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Theophilus H. Holmes

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Title: Theophilus H. Holmes  
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Subject: Army of Northern Virginia, Sampson County, North Carolina, Battle of Helena, Gabriel Holmes, Confederate States Army lieutenant generals
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Theophilus H. Holmes

Theophilus Hunter Holmes
Born (1804-11-13)November 13, 1804
Sampson County, North Carolina
Died June 21, 1880(1880-06-21) (aged 75)
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Place of burial MacPherson Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Fayetteville
Allegiance United States of America
Confederate States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
 Confederate States Army
Years of service 1829–61 (USA)
1861–65 (CSA)
Rank Major (USA)
Brigadier General (NC Militia)
Lieutenant General (CSA)
Unit 7th U.S. Infantry
8th U.S. Infantry
Commands held Reserve Brigade-Army of the Potomac
District of Fredericksburg
Department of North Carolina
District of Aquia
Trans-Mississippi Department
District of Arkansas
North Carolina Reserve Forces

American Indian Wars
Mexican-American War

American Civil War

Theophilus Hunter Holmes (November 13, 1804 – June 21, 1880) was a career United States Army officer and a Confederate Lieutenant General in the American Civil War. A friend and protégé of the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, he was appointed commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department, but failed in his key task, which was to defend the Confederacy's hold on the Mississippi.


  • Early life and career 1
  • United States Army 2
  • Confederate Army 3
    • Early service 3.1
    • Peninsula Campaign 3.2
    • Trans-Mississippi Department 3.3
    • District of Arkansas 3.4
    • Later service and later life 3.5
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7

Early life and career

Holmes was born in Sampson County, North Carolina, in 1804.[1] His father, Gabriel Holmes, was a former Governor of North Carolina and U.S. Congressman.[2][3] After a failed attempt at plantation managing, Holmes asked his father for an appointment to the United States Military Academy, from which he graduated in 1829. He was ranked 44 out of 46, in his class.[4] Holmes was apparently quite deaf, and was almost never aware of loud gunfire.[1]

United States Army

I, who knew [Holmes] from his school-boy days, who served with him in garrison and in field, and with pride watched him as he gallantly led a storming party up a rocky height at Monterey, and was intimately acquainted with his whole career during our sectional war, bear willing testimony to the purity, self-abnegation, generosity, fidelity and gallantry, which characterized him as a man and a soldier.

After graduating, Holmes was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the 7th U.S. Infantry. In 1838, Holmes attained the rank of Captain.[3] During his early services, Holmes served in Florida, the Indian Territory, and Texas. Holmes also served in the Second Seminole War, with distinction.[2] In 1841, he married Laura Whetmore, with whom he would have eight children.[3] During the Mexican-American War, he was brevetted to major for the Battle of Monterrey in September 1846.[2] This promotion was due to Jefferson Davis witnessing his courageous actions there.[3] He received a full promotion to major of the 8th U.S. Infantry in 1855.[4]

Confederate Army

Early service

Almost immediately after the firing on Fort Sumter, Holmes resigned his commission in the U.S. Army and his command of Fort Columbus, Governors Island in New York City on (April 22, 1861), having accepted a commission as a Colonel in the Confederate States Army in March.[2] He commanded the coastal defenses of the Department of North Carolina and then served as a brigadier general in the North Carolina Militia.[5] He was appointed Brigadier General on June 5, 1861, commanding the Department of Fredericksburg.[3] Holmes was assigned to P.G.T. Beauregard, for the First Battle of Bull Run.[4] Beauregard sent Holmes orders to attack the Union left, but by the time the orders reached him the Confederacy was already victorious.[4] He was promoted to Major General on October 7, 1861.[3]

Peninsula Campaign

During the John G. Walker, Henry A. Wise, and the cavalry brigade of Brig. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart. On June 30, 1862, while the battle of Glendale was fought to the north, Holmes was ordered to cannonade retreating Federals near Malvern Hill. His force was repulsed at Turkey Bridge by artillery fire from Malvern Hill and by the Federal gunboats Galena and Aroostook on the James. During the battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862, his force was in reserve.

Trans-Mississippi Department

After the Peninsula Campaign, Holmes became the commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department. He was promoted to Lieutenant General, on October 10, 1862, by Jefferson Davis.[4][4] During his time as commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department, Holmes failed to perform his most important duty. That duty was to defend the Confederacy's hold on the Mississippi River. He refused to send troops to relieve Vicksburg, during the Vicksburg Campaign. After numerous complaints were sent to Davis, Holmes was relieved as head of the Trans-Mississippi Department, in March 1863.[4]

District of Arkansas

After Holmes was relieved as head of the Trans-Mississippi Department, General Kirby Smith made him head of the District of Arkansas.[4] Holmes decided to attack the Union-held city of Helena, Arkansas. He planned a coordinated attack in conjunction with Sterling Price, John S. Marmaduke, James Fleming Fagan, and, Governor of Arkansas, Harris Flanagin. Despite miscommunication, the Confederates had some success. After hours of fighting, a general retreat was called, and the Confederates pulled back to Little Rock, Arkansas.[4] After returning from his failed expedition, Holmes was confined to a sick bed.[1] After months of sickness, he returned to his command, in November 1863. Kirby Smith reported that Holmes was losing his memory, and that he needed to be replaced. In March 1864, Holmes was relieved as head of the District of Arkansas.[1]

Later service and later life

In April 1864, Holmes commanded the Reserve Forces of North Carolina. Holmes saw little action after being appointed to this new position. He held this position until the end of the Civil War. He, along with General Joseph E. Johnston, surrendered to William Tecumseh Sherman on April 26, 1865.[6]

He returned to North Carolina, where he spent the rest of his life as a farmer. Holmes died in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and is buried there in McPherson Presbyterian Church Cemetery.[3]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Welsh, p. 104.
  2. ^ a b c d Hoig, p. 306.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h McCrady, pp. 608-09.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Williams, pp. 989-90.
  5. ^ a b Dougherty, pp. 22-23.
  6. ^ Eicher pg. 875


  • Dougherty, Kevin, and Michael J. Moore. The Peninsula Campaign of 1862: A Military Analysis. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005. ISBN 1-57806-752-9.
  • Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Hoig, Stan. Beyond the Frontier: Exploring the Indian Country. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8061-3052-0.
  • McCrady, Edward, and Samuel A'Court Ashe. Cyclopedia of Eminent and Representative Men of the Carolinas of the Nineteenth Century. Vol. 2. Madison, WS: Brant & Fuller, 1892. OCLC 33265268.
  • Welsh, Jack D. Medical Histories of Confederate Generals. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0-87338-853-5.
  • Williams, Clay. "Theophilus Hunter Holmes." In Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History, edited by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000. ISBN 0-393-04758-X.

Further reading

  • Walther, Eric H. William Lowndes Yancey and the Coming of the Civil War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, ISBN 0-8078-3027-5.
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