St. John Richardson Liddell

Last updated
St. John R. Liddell
St. John Richardson Liddle.jpg
BornSeptember 6, 1815
Wilkinson County, Mississippi
DiedFebruary 14, 1870 (1870-02-15) (aged 54)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Place of burial
Llanada Plantation Cemetery, Jonesville, Louisiana
AllegianceFlag of the Confederate States of America (1865).svg  Confederate States of America
Service/branchBattle flag of the Confederate States of America.svg  Confederate States Army
Years of service1861–1865
Rank Brigadier General
Commands heldArkansas Brigade
Liddell's Division
Sub-District of North Louisiana
Battles/wars American Civil War

St. John Richardson Liddell (September 6, 1815 February 14, 1870) was a prominent Louisiana planter who served as a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He was an outspoken proponent of Southern emancipation of slaves. Following the war, Liddell had a prominent feud with a former Confederate officer, Charles Jones, who eventually murdered Liddell near his home in 1870

Louisiana southern state in the United States of America

Louisiana is a state in the Deep South region of the South Central United States. It is the 31st most extensive and the 25th most populous of the 50 United States. Louisiana is bordered by the state of Texas to the west, Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. A large part of its eastern boundary is demarcated by the Mississippi River. Louisiana is the only U.S. state with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are equivalent to counties. The state's capital is Baton Rouge, and its largest city is New Orleans.

Confederate States Army Southern army in American Civil War

The Confederate States Army was the military land force of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War (1861–1865), fighting against the United States forces. On February 28, 1861, the Provisional Confederate Congress established a provisional volunteer army and gave control over military operations and authority for mustering state forces and volunteers to the newly chosen Confederate president, Jefferson Davis. Davis was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, and colonel of a volunteer regiment during the Mexican–American War. He had also been a United States Senator from Mississippi and U.S. Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce. On March 1, 1861, on behalf of the Confederate government, Davis assumed control of the military situation at Charleston, South Carolina, where South Carolina state militia besieged Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, held by a small U.S. Army garrison. By March 1861, the Provisional Confederate Congress expanded the provisional forces and established a more permanent Confederate States Army.

American Civil War Internal war in the U.S. over slavery

The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The Civil War began primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people. War broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North, which also included some geographically western and southern states, proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights in order to uphold slavery.


Early life

Liddell was born to a wealthy plantation family near Woodville, Mississippi. He was a schoolmate of future Confederate President Jefferson Davis, whom he would interact with several times during the early years of the Civil War on behalf of fellow general Albert Sidney Johnston.

Plantations in the American South large farms in the antebellum southern US, farmed by large numbers of enslaved Africans, typically growing cotton, tobacco, sugar, indigo, or rice

Plantations are an important aspect of the history of the American South, particularly the antebellum era. The mild subtropical climate, plentiful rainfall, fertile soils of the southeastern United States, and Native American genocide allowed the flourishing of large plantations, where large numbers of enslaved Africans were held captive as slave labor and forced to produce crops to create wealth for a white elite.

Woodville, Mississippi Town in Mississippi, United States

Woodville is a town in and the county seat of Wilkinson County, Mississippi, United States. The population was 1,096 at the 2010 census.

President of the Confederate States of America head of state and of government of the Confederate States

The president of the Confederate States of America was the elected head of state and government of the Confederate States. The president also headed the executive branch of government and was commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy, and of the militia of the several states when called into Confederate service.

He attended the United States Military Academy from 1834 to 1835, but resigned prior to graduating. Liddell then moved to Catahoula Parish and established his own prosperous plantation, "Llanada," near Harrisonburg, Louisiana. His famous feud with Charles Jones, known as the Jones-Liddell feud, which eventually led to his death, began in the 1850s.

United States Military Academy U.S. Armys federal service academy in West Point, New York

The United States Military Academy (USMA), also known as West Point, Army, Army West Point, The Academy, or simply The Point, is a four-year federal service academy in West Point, New York. It was originally established as a fort that sits on strategic high ground overlooking the Hudson River with a scenic view, 50 miles (80 km) north of New York City. It is one of the five U.S. service academies.

Catahoula Parish, Louisiana Parish in Louisiana

Catahoula Parish is a parish in the U.S. state of Louisiana. As of the 2010 census, the population was 10,407. Its seat is Harrisonburg, on the Ouachita River. The parish was formed in 1808, shortly after the United States acquired this territory in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

Harrisonburg, Louisiana Village in Louisiana, United States

Harrisonburg is a village in and the parish seat of Catahoula Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population was 348 as of the 2010 census, down from 746 in 2000.

