commanders and their troops. Although it began during the American Revolutionary...

, "for the desperate courage they exhibited in sustaining for several hours, and under most disadvantageous circumstances an attack by a force of the enemy greatly superior to their own, both in numbers and appointments; and for the skill and gallantry by which they converted what at first threatened so much disaster, into a triumphant victory."

Cheatham was promoted to major general, on March 10, 1862, and was appointed commander of the 2nd Division, First Corps, Army of Mississippi
Army of Mississippi
There were three organizations known as the Army of Mississippi in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. -Army of Mississippi :This army, at times known by the names Army of the West or Army of the...

. He led his division at the Battle of Shiloh
Battle of Shiloh
The Battle of Shiloh, also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, was a major battle in the Western Theater of the American Civil War, fought April 6–7, 1862, in southwestern Tennessee. A Union army under Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had moved via the Tennessee River deep into Tennessee and...

 and was wounded, although it is unclear whether this occurred on April 6 or April 7, 1862. General Braxton Bragg
Braxton Bragg
Braxton Bragg was a career United States Army officer, and then a general in the Confederate States Army—a principal commander in the Western Theater of the American Civil War and later the military adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.Bragg, a native of North Carolina, was...

 became commander of the Army (soon to be designated the Army of Tennessee) and Cheatham served under him at Perryville
Battle of Perryville
The Battle of Perryville, also known as the Battle of Chaplin Hills, was fought on October 8, 1862, in the Chaplin Hills west of Perryville, Kentucky, as the culmination of the Confederate Heartland Offensive during the American Civil War. Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Mississippi won a...

 and Stones River
Battle of Stones River
The Battle of Stones River or Second Battle of Murfreesboro , was fought from December 31, 1862, to January 2, 1863, in Middle Tennessee, as the culmination of the Stones River Campaign in the Western Theater of the American Civil War...

. At the latter battle, Cheatham performed sluggishly, ordering piecemeal assaults; observers claimed he had been drinking heavily and was unable to command his units effectively.

Cheatham continued as a division commander under Bragg at the Battle of Chickamauga
Battle of Chickamauga
The Battle of Chickamauga, fought September 19–20, 1863, marked the end of a Union offensive in southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia called the Chickamauga Campaign...

 and, following that rare Confederate victory in the West, was elevated to corps command on September 29, 1863. He was on the right flank of Missionary Ridge when Bragg was defeated by Grant at Chattanooga, engaged to block the Union Army in the final hours of the battle.

In 1864, Cheatham fought well in the Atlanta Campaign
Atlanta Campaign
The Atlanta Campaign was a series of battles fought in the Western Theater of the American Civil War throughout northwest Georgia and the area around Atlanta during the summer of 1864. Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman invaded Georgia from the vicinity of Chattanooga, Tennessee, beginning in May...

 under General Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph Eggleston Johnston was a career U.S. Army officer, serving with distinction in the Mexican-American War and Seminole Wars, and was also one of the most senior general officers in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War...

, and later Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood
John Bell Hood
John Bell Hood was a Confederate general during the American Civil War. Hood had a reputation for bravery and aggressiveness that sometimes bordered on recklessness...

, inflicting heavy casualties on William T. Sherman's Union Army at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain
Battle of Kennesaw Mountain
The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was fought on June 27, 1864, during the Atlanta Campaign of the American Civil War. It was the most significant frontal assault launched by Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman against the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Gen. Joseph E...

, and being wounded at the Battle of Ezra Church. He was in corps
Corps
A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

 command for the battles around Atlanta, replacing William J. Hardee
William J. Hardee
William Joseph Hardee was a career U.S. Army officer, serving during the Second Seminole War and fighting in the Mexican-American War...

, who had resigned when Hood took command.

Cheatham's most famous service came as a corps commander under Hood in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign
Franklin-Nashville Campaign
The Franklin-Nashville Campaign, also known as Hood's Tennessee Campaign, was a series of battles in the Western Theater, conducted from September 18 to December 27, 1864, in Alabama, Tennessee, and northwestern Georgia during the American Civil War. The Confederate Army of Tennessee under Lt....

. He was engaged in all the major battles of the campaign, receiving notoriety when the Union Army under Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield was able to slip by him and escape from the Battle of Spring Hill
Battle of Spring Hill
The Battle of Spring Hill was fought November 29, 1864, at Spring Hill, Tennessee, as part of the Franklin-Nashville Campaign of the American Civil War. The Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood, attacked a Union force under Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield as it...

, which foiled Hood's plan and led to the disastrous Confederate defeat at Franklin
Battle of Franklin II
The Battle of Franklin was fought on November 30, 1864, at Franklin, Tennessee, as part of the Franklin-Nashville Campaign of the American Civil War. It was one of the worst disasters of the war for the Confederate States Army. Confederate Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee conducted...

. Hood accused Cheatham of dereliction of duty and the enmity between them lasted for the rest of their lives. After the collapse of Hood's army at Nashville
Battle of Nashville
The Battle of Nashville was a two-day battle in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign that represented the end of large-scale fighting in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. It was fought at Nashville, Tennessee, on December 15–16, 1864, between the Confederate Army of Tennessee under...

, Cheatham rejoined Johnston's army for the Carolinas Campaign
Carolinas Campaign
The Carolinas Campaign was the final campaign in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. In January 1865, Union Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman advanced north from Savannah, Georgia, through the Carolinas, with the intention of linking up with Union forces in Virginia. The defeat of ...

 (as a division commander, the highest position this small army could justify), surrendering to General Sherman in North Carolina in April 1865.

Postbellum life


After the war, Cheatham declined an offer of Federal civil service employment from President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Grant. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 in 1872. He served for four years as superintendent of a Tennessee state prison and postmaster of Nashville (1885–1886). He died in Nashville and is buried there in Mount Olivet Cemetery
Mount Olivet Cemetery (Nashville)
Mount Olivet Cemetery is a 250-acre cemetery located in Nashville, Tennessee.Mount Olivet has been continuously operated since its establishment in 1856. It serves as the final resting place for many of Middle Tennessee's political and business leaders, including several former governors of...

. Shortly after the war he married Anna Bell Robertson of North Carolina, who was no relation to the Robertsons in his lineage. She was the sister of one of his war-time aides. They had five children together: Benjamin Franklin Jr., Patton Robertson, Joseph Johnston, Medora Cheatham Hodgson, and Alice.

Cheatham's son, Benjamin Franklin Cheatham, Jr. (1867–1944), was a major general in the U.S. Army, serving with distinction in the Spanish-American War
Spanish-American War
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence...

 and World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, and the quartermaster general from 1926 to 1930. During his tenure in the latter position, he supervised landscaping improvements to Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, is a military cemetery in the United States of America, established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, formerly the estate of the family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee's wife Mary Anna Lee, a great...

, including restoration of the Lee Mansion
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, formerly named the Custis-Lee Mansion, is a Greek revival style mansion located in Arlington, Virginia, USA that was once the home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. It overlooks the Potomac River, directly across from the National Mall in Washington,...

 and the building of the Tomb of the Unknowns
Tomb of the Unknowns
The Tomb of the Unknowns is a monument dedicated to American service members who have died without their remains being identified. It is located in Arlington National Cemetery in the United States...

. He is buried at Arlington.

After the war, a camp of the Association of Confederate Soldiers
Association of Confederate Soldiers
The Association of Confederate Soldiers was an organization formed by veterans of the American Civil War in 1887 as an offshoot of the United Confederate Veterans...

 Tennessee Division was named the Frank Cheatham Bivouac in honor of the Confederate general.

See also


  • List of American Civil War generals

External links