Confederate General William Brimage Bate - Inventory Number: CON 149
October 7, 1826-March 9, 1905
"Piece of uniform worn by Gen'l W. B. Bate, of Tenn. during the war and up to 1865."
-Confederate Major General - Army of Tennessee
-Seriously wounded at both Shiloh and Willis' Grist Mill
-Governor of Tennessee from 1883-1887
-United State Senator from 1887 until his death
Colonel, Second Tennessee Regiment Infantry, April 27, 1861.
Brigadier general, P. A. C. S., October 3, 1862.
Major general, P. A. C. S., February 23, 1864.
Brigade composed of the Second, Tenth, Fifteenth, Twentieth, Thirtieth, and Thirty-seventh Regiments Tennessee Infantry, Thirty-seventh Georgia Regiment Infantry, Fourth Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters, and the Eufaula Light Battery of Artillery, in Hardee's Corps, A. P. Stuart's Division, Army of Tennessee.
In September, 1863 (after battle of Chickamauga), in General Breckinridge's command, until February 23, 1864, when it became a part of Bate's Division, on Brigadier General Bate's promotion.
Division composed of the brigades of Tyler, Lewis, and Finley, and the light batteries of Slocomb, Cobb and Mebane, Army of Tennessee. In August, 1864, H. R. Jackson's Brigade replaced Lewis', which was transferred to the cavalry.
Major-General William Brimage Bate was born near Castalian Springs, Tenn., in the year 1830. Early in his youth he manifested a bold and adventurous spirit that characterized his career as a Confederate soldier.
Leaving school to become a clerk on a steamboat plying between Nashville and New Orleans, he subsequently enlisted for the Mexican war and served as a private in a Louisiana and a Tennessee regiment. On his return to Tennessee he was elected to the legislature by his admiring friends in his native county, and after this he began the study of law in the famous school at Lebanon.
He was graduated professionally in 1852, and then made his home at Gallatin, the scene of his earlier efforts in the profession which has been honored by his intellectual ability and manly worth. In 1854 he was elected attorney-general of the Nashville district for a term of six years. That calm, masterful and judicious leadership for which his life has been distinguished was already manifested in the political field, and having declined congressional honors, his name was put upon the Breckinridge electoral ticket.
In May, 1861, Tennessee began the official negotiations which promptly resulted in her league with the other Southern States for defense against the war being waged upon them, and Bate entered the military forces as a private. He was speedily promoted captain and then colonel of the Second Tennessee regiment, and during the early months of the conflict served at Columbus, Ky., and elsewhere, in the command of General Polk.
His first great battle was at Shiloh, where he shared the work of Cleburne's brigade of Hardee's corps. Bravely leading his regiment in the second charge, through a murderous cross-fire, he fell severely wounded, a minie ball breaking his leg and disabling him for field service for several months. This participation in battle, though brief, was marked with such gallantry that he was mentioned with praise in the reports of Cleburne and Hardee, and on October 3, 1862, he was promoted brigadier-general.
About this time, though still unable to return to the field, he was on garrison duty at Huntsville, Ala.,and was given temporary command of the district of Tennessee. In February, 1863, he was again in the field, assigned to command of Rains' brigade in Polk's army, and in June, commanding the Ninth Alabama, Thirty-seventh Georgia, Fifteenth and Thirty-seventh and Twentieth Tennessee and Caswell's battalion, in the division of A. P. Stewart, he took part in the Tullahoma campaign with much credit, fighting the battle of Hoover's Gap on the 24th driving the enemy back, and holding at bay the Federal advance. In this action he was in command of the Confederate forces, Stewart not arriving on the field until nightfall.
According to Rosecrans' report, Bate delayed his army at this point thirty-six hours, preventing the Federals from getting possession of Bragg's communications and forcing him to disastrous battle. General Bate and his men took a prominent part in the fighting at Chickamauga. They fired the first gun in this historic struggle on "the river of death," driving the Federal guard from Thedford's ford, in preparation for the Confederate advance.