Civil War

Western Theater: 186163

With the outbreak of the Civil War and Louisiana's secession, Liddell enlisted in the Confederate States Army and received a commission. He initially served as a staff officer to his close friend William J. Hardee and Albert Sidney Johnston during the early part of the conflict. He then commanded the famous Arkansas Brigade in Patrick Cleburne's division of the Army of Tennessee from 186263, including the battles of Perryville and Murfreesboro.

Secession is the withdrawal of a group from a larger entity, especially a political entity, but also from any organization, union or military alliance. Threats of secession can be a strategy for achieving more limited goals. It is, therefore, a process, which commences once a group proclaims the act of secession. It could involve a violent or peaceful process but these do not change the nature of the outcome, which is the creation of a new state or entity independent from the group or territory it seceded from.

William J. Hardee Confederate Army general

William Joseph Hardee was a career U.S. Army and Confederate States Army officer. For the U.S. Army, he served in the Second Seminole War and in the Mexican–American War, where he was captured and exchanged. In the American Civil War, he sided with the South and became a general. Hardee served in the Western Theater and quarreled sharply with two of his commanding officers, Braxton Bragg and John Bell Hood. He served in the Atlanta Campaign of 1864 and the Carolinas Campaign of 1865, where he surrendered with General Joseph E. Johnston to William Tecumseh Sherman in April. Hardee's writings about military tactics were widely used on both sides in the conflict.

Albert Sidney Johnston general in the Texian Army, the United States Army, and the Confederate States Army

Albert Sidney Johnston served as a general in three different armies: the Texian Army, the United States Army, and the Confederate States Army. He saw extensive combat during his 34-year military career, fighting actions in the Black Hawk War, the Texas War of Independence, the Mexican–American War, the Utah War, and the American Civil War.

Liddell commanded a division at Chickamauga in 1863, but repeatedly refused promotion to Major General in order to secure an assignment closer to his plantation, which was in jeopardy from Jayhawkers. Liddell was approached by General Braxton Bragg, a West Point classmate, to become his Chief-of-Staff and replace General W.W. Mackall, but Liddell refused. Although he was publicly critical of Bragg, Liddell seemed to enjoy his favor, which may have earned him the enmity of several of the officers in the Army of Tennessee. He remained very close with his classmate Hardee. Despite his personal clashes with fellow officers, Liddell had provided invaluable service to the Army of Tennessee. His brigade was pivotal at Perryville and Stones' River (where his sixteen-year-old son Willie Liddell was mortally wounded), and suffered the highest percentage of casualties at Chickamauga.

Battle of Chickamauga American Civil War battle

The Battle of Chickamauga, fought on September 18 – 20, 1863, between U.S. and Confederate forces in the American Civil War, marked the end of a Union offensive, the Chickamauga Campaign, in southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia. It was the first major battle of the war fought in Georgia, the most significant Union defeat in the Western Theater, and involved the second-highest number of casualties after the Battle of Gettysburg.

Braxton Bragg Confederate Army general

Braxton Bragg was a senior officer of the Confederate States Army who was assigned to duty at Richmond, under direction of the President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, and charged with the conduct of military operations of the armies of the Confederate States from February 24, 1864, until January 13, 1865, when he was charged with command and defense of Wilmington, North Carolina. He previously had command of an army in the Western Theater.

Army of Tennessee field army of the Confederate States Army

The Army of Tennessee was the principal Confederate army operating between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River during the American Civil War. It was formed in late 1862 and fought until the end of the war in 1865, participating in most of the significant battles in the Western Theater.

Trans-Mississippi Theater: 186365

General Bragg refused to spare Liddell, but when Bragg was relieved by Jefferson Davis after the Chattanooga disaster, Liddell appealed personally to the President for a transfer and command of Sub-District of North Louisiana, which he received and held during the Red River Campaign in 1864. He was later assigned to overall command of the infantry at Mobile, Alabama until to its surrender in 1865. During the last campaign, Liddell and Union Maj. Gen. E.R.S. Canby engaged in the Battle of Fort Blakely, [1] one of the last engagements of the war, where he was captured. Canby would later prove influential in Liddell's life by securing amnesty for him from the Federal Government.

