June 5, 1832 - 10 Aug 1896
By Melanie McConnell Klein
10612 Mountain View Road
Whitehouse, Texas 75791
with material from Rick W. Baird
From A Cemetery Marker Dedication At
Caddo, Bryan County, Oklahoma
November 2, 1997
In August of 1896, the Privett, James & McConnell families and a circle of friends gathered in this
peaceful place (Caddo, Bryan County, Oklahoma) to lay to rest Lee Andrew Privett. Today, we
meet again, as his descendants, to celebrate his life and to unveil the monument that now stands in
Because we didn't live in his time, we are not sure about many things in his life. Did he hunt and
fish? We assume he did. Was fall or spring his favorite time of year? Which way did he cut a
watermelon? Were his eyes as blue as Will McConnell's? We don't know if he pronounced his
name Privett or Privette, which showed his French heritage, but, however it was said, we stand
here now because he was family.
The events of one hundred years ago, when Lee Andrew Privett died, are far removed from times
we live in today, but, some things never change. It is certain that Lee Privett was thankful when a
good rain came after a long dry spell. He knew the love of a child's embrace and he remembered
his mother's cooking. He watched the same stars move across the same sky that we will see
tonight. The first light of dawn was as beautiful in 1896 as it is now when, this time of year,
honking geese still fly like floating arrows in the sky.
Though public records differ, we believe Lee Andrew Privett was born June 5, 1832 near
Springfield, Illinois in a community thought to be called Palmrya. That year, Andrew Jackson was
President of the United States and it would be 13 years before Texas became a state. Oklahoma
would be Indian Territory for another 75 years. The repeating rifle was not yet invented and it
would be 28 years before it became a reality.
Between Lee Privett's birth in Illinois in 1832 and his death in Oklahoma in 1896, he married,
fought a war, and raised his family. In that way he was not unlike men standing with us today.
Right now, little is known about Lee Privett's childhood, but on May 7th, 1857, at the age of 24,
he married Nancy Ann James in Ladonia, Fannin County, Texas. Her parents were from Bedford
County, Virginia and had traveled by wagon train to settle Kentucky Town in Fannin County.
Nancy Ann James Privett was mother to eleven children, six of whom died in Lee's lifetime:
Elizabeth Angeline, born 1859, died 1879
Madison C., born 1861, died 1869
Nettie Lou, born 1863, died 1957
Erasmus Irving, born 1866, died 1953
Ada Melinda, born 1868, died 1896
James, born 1872, died 1891
Nina Lurill, born 1874, died 1896
Walter Joel, born 1877, died 1898
Charley George, born 1879, died 1912
Florence, born 1882, died 1885
Etta Cordelia, born 1884, died 1936
From military records, we know that on July 6th, 1861, Lee Privett enlisted at Ladonia, Texas in
the 14th Brigade of General S. A. Roberts' Texas State Troops. From this brigade, the 34th Texas
Cavalry, also known as the 2nd Texas Partisan Rangers, was organized in 1862 at Greenville,
Hunt Co., Texas and then mustered into Confederate service at Tahlequah, Indian Territory.
Privett's Company I and Company E were raised in Fannin County while the remainder were
raised in Texas counties to the north and northwest.
The 34th served the Confederate nation in the Army of the Trans-Mississippi which covered all
the area west of the Mississippi river. Not all men from Fannin County rushed into service of the
Confederacy at the first call. Most joined local militia companies as peaceful farmers reluctant to
leave the land and families they loved. Many of them saw no sense in secession. Fannin County
and seven other counties in North Texas had voted against leaving the Union. Because many a
man had grown up on the frontier, he felt far removed from federal authority. The ties he felt
bound him closer to his state than to the federal government.
In reality, the 34th Texas Cavalry was not anything like the Confederate units depicted in today's
movies. Lee Privett and the men he served with in the 34th were mounted on plow horses pulled
straight from the cotton fields of family farms. These men provided their own arms and fought
wearing the same clothes they farmed in. The shotguns they carried had been handed down to
them from generations of fathers' before. Still, they rode away as courageous soldiers in service
to whatever fate awaited.
By July of 1862, provisions and food were so scarce for men and horses that the 34th Texas
Cavalry was ordered dismounted and trained as infantry. This was a terrible blow to the pride of
mounted men but they learned to be foot soldiers. History recounts stories of men who walked
from Arkansas to Texas just to lead plow horses back to family farms after the army could no
longer provide fodder. That tie between man, his horse and their land is still as strong today.
The 34th Cavalry saw action in more than forty engagements with the most famous being the
Battle of Mansfield and Sabine Crossroads. General Nathaniel Banks was urged by the East to
reopen the Red River campaign. At stake were the wheat fields of North Texas and the foundries,
powder mills, clothing factories and cotton warehouses in Shreveport, Marshall, Jefferson, and
New York newspapers strongly urged the occupation of Texas to secure eastern merchants with
the enormous supply of cotton stored in Shreveport and Jefferson. Eastern investors pressured
the U.S. Congress to invade the South and confiscate goods they thought Texans lacked the good
sense and resources to utilize. Though poorly equipped, the farmers-turned-soldiers were blessed
with good common sense. They understood clearly the Easterners' motives and the insult. It was
all the catalyst they needed to march willingly onto the battlefield.
At Mansfield, Louisiana, the armies of the North and South collided. The 34th that had been left
to support the artillery was called forward, led by Lt. Col. Caudle. They rushed toward the
enemy over an open field of hissing minie balls and rifle smoke. The giant sound of thundering
cannon vibrated the darkening sky. Bullets and grapeshot ripped through the Confederate lines
and thudded into chests, tearing at arms and legs and popping heads back in instant death. They
thrust forward with bayonet on the Union lines. Over the fence the Gray Line swept, now using
the bayonet and beating back all in their path. The 130th Illinois, although almost destroyed,
refused to quit and the fighting was now hand to hand. Union troops began to turn and run, and
finally the 130th Illinois Regiment, all but destroyed by the rest of the federals, was completely
destroyed. These gallant men from counties across Illinois were all killed, wounded or captured
and the regiment ceased to exist.
At Sabine Crossroads near Mansfield, the 34th Texas, the ugly ducklings of both the cavalry and
the infantry, farm boys without shoes, made a gallant charge across an open field to break the
Union lines. Behind them the field was littered with the fallen, among them a larger number of
Fannin County farmers who died to save their homeland from federal invasion.
The military service of Lee Privett was not what movies are made from, but, it is what made the
South strong and communities and families even stronger.
Lee Privett was one man of many who was a farmer, a father and a family man. He felt the call of
duty and served proudly. As in life, we never know what battles lie ahead, but, it is our personal
duty, one hundred years later, to prepare ourselves and our families to meet whatever challenges
The family we come from laid a strong foundation to prepare us for these challenges and we must
do our part, in whatever way, to prepare the next generation for theirs. As Lee Privett did, we
come from a long line of love, hard work and family values. It is a family tradition that must
continue, for the sake of family, community and nation, and with your interest, it will.
©Ron Brothers and Melanie McConnell Klein, All Rights Reserved, 1999.
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