by Robert A. Waters
Tens of thousands of northerners fought for the Confederate States of America. These fascinating profiles speak to a side of the conflict rarely written about.
General Otho French Strahl was born and raised in Ohio. Of German-American stock, he became an attorney after graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University. Through the influence of his Southern grandmothers, he became a staunch advocate of states’ rights. Strahl eventually settled in Dyersburg, Tennessee. When the war broke out, he commissioned a CSA company, the 4th Tennessee Infantry, and defended the Confederacy against his former countrymen. He fought in many of the war’s most significant battles, including the Battle of Shiloh, the Battle of Perryville, and the Battle of Stones River. In 1863, Strahl was promoted to Brigadier General. He later commanded a brigade at Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and Atlanta. Just a few months before the war’s end, Strahl was killed while leading an infantry charge at the Battle of Franklin in his adopted state of Tennessee. (NOTE: In this battle, the Confederacy suffered a casualty rate of 39%, even higher than at Gettysburg. Six generals were killed and one captured.)
Lieutenant General John Pemberton, the defender of Vicksburg, was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After marrying a Virginian, his sympathies shifted to the Southern cause. As a member of the United States Army, Pemberton fought in the Second Seminole War and the Mexican-American War. When Virginia seceded from the union, he resigned his commission in the United States Army and was appointed brigadier general in the CSA. Pemberton was initially appointed the duties of strengthening coastal defenses in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. According to historians, he was unable to get along with the governors of those states, and was transferred west where he was promoted to Lieutenant General.
Unfortunately for him, Pemberton was assigned command of the District of Mississippi and East Louisiana. One of his key assignments was to hold Vicksburg. He worked diligently to secure areas around the city, and to fortify Vicksburg. However, the overwhelming force of numbers of Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s army could not be denied. Adding to his problems, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston refused all requests for assistance, leaving Pemberton to the mercy of the Union armies. On July 4, 1863, after a siege lasting 46 days, Pemberton surrendered to the Federals.
The disillusioned Yankee Confederate would be forever branded a traitor to the south. After the war, he carried on a running feud with Johnston and eventually moved back to Philadelphia. He died there in 1881, and was buried beside his Unionist relatives.
General Samuel Cooper, born and raised in New Hackensack, New York, married Sarah Maria Mason, a distant relative of the Lee family from Virginia. Cooper was an outstanding student at the United States Military Academy, and later served as U. S. Secretary of War. His sympathies, however, were with the South, and when the Southern states seceded, Cooper joined the Confederate army. He quickly became a full-fledged general, outranking even the great Robert E. Lee. According to Wikipedia, “Cooper’s last official act in office was to preserve the official records of the Confederate Army and turn them over intact to the United States government, where they form a part of the Official Records, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.” He died impoverished near Alexandria, Virginia. General Lee and other former Confederates assisted Cooper financially in his old age.
General Daniel Ruggles was a native of Barre, Massachusetts. After graduating from West Point, Ruggles served in the Second Seminole War and the Mexican-American War. On May 7, 1861, while living in Texas, he enlisted in the Confederate army. Ruggles was quickly promoted to Brigadier General, and fought with General John T. Breckenridge. His aggressive actions at the Battle of Shiloh led to the defeat of an entrenched Union line known as the “Hornet’s Nest.” After numerous Confederate charges were repulsed, Ruggles gathered every piece of artillery he could find, eventually numbering 62 cannons. For two hours, he bombarded the Hornet’s Nest. The final charge of the Confederates sent the Union lines reeling, and secured a hard-won victory for the Rebels.
Ruggles fought in the western theater during the rest of the conflict. In 1865, he became head of the Confederate prison system, and was instrumental in exchanging prisoners after the Confederate surrender.
Ruggles moved to Virginia where he became a real estate agent. He died in 1897.
Captain S. R. Latta was born in Alexandra, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Jefferson College at Kinnesburn, PA and moved to Tennessee where he became a teacher. In June, 1861, Latta organized a CSA company in Dyersburg, Tennessee, and became its captain. His Company K, 13th Regiment of the Army of Tennessee fought at Shiloh, Richmond, Perryville, and Murfreesboro. During each of those battles, his troops suffered enormous casualties, yet they fought with courage and ferocity. Before the Battle of Murfreesboro, many were disabled temporarily when a bout of smallpox swept through the camp.
After the war, Latta became a lawyer in Dyersburg. He was a Mason and an elder in the Presbyterian Chruch. A long-time member of the Confederate Veteran Camp in Dyersburg, each year he held a picnic for the survivors of his company. Latta died July 12, 1911, survived by his wife and three daughters.