Crossing the stream next morning, they went into action only a third armed, but drove the enemy back toward the position subsequently held with such heroism by Virginian George H. Thomas, the "Rock of Chickamauga. " As a result of this first day's fight, the brigade was fully armed with Enfield rifles.
About 11 o'clock Sunday morning, Stewart threw his division again upon the enemy, the brigade of Brown, "followed by the gallant Clayton and indomitable Bate," pressing on beyond the Chattanooga road and driving the enemy within his line of intrenchments.
"During this charge, which was truly heroic," Stewart reported, "General Bate and several of his staff had their horses killed -- the second lost by General Bate that morning." In the evening he again led his brigade in an action near Kelly's house, in an action of the division, routing the enemy and capturing many prisoners; and finally the Eufaula artillery, attached to his brigade, fired the last gun of the battle.
At Missionary Ridge, commanding Breckinridge's division, he was first on duty in the trenches at the base of the ridge, and later held a position on the crest near the headquarters of General Bragg. Fighting in a position where the whole magnificent panorama of the overwhelming army advancing upon them was visible, his troops bravely held their ground until both their left and right were turned, and then with the personal aid of General Bragg, a second line was formed, which checked the headlong advance of the victorious Federals.
General Bragg reported General Bate among those distinguished for coolness, gallantry and successful conduct through the engagements and in the rear guard on the retreat. He continued in division command, after this battle, of his own brigade, Lewis' Kentuckians and Finley's Floridians, and was commissioned major-general February 23, 1864.
Throughout the Georgia campaign he commanded a division of Hardee's corps, so often and so bravely in action; at Resaca handsomely repulsed the enemy from his front; at Dallas vigorously assailed Logan's intrenched Fifteenth Federal corps with his single division; on July 22d led the flank movement under Hardee which brought on the famous "battle of Atlanta."
In the ill-fated campaign under General Hood, which brought General Bate and his men back to their native State, but with circumstances of suffering and disaster, he led his division, now including Jackson's brigade, from Florence, Ala., November 2Ist; marched with Cheatham's corps to Spring Hill, where he was in readiness for orders to attack; fought heroically at Franklin, in the desperate assault many of his men gaining the interior works and remaining there until the Federal retreat; and after attacking Murfreesboro in co-operation with Forrest, marched his men, a fourth of them barefooted, over the icy roads to Nashville, where upon arrival he encountered stragglers already in rapid retreat, indicating the disaster that was impending.
Even under such circumstances his troops bravely took position, intrenched as best they could in such weather, and made a gallant fight against the Federal assault. After the supporting troops were driven back, he rode along his advanced line, urging the men to hold fast, though under fire from three directions. His Tennesseans at the " angle" were almost annihilated; two Georgia regiments fought until surrounded; all three brigade commanders were captured.
The military service of General Bate was closed in the spring of 1865, with the capitulation of the army of Tennessee. During the four years he had been three times severely wounded, and had demonstrated in a remarkably brilliant way the ability of the American volunteer to rise to important command and win renown there as well as in the ranks.
He resumed his legal practice, making Nashville his home. As he has eloquently said of the Confederate soldier in general, "He returned home from the fields of disaster, vanquished but not destroyed; sorrowful, but not without hope; . . . the irrepressible pride and indomitable pluck of Southern manhood were still with him, " and General Bate speedily gained a lucrative practice and honorable fame in his profession, and a prominent place in political councils.
In 1868 he was a delegate to the Democratic national convention; for twelve years he served on the State executive committee of his party; was presidential elector at-large in 1876; and in 1882 and 1884 was elected governor of Tennessee.
At the expiration of this service, which is remembered as capable and dignified, he was elected United States senator. To this position, in which he was one of the most able representatives of the South, he was re-elected in 1893.
At the dedication of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Park he was selected by the secretary of war to speak for the Confederates, and his words on that occasion are -- monumental in their strength and calmness, presenting in unassailable force the rectitude of the Confederate cause; -- while he pointed out that the "record of the heroic past, which, though written in the blood of civil war, yet was essentially American in all the glorious attributes of American citizenship," is to be cherished by a united people.
Inventory Number: CON 149