Trans-Mississippi Theater of the American Civil War

The Trans-Mississippi Theater of the American Civil War consists of the major military operations west of the Mississippi River. The area is often thought of as excluding the states and territories bordering the Pacific Ocean, which formed the Pacific Coast Theater of the American Civil War (1861-1865).

Red River Campaign military campaign during the American Civil War

The Red River Campaign or Red River Expedition comprised a series of battles fought along the Red River in Louisiana during the American Civil War from March 10 to May 22, 1864. The campaign was a Union initiative, fought between approximately 30,000 Union troops under the command of Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, and Confederate troops under the command of Lieutenant General Richard Taylor, whose strength varied from 6,000 to 15,000.

Union Army Land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War

During the American Civil War, the Union Army referred to the United States Army, the land force that fought to preserve the Union of the collective states. Also known as the Federal Army, it proved essential to the preservation of the United States as a working, viable republic.

During his Trans-Mississippi service, Liddell found himself in conflict with his immediate superior, Richard Taylor, the brother-in-law of President Davis, and regretted leaving the Army of Tennessee. In contrast to many modern historians, Liddell lays the blame for the Confederate failure to recapture the Mississippi or unite some 60,000 troops of their far Western Commands under Generals Magruder, Taylor, and Price with the Army of Tennessee on Taylor himself, rather than Edmund Kirby Smith. Unknown to Liddell, by late 1864 Generals Bragg, Hardee, and E.K. Smith made several petitions for Liddell's promotion to positions including James Mouton's Texas Division, and Hardee's Chief of Staff, but these were not acted on before the war drew to a close.

Liddell on slavery

Liddell held a reputation for being outspoken, and was well connected. In December 1864, he wrote a letter to Edward Sparrow, a Confederate Senator from Louisiana and chairman of the military Committee, expressing his conviction that the war was going against the Confederacy. He expressed the need for full emancipation of the slaves in order to secure foreign assistance. Although he admitted it may have been too late to act, he felt that emancipation may have also been a solution to the South's growing manpower crisis. Senator Sparrow showed the letter to General Robert E. Lee, who agreed with Liddell on all points, stating that "he could make soldiers out of any human being that had arms and legs."

Postbellum career

In 1866, Liddell wrote his memoirs, in which he was highly critical of the Confederate leadership and his fellow officers, including Davis and Bragg. The memoirs themselves are actually a collection of several separate manuscripts, letters, and battlefield records, which he was unable to combine before he was murdered.

In them, his criticisms arise mainly from the failure of Bragg's subordinates, including Cleburne, Bishop Polk, John C. Breckinridge, Simon Bolivar Buckner, Joseph Wheeler, D.H. Hill, and James Longstreet, to support Bragg, which in the end leaves Liddell as one of the few writers of the period who was generous to Bragg. His writing reveals his minority opinion of praise for officers such as General John Floyd and Gideon Pillow, whom nearly all modern historians consider inept. He expresses disgust for Judah P. Benjamin, whom most historians consider one of the most able Confederate Cabinet officials.

He mentions several times the growing sense of futility he and other officers felt in the unlucky Army of Tennessee. It was plainly clear to them after the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson that their cause was doomed unless they could concentrate their forces and wage an offensive campaign; however, political intrigue always seemed to squander any gains made by the army. Liddell comes off as a fair, impartial officer, even proposing that had the south recruited generals like George H. Thomas, whom he considered the best Union Commander, things may have turned out differently.

Liddell refused promotion, and endeavored to help any officer he was assigned to, regardless of whether they were liked or not. He was opinionated and outspoken, yet his opinion was valued and he held the ear of the echelons of Confederate command, including Davis, A.S. Johnston, Bragg, and Hardee. He spent his vast personal fortune on equipping his own brigade, even though it was from a different state. The brigade itself was the only unit in the Army of Tennessee never to court-martial an enlisted soldier.

Liddell was murdered in 1870 by Col. Charles Jones in the culmination of a twenty-year real estate dispute. He was buried on his sprawling plantation in Louisiana.

The St. John Richardson Liddell Chapter #271 of the Military Order of the Stars & Bars in Bay Minette, Alabama, was named for the former general.

See also


  1. "Fort McDermott:"The Men Dig,Dig,Dig"". Historical Marker Database. Retrieved 25 September 2015.

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